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Helping children feel represented through our new avatar

Today we launch our brand-new 3D Sumdog avatar. This not only marks a giant step forward for us in terms of our game design, but more importantly, through the features and accessories we’ve added through the avatar development, we’re now able to offer greater choice of inclusive personalization to help more children feel represented on Sumdog.

New Sumdog avatar and choice of t shirts
New t-shirt choice for Sumdog avatar

Why does representation matter in games?

Representation – being able to see yourself reflected in the games you play or the tv you watch– is important for children. Seeing themselves reflected in their environment helps children develop a sense of identity which can boost confidence and self-esteem.

On Sumdog, children can create and personalize their own avatar with coins that they earn, which they can then use to play in over 15 of our adaptive learning games. This personalization creates a sense of ownership which can help increase a child’s engagement with the games or platform they are playing on. 

We know that gamification can be a great way to help teachers engage children in their learning. By providing a greater diversity of choice of new 3D avatar features and accessories to help build an avatar that they feel represents them, we hope your children are further motivated to practice and progress their math and spelling skills on Sumdog. 

The engagement of the children in giving their opinion, the excitement waiting for the 3D avatar, and in the meantime, they have been practising their maths and literacy, loving it.

Class teacher & Digital Learning Coordinator, Scotland

Inclusivity at the forefront of what we do

With ‘Inclusive’ as one of our Sumdog company values and as a diverse global team, we always consider children from all different backgrounds in everything we do. To help ensure as many children as possible would feel represented by our new avatar we: 

  • conducted 7 classroom focus groups to get live reactions 
  • tested early versions of the avatar at over 29 school visits to get instant feedback
  • researched how other companies enable inclusivity in their digital products. One example is that we’ve added the 10-shades from the Monk Skin Tone (MST) Scale that Google has recently committed to incorporating into its products.
  • ran our Avatar Competition back in January where we had over 3000 entries from 200 schools to get ideas from children across the UK.

We also want to make sure that all children can see the avatar in action and so we’ve started adding it into our games.

Screenshot of Sumdog game Street Dash with wheelchair user - helping children feel more represented with our avatar
Street Dash Sumdog game with new avatar

How have we made our Sumdog avatar more inclusive?

  • Replaced our 2D avatar with a new 3D version featuring advanced movements and an overall more modern look.
  • Removed the ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ gender selections so all features are available for everyone.
  • Included over 24 different skin tones. 
  • Added new religious wear options. 
  • Included new options for children with disabilities including a wheelchair, hearing aids and a variety of glasses to choose from. 
  • Paid attention to detail with delicate hair textures and movements. We’ve also taken great care to alter the in-play game perspective for wheelchair users. 
  • Added more accessories and clothing options than ever before, taking inspiration from our Avatar Competition entries and ideas directly from children (over 1000 different hoodies to collect!)

The new avatar is one of the most inclusive things we’ve ever done at Sumdog – we’ve tried really hard to make sure as many children as possible feel they can be represented in our software. It’s also an important technological step, replacing some of the older parts of the app that had started to look a bit dated and giving kids a consistent and intuitive interface to keep them engaged and motivated.

Dave Wark, Engineering Team Lead, Sumdog

Helping children feel represented: What next?

This is just the beginning. Over the next few months we’ll be replacing our 2D avatar for our new 3D avatar in all the Sumdog games that feature it (over half!). We’ll also be adding new features and customizations every year!

If there’s anything your children would like to see added to the new 3D avatar, let us know. We’d also love to hear what your children think of it and see their new representations of themselves on Sumdog.
Please share with us on Twitter tagging @sumdogusa

To read our FAQs about the launch of the 3D new avatar and what your children can expect please read our previous blog.