So the Makey Makey made it’s first full appearance in my class last week, and it lived up to everything I expected. Having watched the online video some weeks ago now with my class, the kids were first consumed with the idea of being able to play games with the controller, a la Mario Bros, or some other 2-D scroller.
Katia had shared a tweet about how the Internet Archive had recently set up a page with a whole whack of emulated classic arcade games that anyone could play for free. This was perfect, as most of those games either were only a directional pad, with one or two buttons max, which works with the basic Makey Makey configuration.
Warning, that website is a timesink! Initially, I had to problem solve why some games were so buggy, or were lagging, or why sound wasn’t working. I figured out that the emulator that runs the games worked better on Firefox than Chrome. I also found through trial and error that once you’ve made sure the emulator recognizes your keyboard/makeymakey as the input, you need to refresh the page in order for it to work. This also enabled the sound, in all it’s 8-bit glitchy glory.
That was part of the timesink, but having spent a considerable amount of time getting the emulator to run, I was now able to explore all the different games, to see what would work best for the students’ experience. Turns out there are a lot of really fun, but frustrating games out there.
Has anyone read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline? It’s a post-apocalyptic sci-fi book about a boy who essentially saves the day through playing his way through really old video games. The biggest of the bunch is the game ‘Joust,’ and the way it’s described in the novel, you would expect the most incredible game ever. I’ll let you judge for yourself, but I couldn’t even knock another guy off his flying creature, and believe me I tried!
So, hours later I finally decided on a few we could try, so as to give the students the feeling of choice. The next day at the last period of class, we got started. The students had all been asked to bring something they thought was conductive to class, and of course students had bananas, like they used in the original video, and all sorts of other objects. We went through the list of objects to decide ahead of time what we believed would be the most effective, and which objects might not be conductive at all. Many students had hoped plastic would be conductive (game controllers are plastic so I can understand the confusion many might have), so there was a lot of plastic that was put to the side.
With that out of the way I pulled up the website, the class chose a knock-off of Donkey Kong to play, and I let them decide how they would approach setting up the ideal game pad. The only requirement would be that two people would need to control the player at all times. This proved to be more difficult to the kids than they initially thought. They couldn’t get the makeymakey to work! But lo and behold, they quickly learned that you need to put a wire in the ground, in order to make a full circuit! This quickly turned into seeing how long a circuit they could make before it stopped working, but soon found that 12+ students all holding hands still allowed them to create a full circuit! One student even mentioned that when he let go of another’s hand, he was acting like a light switch that was turning on and off the light.
Once the need for the circuit was found, the students used tinfoil, tape, a pair of metal tongs, and a metal bowl for their gamepad. After playing a few rounds, students intervened and cleaned up the table so it was easier to reach the controls. Because they were playing together, and needed to keep a ground, the ground wire was attached to the metal tongs, and each student could hold one side of the tongs (they didn’t like the idea of holding hands!)
All the students were so impressed with their handiwork! They worked so well to problem solve, and in the end had a great time with few arguments.
I would have loved to have captured all this and shared it with you, but it so happened to be the first day all year I left my phone at home, and so did not have anything to photograph the set-up with. I’ll be updating this post with pics once we set up the Makey Makey again.
So, this now begs the question of what my students could do with the Makey Makey next. Any suggestions!?