After the launch of Hero Elementary and the success of those games, Twin Cities PBS hired me as their Educational Game Designer for their new IP, Skillsville. For this grant I’ll be leading the design and production of 15 digital games, along with creating analog games for classroom use, developing virtual field trips, and working with our educational experts to develop eBooks. Unfortunately I won’t be able to share my work until the show premieres in 2025, but I can talk about some of our design principles.

Skillsville is a grant Funded by the US Department of Education’s Ready to Learn program, its goal is to help children ages 5-8 develop critical executive functioning skills that lay the groundwork for future success in school and the workplace. As the game designer for Skillsville, my goal is to create games that complement the show, be challenging for our age range, and strengthen or expand specific EF skills.

Each game will target a specific age group’s developmental capacity, but will be designed to appeal to other age groups as much as possible. A similar approach to game creation was employed for the Hero Elementary games, which have been successfully used in formal and informal settings with a variety of ages despite the content being aimed at a specific age group. Skillsville games will also emphasize re-playability, feature adaptive difficulty, and will provide interactive tutorials so that gameplay is intuitive and needs little text-based explanation.

As learning scientists designing games for Skillsville, we subscribe to a constructivist perspective of knowledge. This is the idea that meaning is something that is made by the individual through our interactions and experiences or socially through culture. Our games allow for players to have somewhat authentic first hand experiences with the subjects they are learning about, while removing barriers to entry, and provide a safe space for exposure where kids can learn from their mistakes. In other words, you don’t have to be an engineer to build something with our games, but we hope that the more you play our games about building, the more you’ll understand the underlying concepts thanks to the experience you had in the games and the surrounding curriculum. With that in mind, our preference when making games is to have them open ended and replayable varying slightly from one playthrough to the next.