Game It Out Erasmus+ course – report

Between 31st July and 9th August took place a course, that will be well remembered by all its participants: Game It Out – game designing course in which took part 25 fans of games from 5 countries: Poland, Romania, Portugal, Czech Republic and Latvia. The dived deep into the world of games – educational, fun, board, cards and many more, led by a fantastic trio of trainers: Aga Leśny, Marcin Łączyński and Kuba Wiśniewski. 

From the very first moments of our stay in Kacze Bagno we all felt that this was going to be a unique experience. It vas already visible during our first common meal – the atmosphere was full of openness and genuine curiosity about others. We started the important process of getting to know each other, remembering the names and getting to know the place we were going to spend time in. 

The program begun with a very important part of theory. We got to know the Kolb cycle and discussed its use in games, we also reflected on the Bloom’s taxonomy and talked about the parts of education that are best transferred through games. After this theoretical warm up we jumped directly to the world of game designing and…designed our first game that was based on well known Twister components. To our very surprise we all managed to make a new game and…well, each of us could say that he/she designed his/her first game – just after the first course day! What a speed!

During the second day we went a step further – after a short lecture on what could be learned through a game, we took part in a short Game Jam. Our goal was to design a simple game in no more than 90 minutes. Again everybody became a game designer for a moment! Thanks to this experience we started to believe, that designing a playable game really is within our reach. On this day we also played a fantastic game about communication called CultuRallye. We were convinced that a game can be engaging, fun and – at the same time – very educative. The afternoon was entirely devoted to journey of a hero and storytelling, we got to know the Cambpell and Propp models and created our own, crazy heroes and their journeys. It was a lot of creative fun!

The third day thanks to Pracownia Gier Szkoleniowych was filled up with a traning game designed by Kuba Wiśniewski called Autokoretka. After playing a game – i.e. becoming car designers that go through a series of organizational changes – we analyzed the whole construction of a game. During a very fruitful discussion we named all the developmental aspects of the game and listed the parts of mechanics that deliver them. Without any doubt it was the most important part of the program when it comes to designing educational games. In the evening there was a surprise prepared by the Polish team. Thanks to props and costumes available in Kacze Bagno we transferred ourselves into a bunch of bizarre heroes that went through their journeys around Kacze Bagno premises. The participants created and improvised crazy stories accompanied by spontaneous outbursts of laughter.  

During the fourth day we organized a Game Pub in Kacze Bagno – our goal was to play as many different games as possible end get inspired for our own Game Jam – w very intense  48 hours game designing marathon that was getting closer and closer. In the evening we divided our group into 6 teams according to our interests. It was not an easy  process – since our games were supposed to be educational, many interesting, important and very diverse topics were raised – communication, teamwork, bravery, curiosity, assertiveness, adventures, social inclusion and ecology. Finally we managed to create 6 fantastic, international teams ready to face the challenge of creating an education game in two days time. The trainers encouraged us to get some rest before the following days – and not without a reason.  The social life on the course was very intense and some of the participants were already somewhat tired. After all, Erasmus plus program  is not only about acquiring skills and competences but also getting to know other people, cultures and building – sometimes very strong – international relationships. In the evening our mentors arrived: Małgorzata Mitura, Wojciech Rzadek and Michał Gołąb – experts from the gaming business that were supposed to help us go through the Game Jam process.

 The 5th and 6th day of the course were entirely devoted to the Game Jam. It was a very creative, intense, sometimes difficult, and frustrating process of designing a game. As in any similar project we went through moments of glory, and of bitter failure, we had our ups and downs. The mentors supported us by giving us valuable hints, inspirations, playtesting out prototypes and sharing their knowledge during morning lectures. Some of the teams worked till late hours in the night. It was worth it – during the Game Jam 6 playable, ready to use, educational games were created!

The seventh day was our Great Day. In the afternoon we were supposed to present our prototypes to public in one of malls of Iława that was organised thanks to support of the local library and its director Kinga Groszkowska. The citizens of Iława that came to the shopping center had an opportunity to play our games! We were all so excited! Knowing that your newly designed game really works and there are people who want to play it more than once gives satisfaction that is incomparable with anything else. That day in the evening a big party was planned but it came out that we needed something quite different – instead of dancing most of the participants were talking and reflecting on the whole day. We were all satisfied but also simply very tired – the adrenaline level dropped and time for well-earned rest arrived. 

On the eighth day Marcin Łączyński told us what to do next if we wanted to go into gaming business. He talked about many practical aspects of game publishing. In the afternoon we went through a very important process of course closure. We had an opportunity to look at the fears we had in our hearts on the first day of the course. We hardly could believe that among them were sentences like: “I might not be creative enough to make a game” or “I won’t be able to create a game of my own”. Game It Out made it clear to us that if you want something deeply enough and have support of wise people you can reach goals that might seem impossible to reach. We talked about our feelings, ideas, and future. The atmosphere was at times very upbeat, tears of emotions appeared – we couldn’t believe that these were the very last moments we were going to spend together. In the evening there was a grill and a campfire. The party ended very late, some of us even decided not to sleep at all to squeeze  out of this last moments as much as possible. 

The ninth day was a day of saying goodbye. Everybody was going home carrying a huge baggage of experience on their back. Who knows, maybe we will see each other again on a similar course? Every participant of this edition declared that they would eagerly take part in Game It Out 2. For us, the organizers, it is the best proof, that the course was successful and a reason to be happy and satisfied.