This year for Teen Tech Week, we tried Microsoft’s new video game design program, Kodu. It’s a cheap ($5 download), easy to use program, that can get as complex as you want to. It’s a visual game design program meaning less text based than others. What a great fit for this year’s theme of Learn Create Share. Except everything didn’t go quite as planned.

We have several Xboxes in our system that circulate from a central location to branches that are having programs. We created step-by-step instructional videos on how to set up the equipment, how to use the controller to access the installed game, and how to jump in with some basic design techniques. We even arranged to have time for an Xbox to circulate for a trial period before Teen Tech Week so that libraries could do a run through of the program and identify anything that seemed amiss. Sounds good so far-right?

What we didn’t plan on is the account we installed it under, expiring by the time TTW rolled around (probably about a month after installing it). There was no indication of this and even some of the hard core Xbox gamers involved in setting up the program, weren’t aware this was going to happen.

What we learned. 1. It’s okay to take a risk and try new programs especially during Teen Tech Week. Even though it didn’t work perfectly, the few times Kodu was able to be accessed, teens really liked it and were willing to come back and try it again when we get it figured out. 2. It’s good to have a back up plan. Fortunately, several of the branches involved had other games the teens could play. Sure it wasn’t as ‘special’ as what they could have been doing, but the message of ‘sorry it doesn’t work, we can’t do anything’ wasn’t the rule for the programs. The game design program was also one among others planned throughout the week which fortunately turned out to be more successful.

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.

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