Gamestar Mechanic

Emerging Technologies and Edtech June 19, 2014

Country of Origin: USA
Languages: English
Developer: Gamelab
Publisher: Eline Media
Year Published: 2011
Platforms: web
Genre: adventure, sandbox
Subject: creativity, digital literacy, science

Gamestar Mechanic is an online game designed to enable kids from ages 5-15 to make their own digital games, while learning the basic principles of game design. The game launched in fall 2010 and quickly gained a broad and lively following: by mid-2012 the web-based platform had been adopted by more than 3,500 schools, and over 350,000 original youth-created games had been published. Perhaps more importantly, these games have since been played over 10 million times in more than 100 countries.

In the game players take on the role of game mechanics, brought into a steam-punk inspired world to repair and contribute games to the economy on which the now broken-down world runs. Different elements in the world constitute game components, called sprites, which are essential to making a good game. Sprite can be used to design and repair games. Players arriving for the first time are given a choice of venues: Quest, Workshop or Game Alley. The Quest introduces the setup of the game environment with click-through Manga-style panels, followed by a series of design challenges, in which players learn the basics of movement, layout, gravity, time limits and trading, shooting, running, collecting, and progressing, by playing simple games. As they progress through the levels, they earn sprites to use in developing their own games. Game development takes place in the Workshop; once tested and shown to be beatable (a requirement), the games can be published in the Game Alley, where other players can play and review them. The back-end of the Game Alley also provides an analytics page for each game published with easy-to-read visualizations to convey how many people have played a game, and how many have competed at each level–allowing the game designer to adjust a game’s difficulty in response to actual play.

The game also comes with supports for teachers, including a strategy guide for the game, which contains sample curriculum, and a social media site where teaching experiences, challenges and tips can be shared.