More than one million video clips get streamed each week on PBSKidsGo.org, and the pubcaster is moving to make sure visitors to the video portal keep coming back with a new gaming feature being inserted into its online clips. This new form of in-video gaming transforms passive viewing into a truly interactive experience.
Kids logging on to the site at PBSKidsGo.org/go/video can check out the current offering of clips from Arthur, Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman, Cyberchase and WordGirl now embedded with games. So how does it work? If a child is watching an Arthur clip, for example, the roughly two-minute segment will start streaming, stopping periodically for a short game to kick in. Game play can include things like a pop-up bubble that asks the child to guess what character is hiding under the couch. The right answer prompts that character to jump out from under the furniture and the clip then moves on, tallying the number of correct guesses at the end. (The option to watch the clip sans game is also available).
The in-video gaming feature rolled out in mid-March, and senior director of PBS Kids Interactive Sara DeWitt says the team really focused on developing games that fit with each show’s curriculum. Cyberchase, for one, implemented math problems, as the series revolves around learning mathematics. To make sure the online play complemented the series, its producers and writers collaborated with the interactive team to figure out what types of games to offer.
‘In every single focus group and usability test, the kids said they wanted more games,’ says DeWitt, adding the interactive team had been toying with the concept for about a year before it finally came to fruition, thanks in part to a three-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. After reviewing the feedback from test groups comprised of six- to 10-year-olds, PBS made tweaks and changes. DeWitt notes, for example, if the game involved locating items on the screen, kids didn’t notice items positioned in the lower-right hand corner because that’s where the branding bug appears on TV screens.
As for the next step, director of PBS Kids Go! Interactive Silvia Lovato says a major study with an educational research firm will get underway this summer to find out how these interactive videos enhance learning. In the meantime, PBS is expanding game overlays within the its library and through its current portfolio, starting with Sesame Workshop’s The Electric Company. ECA