7th-Graders Make A Paper-Mache Video Game You Can’t Play

7th-Graders Make A Paper-Mache Video Game You Can’t Play

Elisabeth Willis is my kind of art teacher. She’s encouraging her students to create their own video game characters in real life. Her 7th grade class assignment was so popular this spring that she’s already been asked to put together a panel for the National Art Educators Association—and she’s not even a full-time teacher yet.

When placed side by side, each of the dioramas are designed to create one giant side-scroller-like level, similar to Little Big Planet.

Why call these characters “video games” when they’re just fantastical paper-mache creatures?

“Video games are something very familiar to them,” explains Willis. “But what I learned from doing this was that they are totally unaware of what goes into making a video game. They had no idea that it took artists and writers. I think it really opened their eyes to new and interesting career options as well as not taking a really good game for granted.”

The project was such a hit with the 7th graders that even her 8th grade students were begging for a chance to make their own characters.

In a reversal of what you might expect, the kids most familiar with video games were encouraged to come up with their own designs, while those less familiar with games could reimagine a character they already knew. “I told them to pick a character they like and adjust it to make it different and maybe be able to achieve something the original character wouldn’t be able to,” says Willis.

Willis wouldn’t call herself a hardcore gamer, she says, but she’s definitely a gamer. “I was an art history major before going into teaching and I love picking out the historically accurate parts of Assassin’s Creed. It’s totally nerdy of me, but I love it.”


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  • its interesting, and i appreciate that its a 7th grade class (snotty little punks with no attention spans) but i hate to say it: video games are not ‘art’

    sure they have artistic aspects like creative writing/design/illustration/hell even programming is a form of creative construction, but that doesn’t mean it’s art. if you tape a bunch of cats together you aren’t gonna get a tiger.

    It should be used in a totally different way, making a side scrolling diorama is all well and good but most people seem to miss the point that art is pure expression, any limits placed upon art as a pure concept change its very essence and turns it into something else. By not taking this into account these kids are placing boundaries upon their own creativity by just taking what they see and replicating it. There could have been so much more investigation into what games are and how we interact with them, if that sounds lofty maybe it is, but sometimes the simplest games can be the most fun, because they are based on a clever idea.

    Video games are fun to play and make (except if you work at rockstar or EA so i hear) but thats it, as soon as video games aren’t governed by such things as budgets/demographics/marketing etc it becomes pure art and can no longer be referred to as just a video game. it’s art.

    I’m up on my high horse here but it’s something i feel pretty strongly about.

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