2013 brings a new focus to the Collegeology project: middle school. Mission:Admission, the high school college application game we launched last year, is still generating players—and we are still continuing to research the impact of the game on students’ college-going efficacy—but the design team has been hard at work on our third project, a game targeting middle school students called Futurebound.
When the majority of college access practice and research focuses on high school juniors and seniors, solutions to increasing access are limited to addressing college applications and financial aid. With finite time and resources, most programs prioritize working with students who are college eligible by their junior year instead of the more at-risk students. So often when talking to practitioners over the years, they have pushed us to consider how to reach out to students in earlier grades in order to channel more students into college trajectories. Middle school years are critical gateway years. If students develop college aspirations, clear understandings of how to navigate their education, and smart work habits, they will be far more likely to be college ready—and more likely to succeed in college. It just so happens—as I have mentioned in previous blog posts—that games are particularly good at building aspirations and cultivating strategy. Fortunately, the Institute of Education Sciences and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation saw the value of the younger focus and funded the development of FutureBound.
Last year, we embarked on the process of conceptualizing and designing the game. We held a junior game design camp at a local middle school and since then, game designers from the Game Innovation Lab have been very, very hard at work programming, designing art and sound, creating narrative, and playtesting, playtesting, playtesting. Over the next few weeks we’ll be more formally conducting research on the effects of the game on students in three middle schools. After responding to feedback from students, we will be ready to share FutureBound with the nation. Stay tuned for a fast-paced journey through middle school where your avatar completes fun (and shhh … informative) quests while avoiding the dark forces of self-doubt.
Also big for Collegeology 2013: another high school game—this one focused on financial literacy, financial aid, and choosing the right college. Details to come.