WVU student designs games the old fashion way

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August 26, 2008 by NRCCE News

Morgantown, W.Va. — While many college students are hooked on Halo3, World of Warcraft and other video games, one West Virginia University (WVU) student helped the National Research Center for Coal and Energy (NRCCE) by improving some old fashioned table games.

Catlin Buckley, a sophomore in landscape architecture and a student worker at the NRCCE, redesigned a game called “Chocolate Chip Cookie Mining” and also helped create a new game called “SPINERGY—It’s Energy with a Spin.”

The NRCCE takes these games to venues like the West Virginia State Fair or WVU Day at the Capitol where university exhibits are geared towards educating children and their parents.

“Chocolate Chip Cookie Mining”

“For many people, energy in West Virginia means coal. And what better way to teach kids about coal and energy than encouraging them to play with their food,” said Trina Wafle, deputy director of the NRCCE and mother of three. Children pretend a cookie is a mine property. They dig out the “coal” chips, which they sell to a electric power company. They must restore their cookie or be fined by regulators. The object of the game is to develop the mine, safeguard the environment, and make as many NRCCE Bucks as possible.

“In the past we’ve used generic play money and plain graph paper,” said Wafle. “Then we asked Catlin to print new money and he ended up redesigning the whole game with WVU pictures, coal related graphics, and coal mining facts.”

Kids enjoy NRCCE's new games at State Fair

Kids enjoy NRCCE’s new games at State Fair

With the redesigned game, children wear toy hard hats with a working headlamp to emphasize safety. Buckley redesigned the NRCCE Bucks with pictures of the PRT, Woodburn Hall and the WVU Mountaineer. He also designed game mats to look like West Virginia woods with pictures of deer and trees. Other mats have facts and graphics about the coal industry that parents and grandparents find interesting.

“Many of the families at the state fair are coal mining families. They took a real interest in the new look and feel of the game,” said Wafle.

“Catlin really took the look of the game to a whole new level. About the only thing he didn’t do was bake the cookies,” Wafle laughed.


When a second game was needed to appeal to tweens and teens, Buckley was called upon once again. “I decided some kind of spinning wheel would be fun. I came up with the name SPINERGY because I thought it was so bad it was good,” said Buckley. The name stuck and the game was given the tagline “It’s energy with a spin!”

Youngsters spin the wheel to select questions about energy and the environment and WVU research programs. They often compete against their parents. Players whose correct answers earned the highest points win an NRCCE prize, often light-up pen. Losers get consolation dum-dum ™ suckers. “The kids really laugh when mom or dad get a dum-dum,” said Wafle.

Catlin Buckley stands by one of his creations

Catlin Buckley stands by one of his creations

Buckley used the internet to research facts for the questions. He used design software and a large inkjet printer for the eye-catching graphic which was attached to a wooden wheel that he and fellow student Jimmy Ludovici built at the NRCCE.

So is board game design a new career option for the college sophomore? “I’d be more interested in theme park design,” said Buckley. “It goes with my landscape architecture degree.”