About the Project
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Ana Sofía Ruiz
With support from:
In October 2013, Taller Volador gathered a group of at-risk youth from inside and outside Guatemala City to teach them about play, and about becoming the designers of their own games.
We worked with a number of kids who for various reasons did not have everyday access to play experiences — either because they came from a rural area where they were expected to be doing work whenever they were not in school, or because they came from an urban area where violence and insecurity made it complicated for them to ever leave their homes. As a result, these kids were being deprived from the foundational experience of play. Our taks was, firstly, to re-acquaint them with play and to introduce them to forms of play they were unfamiliar with by experimenting with very different sorts of games, and by doing so, to introduce them to the underlying concepts that made games fun and play engaging.
But we wanted to go beyond just play: we wanted to show kids how they could become game designers themselves and empower them as creators. For the initial experience, we wanted to assess whether kids would be comfortable managing the complexity associated with the design process and the creation of games. While for many of these kids this unfamiliar position was hard to process at first, over time they opened up to the experience and began to understand design concepts such as building prototypes, performing user testing, and iterating their designs based on user feedback.
After a couple weekends, kids went home with hand-made copies of their prototypes to share with friends and family, and they began to self-identify as “game designers”. But the experience also helped some kids open up about personal and emotional issues they became willing to share because of the safe space provided by the play experience: within this isolated portion of the world, kids discovered they could create and share without the risk of being shut down.