February 28, 2020
Can a Collaborative Game for Kids be Fun?

Soo if it's one thing I've learned, it's that creating a product for children 7-11 years old is not so easy. And building it on positive values makes the process even more... interesting.

How do we make it wholesome, but not preachy? Educational, but not homework-y? And most of all, how do we give children an amazing experience of exploration and play?

We're constantly making values-driven decisions that shape Mek the Planet. One product decision that we hope kids love and parents appreciate is that we reward collaboration.

From the last Mek the Planet Workshop

But Competition is Fun! Riiight?

We live in a competitive society, and leaderboards are a staple in most games. Let's face it- winning feels amazing.  So the easy way to design fun into a game is often to let the best man win. Let's see who's the smartest or can do the mostest, shall we.

But as a people, we nuh so good at teamwork. I've had so many interns come to work with us and share horror stories about group projects in school. Some are traumatized by working with others. Yet they marvel that they can work with others in our studio. They say it feels structured, they get results and *gasp* get along.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Group work doesn't come naturally to everyone. It can be a pain! But we unlock so much potential when we help each other figure things out. As the African proverb says, we get further together. But although it's important, how do we make it fun?

Making Collaboration Fun for Kids

Imagine a world where everything isn't framed by winning or losing. Where children just continuously improve on what inspires them and helps others. This is our vision for Mek the Planet.

In Mek, children get missions to solve a mystery and build an invention. They can choose to go alone or collaborate with friends. Early on we challenged ourselves to make a game that's not built on beating others. Instead, we are focused on self improvement and teamwork. So we design characters' messages to motivate children and encourage self efficacy. We don't force collaboration, but we do reward it. And we're already learning some interesting things.

We asked parents to share what their kids said they enjoyed at Mek, and I was surprised that collaboration featured in Abby's reply. She sent this after attending a Mek the Planet workshop.

"I learned I can actually depend on somebody to help me."

What These Children Taught Us

  1. Creating activities that work better when kids do them together, helps kids want to work together. It's not a perfect rule. Some children do prefer to do things on their own. But that's OK. When they try collaborating and see that it can actually help them complete a mission, it makes them happy. Exploring collaboration is fun!
  2. They like to be rewarded for collaboration. Positive reinforcement can help to motivate collaboration, if it even feels like a bribe at first. But over time we saw some kids try it, enjoy it and were willing to do it all on their own.
  3. It's really a game of trust. Our job is to create a safe space for children to feel inspired to be creative, and remind them that contributing to helping others will help them achieve their own goals. As Abby discovered, trusting and depending on others who are as excited and motivated as you are feels great.

So, turns out kids can have fun collaborating in play. And some also learn that trust and accountability go hand in hand when working well with others.

Join our mailing list to be part of upcoming workshops, mystery missions and collaborative adventures.

Happy collabbing today!

Kenia Mattis