History Teacher Creates Video Games To Inspire Students

history through art video games

I have taught art since 1984 to ages 8-15. As exciting as I find the subject, my students don’t always share my enthusiasm for ancient art history. I decided to make a series of video games inspired by art history hoping others could see what I love. I started out with Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Hindu Gods, and Spooky 17th Century Wood Cuts of Witches and Demons.

I did not want the games to feel boring and “educational”. One of my gripes is when adults ask me, “Is it educational?” Egads I hate that question. I always lean in as if I’m transferring some sort of guarded secret and say, “To be honest, I haven’t found a way to stop ’em from learning. Turns out everything is educational in some way!” So my intent was to make fun classic arcade style games with common platform game mechanics, so the players can focus more on the images and art.

Once a player has a direct interaction with a character, let’s say Lord Ganesha hits you with his ax and kills you. You’re gonna remember that differently than a static image you barely look at in a history book or slide show. I mean, Ganesha hit you with an ax and killed you! That’s a relationship, and even better, it can change. You later learn if you avoid Lord Ganesha’s ax, you can make friends with his rat, and you get rewarded instead. Now you know Lord Ganesha has a rat and an ax, which you might not have known before you played this game. I hope my games plant mind seeds that take root later.

Sometimes exposure is all anyone needs to want to know more. These games do not intend to teach any long history, but instead to simply inspire wonder. Once a player can point out the Goddess Isis, Hanuman the Monkey King, Lord Krishna or Anubis in the Underworld, we are on our way to a shared language that bridges time through the ages. “Woh! I crashed right into Thoth.” Yeah, I bet that hurts.

Middle school teachers feel free to use these resources to inspire learning. Many of these topics are being covered in 7th and 8th grade public school system. Use the free apps as rewards on their iPad. Help them learn each character’s name, share a bit of the history, and have fun.

Art History Video Games by J.E.Moores: iOS – Android

 

Making Indie iOS Games

indie ios games by J.E.Moores

On November 24, 2018 I gave myself a winter challenge. I wanted to learn how to create video games for Android and iOS. I subscribed to Buildbox and began working on a Wiggly Loaf game. I followed all the Buildbox video tutorials on YouTube, and bit by bit I built my game. I got geeky with it. I wanted the Wiggly Loaf game to look like it was animated on a chalkboard. I discovered a program called Doodly that filters my ink drawings of Wiggly Loaf into a blackboard chalk version. Even though the program is intended for other things, I painstakingly screen capped each instance of the Wiggly Loaf animation through the Doodly program to create all the chalkboard sprites of the game.

Making sprites took several long days. I found myself working 16 or more hours a day, crashing, waking up thinking about the mechanics of the game, and getting back on the computer. My desk was cluttered with energy bars and the much needed bottle of water to keep me going. I became a game making curmudgeon.

Knowing what I wanted the game to do and figuring out how to get Buildbox to do it was part of the fun for me. The game of making games is what I’m into. There is a delight to trying different settings until you find what you want or discover something you didn’t know was possible. It can be very exciting for a geek like me. So many parameters to tweak, and you know how I love to tweak parameters.

Luckily I married a very geeky girl. I asked my sweet wife to research creating apps on Xcode and uploading games to iOS store while I blitzkrieg the game into shape. I don’t think my brain would have the capacity to learn how to make and publish my own game in the time frame I wanted. I had been looking for a project she and I could do together and we became a team figuring it out.

I worked every day, often 18 hours with only snack breaks. By the time I was near done I was delirious and haggard. It was awesome. I love that feeling of giving my all and getting remarkable results. Wiggly Loaf was coming together and I was psyched!

By December 19, we were in the race to get the Wiggly Loaf app in for approval before the Official Apple App Approvers all went on their week long holiday break. By the skin of our teeth we got Wiggly Loaf on the iOS app store before Christmas. We did this clever promotion where we asked Wiggly Loaf Fans to submit Shout Outs to friends to be published on the walls of the chalkboard in the game. We updated the game with the personal shout outs by New Years, and they shared the app with friends and family who in turn found a shout out in the game just for them! What a sweet gift for the world and a huge success for learning how to make my first game.

So it’s possible to go from knowin’ damn near nothing to a self published indie game developer in under one month. My Buildbox subscription is $199/year. The developer fee at iOS is $99. I put about 240 hours in to make my first game. My games are already on their way to ROI due to the Google ads I placed in the free games.

While learning to make Wiggly, I started a few ideas for other games. I worked them to completion and have been able to publish a game about every month since I began making indie games. So if you have ever wanted to learn how to program video games of your very own, I believe you can do it. You’re only about 300 hours and 300 dollars away from creating your first game. I say, let nothing stop you.

Now after a few days battling with Android Studio Eclipse I can now export my games to the Google Play store for Android. It’s the gift that keeps giving!

Indie Video Games by J.E.Moores: iOS – Android