As part of our 'Showcase Series', we shall be highlighting games companies large and small with a few quick questions to discover more about their conception, evolution, inspirations and aspirations. From the largest multi-national companies to indie games makers and even individual new-comers, we're happy to shine a light on a variety of views of the gaming industry and experiences for those at all points on the gaming ladder!
Today - Luma World...
Tell us briefly the background of your company.
A couple years back four of us friends (Sameer, Tejasvi, Sajid and Venkat) came together to ‘make a difference in the world of learning and development’. We were passionate about education and believed the opportunity was ripe to reform the age old system of ‘read, remember and reproduce’ to a more open system of ‘discover, engage and apply’. After some detailed research and discussions with a multitude of educators, parents and kids we found that learning was rather theoretical (and monotonous) in schools and not focused on enhancing the experience of learners. So, many students lose interest in a lot of relevant topics that possibly could kindle a spark if presented in a manner that was suited to their preferred learning style.
That’s when we had an amazing idea. We said, “Why not combine learning with play?” and Luma World was born. Kids love play and when they realise they can learn through play the interest is piqued with almost no effort. We want kids to never realize they’re “studying” but rather gain all essential skills while having fun. If kids have fun while learning, they begin to apply the concepts more and remember it easily. We believe play is a basic need for all and a great, inclusive way to bond and learn.
Tell us what inspires you to make games and do you have any rules when making games.
The biggest inspiration for us in creating games is the joy that it brings to people’s faces. There are so many stages we see that happiness and surprise. Nothing inspires and encourages more to create games than when kids first see our games and exclaim ‘wow!’ or when families tell us they had an amazing time playing our games together. Even when we visit schools, educators tell us how excited kids get when they see games and how it makes their lives so much easier when trying to get all kids to co-operate and learn. To create products that aid and benefit all stakeholders in education (students, parents and educators) is by far the biggest reason that we come in and design new games and products everyday. We want the kids of today to remember that they played this math game on space travel that inspired them to become an astronaut or a game about fencing their farms helped them become creative artists. To be able to help a child fulfil their potential and dreams through our products, in whatever small capacity, is the reason we spend hours perfecting every little detail on everything we publish. Our goal is to create a generation of problem solvers and critical thinkers, with a conscience.
Our game designing process is fun and rather unique since it involves academics. We have lengthy checklists at almost every stage of designing our games. Since all our products are curriculum aligned, involve real life application and focus on acquiring a well balanced combination of academic skills, life skills and moral values, I think the challenge is greater but the output is far more rewarding.
Designing an educational game is like designing any other with a few caveats. No game works if you don’t understand your target audience and map their requirements. We do that before we begin to ideate on a game and we do that, once again, during the testing phase. That is the key aspect. Listen, understand, tweak and repeat.
When we begin to work on a game we always start with the learning objectives. We take an educational topic at the broadest level, for example numbers, and break it down into much smaller objectives depending on the age group. What digit numbers does our audience know till? A 7 year old cannot work with 9 digit numbers; they can work with only maximum 5 digit numbers. But there’s another catch, can they even do 5 digit numbers while playing the game without a pen and paper? No. So the focus has to be on getting them to do practical work and improve on concepts while keeping in mind the end goal – they must have fun. Hence we only add learning objectives in a game that blend well with the theme and yet are important for kids to learn. The tough part is removing what is not required!
To anyone looking to design educational games, I would first recommend creating the educational objective as the core. Then layer it with game mechanics that also involve a lot of practical skills. Finally garnish it with “an element of surprise” or aspects of luck that ensure that outcomes are not the same every time the game is played. The Ménage à trois is really what is the key to building a successful educational game.
As a rule of thumb, we maintain consistency in all our games – only a maximum of 40% of the gameplay involves academic learning, another 50% are a mix of life skills like strategy, decision making, etc. and finally 10% is luck. This mixture of strategy and luck is really what makes a game fun and introduces newer outcomes every time it is played. This is essential. Kids often do not realize they are learning difficult topics like Conversion of Units, Percentages or Profit and Loss because the strategy and luck overshadow it. The learning is subliminal almost entirely.
Like another famous saying goes: “Tell Me and I Forget; Teach Me and I May Remember; Involve Me and I Learn.” That is the goal. Education and learning occur automatically when kids are engaged and involved. We really do not have to do much at all!
What do you have coming up and out in the future?
We currently make games to help kids between the ages of 6 and 12 to learn and master Mathematics. We have designed a total of 15 game concepts ready and tested with kids, families, parents and educators. Of the 15, we have published 6 games along with ancillary products that continue the learning beyond the games. We have games for geometry (Guess The Fence), operations with numbers (Terra Loop and Galaxy Raiders), fractions (Fracto), Profit, Loss and Percentages (Alpha Steel) and a game on measurements and conversion of units (Mystic Arts).
We will soon be launching four new games in January, 2021. A game for younger kids to learn measurements (Dino Quest), a write and wipe geometry game (Trailblazers), a tile placement game on fractions (Crafty Puggles) and a sequence forming game for learning factors and multiples (Xing). We plan to launch the other 5 game concepts by the end of 2021. We pride ourselves in being able to design educational games through an agile process. It’s almost like we have a production line of game ideas and concepts.
Over the next few years we want to continue creating inclusive learning experiences for kids at home or in the classroom and provide educators and parents with the right tools to help improve engagement, understanding, retention and application of knowledge. We believe the learning process must not be in silos or dependent on selective outcomes (as with screens or written tests) but rather be based on curiosity, discovery and exploration. We want to provide children with the freedom to learn at their own pace, shed their fear of failure and be able to do so through social and peer interaction. This can be made possible only through play.
One long-term plan is to include “purposeful technology” into our products. We want technology to be an aid to the physical game and not the focus. Our dream is to have AI & ML enabled physical games that allow kids to play games together that constantly evolve along with their increasing ability. So playing a tabletop game in a physical with real people but leveraging the power of technology. How cool would that be right? Imagine a game that learns about the players and automatically customizes difficulties and themes to suit their liking or test them more. That would be wonderful!
Submitted by Sajid Chougle, Co-Founder/Creative Director, Luma World