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Manic Miner Game Designer

November 20, 2012

For the first half of the Michaelmas term Year 5 have been working on a very exciting ICT project to design and create their own computer games. To begin with the children thought about the characters for their game and they looked at how some of the most popular computer game characters, such as Mario and Sonic, have developed over time. They saw how Mario has changed since he first appeared in the game Donkey Kong in 1981. Looking at how the graphic design of Mario has changed over the past 30 years helped the children get an understanding of how the performance of games consoles has also improved.

After the children had sketched some ideas and then settled on their final character design they began to think of the story for their game and where the different levels would take place. They were aiming to design a platform game with up to 10 different levels and they were encouraged to make sure the game told a story. To give them an example Mr Leach showed them the game he created called “Boris the Penguin Saves Christmas” in which Boris has to travel from the South Pole to the North Pole and rescue Santa Claus. Along the way he visits places such as the Sahara Desert and the Alps and encounters other creatures such as lions, scorpions, mountain goats and polar bears.

The children then used a piece of software called 2 Do It Yourself which allows the children to design the different elements of a platform game and then put them together to create a fully playable game that can be uploaded onto the web.

The children created a range of imaginative games and some came up with very original ideas. As an extra challenge Mr Leach set them the task of recreating a classic game from 1983 – “Manic Miner”. This game was originally available on the Spectrum ZX and was created by the British programmer, Matthew Smith. The children were only given a brief description of the game – they were told that the main character was a miner who had become trapped underground. The miner had to collect jewels whilst trying to avoid slime, spiders and the Manic Mining Robots. They were then given the remainder of their 40 minute ICT lesson to produce one level of their game.

After all the children had created their games Mr Leach uploaded them onto the Internet and selected a shortlist of 8 finalists. The games created by Barnaby, Ed, Georgina, Izzy, Jack, Katie, Martha and Sam C were then sent to a panel of five judges. These judges included senior school ICT teachers, someone who used to work for 2Simple Software and helped create 2DIY and also Stuart Fotheringham who used to work as a designer for the game production company, Odin Computer Graphics, who created several games during the 1980s.

These judges all assessed the games according to their graphic design and playability. All of the judges knew the original game well and so were able to compare the children’s efforts. They were all very impressed that the games had been created by Year 5 children and gave special mention to the games created by Ed, Martha and Izzy. However the top three places went to…

In third place came Barnaby who was praised for his “nice, clear graphics” and the fact that “he’s got a smiling character.”

Second place went to Georgina for her game which had “good platform layout” and “lovely graphics”. Once of the judges said “I really like the variety of spiders, ghosts etc and that some move while others are stationary.”

The only child who appeared in the top three for all the judges and was usually in first place was Sam C whose game received comments such as  “really like the layout of the platforms  – don’t think I have ever seen anyone else lay it out like this, makes the game really interesting and for me harder to play,” and Stuart Fotheringham said “Excellent platform design, good baddy movement”.

All of the children on the shortlist received a “Manic Miner – Game Designer” badge with Barnaby receiving the bronze, Georgina the silver and Sam C the Gold. Sam C also won the first prize which was a “Manic Miner” heat-changing mug.

At a time when the once-thriving British games industry is raising concerns about the quality of ICT teaching in this country maybe this exciting and engaging project may inspire the game designers of the future.

To play the winner’s games click on the links below.

Barnaby –

Georgina –

Sam C –

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 26, 2012 11:54 am

    These games are wonderful, to think they were created by Year 5 students? Incredible!

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