Sierra Goes to Kindergarten

When Roberta Williams decided to make an adventure game for young children, she didn't fool around. She designed Mixed-up Mother Goose with ages four and up in mind.

Roberta included many children's favorite characters, like Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole, even the cat and the fiddle, the dish and the spoon, and the cow who jumped over the moon.

As the game progressed, Roberta decided to check and see if it was really playable, as she had planned, by even young children who could not read. So, Sierra went back to school.

Sierra play-tested Mother Goose with young children, especially those in the 4 to 6 year range, to make sure they could really play the game. Testers infiltrated kindergartens and even preschools, to find out if kids that age really could play the game.

Results were very positive. Children seemed to enjoy Mixed-up Mother Goose. In fact, most had to be dragged away from the computer!

Features the children seemed to like included the many animated sequences (Jack jumping over the candlestick, Mary's lamb going to school, etc.). They also seemed to like a new feature that allowed them to make the male character actually look like themselves! The children were able to choose the sex and appearance from eight possibles, for instance, a little brown boy or a little blonde girl.

Of course, there were problems. The kids seemed to have problems with the directional keys. They clearly expected that holding an arrow key down would make their character move, and releasing it would make him/her stop. So, the programmers went back and changed Mother Goose to work that way.

A few pictures also had to be redrawn, to make it easier for children to go in and out of doorways, and to more easily recognize a few objects they had trouble with.

All in all, both groups (Sierra testers and the children) found Mother Goose play-testing to be a positive and worthwhile experience, and one that will undoubtedly increase children's enjoyment of the game.


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