Building Family Adventures by Cris Thompson

Posted 3 April 2018

There are 3 of us; in ascending order, E is 8 and lives in an amazing world of his imagination.  L is 11 and is a Minecraft Redstone Master, Cris (me) is a computer programmer. We all live in North East London.

I have two kids, 3 years apart. When you have kids, no-one tells you how to do it. There was no close family around or friends with kids to nudge us in the right direction.

So you have Kid 1 and he turns out O.K. Obviously you are going to repeat all that with Kid 2 and it’s all going to be just fine, because Kid 2 is going to be just like Kid 1.

New territory

Fast forward some years, I’m now a single parent and have the kids over 2-4 days a week. This parenting thing just got a lot more difficult as I am only ever party to half of the conversations going on with my kids. It was a new territory at first, like when they were born. But time passes and everyone gets into a new rhythm. I have a small network of Dads that I talk to, just to make sure I’m sane mostly and the kids had emotional support from the school counselor – who is amazing.

The kids started to like a lot of the same things; they are both Minecraft masters and the Lego never goes away, but then I noticed that my youngest still wasn’t reading. And then a while ago he just stopped…

Getting creative

At first I tried to force it, then I stopped because it was just making it worse. It took a while for his school to swing into place all the things they could. It started with a full assessment by the school and then the Borough SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator). At his age, they do not use labels, but everyone agreed that his reading was behind what you can expect it to be.

With his assessments over last year, now Kid 2 is full steam ahead on the reading recovery program, it’s amazing. We read a little at home, in the knowledge that he’s reading more at school and doing his reading homework. I have signed him up to an online specialist phonics course and every night they are with me I read out loud to them both until one of them goes to sleep.

He’s working really hard and I’m very proud, but from time to time he just gets tired of all the extra reading, so I wanted to do something fun with him to build his confidence generally, taking the focus off of reading for a while; so we decided to make a computer game.

Both kids play computer games and the idea of creating games has always been there. But then it occurred to me; how about treating it as a professional project rather than a another rainy weekend activity which might be seen by a couple of their friends? So I decided to get Kid 2 to design it, draw it and record the sounds, and for us all to treat it as if we were professional game developers  – to see where it could take us.

Enter ‘Ethan The Explorer’

I remembered the stories I used to make up for the kids about ‘Ethan The Explorer’ and his cousin ‘Clever Chloe the Scientist’ – Chloe invented a time machine, so there were pirates, dinosaurs, evil clones! For some reason the evil protagonist was a Parrot (we will see if he re-emerges). With this as a start point, Kid 2 drew some of the characters and landscapes, and we started.

Kid 2 thinks on his feet. As you will see if you watch our promotional video (click the link below), he’s always coming up with really funny ideas; like the ‘Sellotape Guy’ – he made this up while we were recording, so it’s been quite hard to keep up with all that creativity.  We then thought that it would be amazing if we could actually sell the game as a product. It’s getting easier and easier to self-publish now, but how do you reach an audience?

Kickstarter is a Crowdfunding website, where you list your inventions, books, games, shoes before they exist in their final format, and if people are interested they chip in a little bit to fund you. They promise to pay a specific amount and you promise to send them something when it’s ready. So this is a perfect way of reaching an audience and guiding the kids through the process of professionally running a project, start to finish. We set our level in the hope of selling 200 copies – that’s a nice number of people playing an 8 year old’s game.

Our adventure

I’m loving the impact this process is having on the children. We’ve already  had an article about us published on a German Tech website – now Kid 1 wants to know all the ins and outs of how it got there. Kid 2 is coming back from school telling me how he’s talking about it with his friends, and his pockets are stuffed with drawings of characters and game ideas.

Although we’ve only just started our Kickstarter journey, it’s already an amazing start point for an 8 year old – on the road to be a published game designer!

We have the 30 days up to April 21st to get our project funded, so if you feel interested or inspired, please take a look here.

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