Yasmin Kafai Banner


Electonic Game Worlds

Kafai, Y. B. (1996). Gender differences in children's constructions of video games. In Patricia M. Greenfield & Rodney R. Cocking (Eds.), Interacting with video (pp. 39­66). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
Playing video games has become a common activity among American children. Many research approaches have focused on explaining why children love playing these games and what effects of video game playing have on children's social, cognitive and emotional well-being. Here I propose to discuss video games from a different perspective-when children are making their own video games instead of playing them. In designing such games, which features of commercially available video games would children choose to include in their own designs? Concerning the gender stereotyping found in many video games, what kind of games would girls choose to design? The results indicate significant gender differences in all aspects of the game design: genre, worlds, characters, interactions, and feedback. The gender-related choices and the emergence of nar-rative game forms are discussed in more detail. Conclusions address the potential of game-making environments in light of the study's results.

Kafai, Y. B. (1998). Video game designs by children: Consistency and variability of gender differences. In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.), From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games (pp. 90–114). Boston, MA: MIT Press.
Over the past ten years interactive technologies have become a significant part of children's culture.  There is ample evidence in the research literature for the existence of gender differences in children's video game interest, use and performance.  In a previous study, I documented that these gender differences also appear when children are asked to make their own video games (Kafai, 1996).  But there are some indicators that these differences are not as universal as they may appear at first.  The current analysis of video games designed by boys and girls intends to shed some light on the discussion around gender differences by comparing and contrasting two different game design contexts. In one context, I asked students between the ages nine and ten to design and implement educational video games to teach fractions to younger students. In the second context, I asked children to design and implement educational video games to teach younger students about the solar. The context differences examined in this paper refer to differences between subject matters, mathematics and science. In the following sections, I first review pertinent research and describe the research context in which the students produced the video games. Next, I compare and contrast the games designed by boys and girls in the two different contexts taking into consideration features such as genres, worlds, character design, interactions, and narrative. In the discussion, I address the context dependency of gender differences and what insights these results provide for developing video game design and play environments.

Kafai, Y. B. (1998). Play and technology: Revised realities and potential perspectives. In D. P. Fromberg, & D. Bergen, (Eds.), Play from birth to twelve: Contexts, perspectives, and meanings (pp. 93–99). New York: Garland Publishing.
Interactive technologies such as video games have become an integral part of children's play culture and living conditions. Many video games present virtual worlds in which children can control and interact with fantasy figures and develop mastery of complex action sequences. This particular nature of video game playing and its impact on children's social, cognitive, and motivational development is used as an example for the revised realities of play. While video games in their current form provide children with new playgrounds, the potential of interactive technologies to provide construction material for play has received far less attention. A study of children making electronic games examplifies constructive aspects of play with interactive technologies. The chapter concludes with an outlook of the next generation of electronic building blocks and virtual playgrounds in which children can play and interact over long distances.

Kafai, Y. B., Franke, M., Ching, C., & Shih, J. (1998). Games as interactive learning environments fostering teachers' and students' mathematical thinking. International Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning, 3
(2), 149–193.
Many learning environments, computer-based or not, have been developed for either students or teachers alone to engage them in mathematical inquiry. While some headway has been made in both directions, few efforts have concentrated on creating learning environments that bring both teachers and students together in their teaching and learning. In the following paper, we propose game design as such a learning environment for students and teachers to build on and challenge their existing understandings of mathematics, engage in relevant and mean-ingful learning contexts, and develop connections among their mathematical ideas and their real world contexts. To examine the potential of this approach, we conducted and analyzed two studies: Study I focused on a team of four elementary school students designing games to teach fractions to younger students, Study II focused on teams of pre-service teachers engaged in the same task. We analyzed the various games designed by the different teams to understand how teachers and students conceptualize the task of creating virtual game learning environment for others, in which ways they integrate their understanding of fractions and develop notions about students' thinking in fractions, and how conceptual design tools can provide a common platform to develop meaningful fraction contexts. In our analysis, we found that most teachers and students, when left to their own devices, create instructional games to teach fractions that incorporate little of their knowledge. We found that when we provided teachers and students with conceptual design tools such as game screens and design directives that facilitated an in-tegration of content and game context, the games as well as teachers' and students' thinking increased in their sophistication. In the discussion, we elaborate on how the design activities helped to integrate rarely used informal knowledge of students and teachers, how the conceptual design tools improved the instructional design process, and how students and teachers benefit in their mathematical inquiry from each others' perspectives. In the outlook, we discuss features for computational design learning environments.


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