Activity Overview

In this activity, students will learn to identify foundational computing concepts in map-related video games.

Key Terms and Concepts

  • DESIGN CONSTRAINTS refers to a limitations or “guide rails” on the requirements and/or operation conditions under which a design must be built and cannot violate.
  • AFFORDANCES are clues about how an object should be used, typically provided by the object itself or its context. They provide information about the possible effect of an action on an object or environment.
  • LOOPS are constructs which repeat the same actions a certain number of. times, or until a certain condition is true.
  • CONDITIONALS are constructs which perform different computations or actions depending on whether a programmer-specified boolean condition evaluates to true or false.
  • Key Takeaways:

  • We can think about map games through the lens of computer science concepts.
  • The ability for the user to come up with creative ways of solving problems is a main aspect of what makes map games fun.
  • Driving Questions:

  • What are the visual elements and actions one can take when playing map games? What parts of the game interface do we pay attention to?
  • How are these elements in the game actually built using computer science?
  • What makes map games fun and/or challenging to play?
  • Materials and Preparation:


    1. (Optional) Projector
    2. Computers for each student
      • Alternatively: Students can play in pairs, or students could volunteer to play game and project image for entire class to see/discuss/play.


    Instructors should identify a map-related game for students to play during this workshop. Examples include but are not limited to: Minecraft, PacMan, Legend of Zelda, map games on Scratch, or Mazzy. If you plan to use the Mazzy game, it is recommended that you set up the computers and fully load the game 30 minutes prior to the workshop session.

    Example Map Game Screenshots:





    Activity Instructions

    1. Introduce & Demo Map Game (5 minutes)
      • Instructors should introduce workshop agenda, and demo and/or explain the basic instructions for how to play the map game (e.g.: how to start game, basic controls, what options can be entered, etc.).
    2. Students Play Map Games (25 minutes)
      • Have students navigate to and play map games.
      • Instruct students to focus on the following aspects of the game while they play:
        • Actions they are / are not able to do in the game
        • Visuals, fonts, music, animations, transitions
        • What makes the game fun, easy, hard, challenging, etc.
    3. Discuss How Map Game Was Built (20 minutes)
      • Have students shut down games, consoles, and computers
      • Lead a large-group discussion
        • Have students share their observations from the game play experience
        • Discuss computer science key terms using the map game as example
          • In map games, the main “affordances” and “design constraints” users pay attention to are “walkable” surfaces, obstacles, and paths to goals.
          • These “design constraints” and “affordances” are what guide engineers and programmers to implement the map game system.
          • It’s important in game design to focus on making your themes/ideas clear through structured visuals and design choices and to make games challenging enough that it’s interesting, but not too challenging so that users will not enjoy playing the game.
          • In Mazzy, we can use loops to get past challenging levels which limit the number of moves you can enter.
      • Begin to encourage students to reflect on how different themes and ideas could be represented in map form, and what requirements that design might have.