Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog

All posts from January, 2013



Posted Jan. 29, 2013

CategoryGaming Community, Gaming Education


Today I’m here to tell you about something new and awesome: Playforce.

Playforce is a new online community built for and by players, parents and educators to discover and share learning experiences in games.  We partnered with our friends at Institute of Play to develop this resource, and we’d like to invite you to give it a try at

Here’s how it works:

Players join Playforce to enter their perspectives on their favorite games. Game perspectives are all player-generated, and moderated by a user community. Which means they don’t focus on what experts think is good about game play, but rather on what players know, based on their own collective experience. By putting the experience of players front and center, Playforce lets educators and parents know exactly what to expect from the games they use.

Before they enter their perspectives, Playforce trains players to develop the critical tools to articulate the learning that occurs in the games they love to play, using a language which professionals and other adults can understand… a language which connects to traditional academic standards.

Ultimately, Playforce will provide a searchable database of games with learning potential that allows users to explore games related to specific learning content, academic standards or twenty-first century skills. For anyone looking to use games to achieve specific learning goals, we hope this site will provide an indispensable resource.

Playforce is still in beta, but please stop by and visit Feel free to browse the games, enter a perspective yourself, or tell your students and friends. We need your help to make this site a community for anyone interested in games and learning.

Gamestar Comics


Posted Jan. 18, 2013

CategoryGaming Education


We talk a lot about literacy when we talk about Gamestar Mechanic: digital literacy, computer literacy, games and game system literacy. It’s important to note that in the Gamestar world, there is a ton of good old reading and writing literacy as well. Kids create story-lines for their games told through written intros/outros and in-game messages. Kids comment and review each other’s games using their own words. And in the Gamestar Quests, kids follow the story of Addison through motion comics. These comics tell the tale of a budding game designer going on an adventure in a world where everything is powered by games. These comics and fun and exciting, but they do involve reading, and often kids just want to play games instead of read.

Samson explains balance in a game

One strategy I’ve found effective in a classroom is to start off the class away from the computer and have students discuss the class’s topic before even logging into Gamestar. The Quest comics contain a lot of information about game design through the adventure story, and to make sure your students read this story, we’ve made the comics in PDFs. You can print these and look at them as a class before going onto the computers. Often kids discover a favorite character from the comics, one who represents the kind of games that they like.

Check out this page in the learning guide to download all the Quest Comic PDFs.

Also, if your students are into creating their own dialogue, we have all the Quest Comic PDFs with blank speech bubbles as well. Students can fill in their own ideas, changing the story or the characters according to their imagination. I’ve found this activity to be particularly fun and effective in ELL and creative writing classes. Enjoy the comics!

Healthivores is back!


Posted Jan. 14, 2013

CategoryChallenges and Contests


Remember last year’s awesome competition from our friends at Healthivores? They’re back!

If you missed it last year and want to participate, you’re in luck. Here’s a note from the Healthivores team: This year’s Healthivores Video Game Contest has begun and its easier than you think. Check out the included Lesson Plan that will take teachers, even those with zero game design experience, step-by-step through the process of teaching your students to design games. You will have your students completing their video games in less than 4 weeks. This year Healthivores has added Technology, Science and Math focused Lesson Plan options to the already popular Nutrition and Fitness Lesson Plan. Each winning team will receive one laptop for the teacher, one for the school and one for each student on the team (See 2012 Winners here). Deadline for entry is March 31, 2013 (allow 4 weeks for completion of Lesson Plan). Get started now at the Healthivores Video Game Contest homepage!