The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum has been working with a local specialist school to help children with autism create online computer games starring the Nation’s Favourite Dinosaur.
Students from the Island Project School based in Meriden have been working with the Herbert’s Creative Media department and a local immersive technology company called BOM to create interactive games inspired by the venue’s most famous resident – Dippy the Diplodocus.
Creative Bridges, part of Culture Coventry’s education programme, offers facilities to non-traditional learning institutions. Having worked previously with the Island Project, pupils returned earlier this year to undertake training in game design and production.
Kerrie Suteu is Creative Media & Digital Manager at the Herbert.
She said: “We teach lots of different art forms based around the exhibition programme, so on this occasion it was gaming. We gave them the option of which element of the Herbert they wanted their games based around and Dippy was the obvious choice.
“They were given options of how the game could work, then they began compositing their game’s world by developing and gathering different assets.
“They then had to create elements of the games themselves from scratch. They had to learn bits of coding to do this but in order to do that they used ChatGPT which meant learning the right questions to ask to get the right code.”
With the basics learned, the group went about creating their games, the result of which proved very impressive.
Kerrie continued: “One of the games is a bit like Squid Game. You have to get to the end of a tunnel without Dippy seeing your character moving – when you reach the end, a funny victory anthem plays.
“Another student created a maze game, where you have to get Dippy to the end of the maze – he ended up using a maze generator to create ten levels of differing difficulty. The student explored making trigger points so that when you walk certain places Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ played which they all just found hilarious. It was really cool.
“Another student created a game full of skyscrapers with a character that could climb and jump to reach Dippy at the top of a building – it’s very hard! There are moving platforms and rotating lazer beams. Even the student that created it struggled to complete it. We were blown away by how good he was.”
Talking about the impact the 10-week project has had, Kerrie added: “We found that as the students were working on something so interactive in the same space, they were all trying to outdo each other and make one another laugh with their creations, so actually it was sparking new friendships too which was so nice to see.
“It was really exciting. You feel like you’ve tapped into something that could be a path for them. It was lovely and made me feel so proud to be involved. It’s been a challenging journey but really so rewarding to see the outcome.”
Mel Collett of the Island Project School said: “Our students have really enjoyed accessing the Level 1 Creative Bridges course. The team at Creative Bridges have worked really well with us as a school to accommodate our students’ individual needs, all of whom have a diagnosis of ASD. The team worked hard to devise the course content to engage and motivate our students to be successful and complete the Level 1.
“The students looked forward to visiting the Herbet each week and we have seen a positive development in students developing their communication and social skills. On completion of the digital skills course, we have observed the students continue to practice the skills they have learnt and have demonstrated that they have more confidence and self-esteem in trying new skills and working with new people.”
Marcus McCreadie from BOM worked closely with the students, helping them create their games.
He said: “I truly enjoyed the experience. Working with them helped me develop my skills further as a lecturer and my experience with neurodiverse individuals.
“They picked things up very quickly. It was interesting to see how different each of their projects were and where they took it.
“One of the standout moments for me was seeing how happy and excited they were after creating something and having something to eagerly show their peers.
“It was lovely getting to know the learners and seeing their humorous side. I had a lot of fun and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with them.”
Try out the games that have been created by clicking here.