Making Learning Fun

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A team of UNC participants in ARIS Global Game Jam 2011 share ideas via video chat with other game developers around the world. Related: Video explaining the benefits of interactive, place-based education. Photo and video by Katie Owston

Students in the capstone class of the President’s Leadership Program at the University of Northern Colorado chose a unique project to demonstrate how technology can be used as a relevant teaching aid for today’s students in a variety of courses.

Without any previous experience, the PLP students used free software to design an interactive video game that uses a smart phone’s GPS technology to incorporate place-based education and teach players about water rights.

The game the PLP students developed is a kidnapping mystery of a UNC professor. Players are navigated around campus and Greeley to help find the professor, all the while learning about water rights.

“This makes learning about a seemingly boring subject fun and interactive,” said Kellsie Endres, a PLP senior.

A game’s interactivity is achieved when the mobile device’s GPS determines a player’s location and provides pre-set cues that then activate other aspects of the game.

The player follows the cues given to fulfill requirements needed to complete quests and eventually finish the game. Games can be developed on any computer with an Internet connection using free ARIS drag-and-drop software that simulates an augmented reality for interactive storytelling.

The PLP students showcased their work on April 18 as part of the ARIS Global Game Jam 2011. Teams from a dozen different regions around the world took part in the conference, using video chat to communicate about the games they were going to create during the three-day game jam.

The game jams taught new users how to create a game from scratch and allowed experienced users to hone their creativity to develop a new game.

The President’s Leadership Program is a selective scholarship-based leadership program that trains students in leadership theory and practice. For more information on PLP, visit

- Brittany Sarconi

How to Create Your Own Interactive Game
1. Create an account on the ARIS editor.
2. Choose a location for the game to be positioned.
3. Incorporate objects. There are three types of objects in the game:
-Plaques: contain media and text to help navigate the student players. It has a fixed position in the game world and can only be viewed within a certain range which is determined by the GPS technology.
-Items: can also contain media and text. An item can be picked up, dropped or destroyed depending on the settings made by the creator of the game.
-Non-player Character: a character the player may encounter in the game. NPC are used to create virtual dialogue in the game.
4. Create requirements. Requirements are what make the game work. These are small phrases that mean a certain action will not take place until the requirement has been fulfilled.

For further questions about game development, email