Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog

Game of Sprites – An epic adventure in STEAM learning.


Posted Dec. 02, 2016

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Events, Gaming Education


 “Greetings, valiant Mechanics! Are you ready to embark on a grand adventure? Then prepare yourselves for Game of Sprites!” (GSM News, Nov. 16, 2016)

The Holidays are upon us! The students are restless… It’s time for a new challenge! Starting November 18th, the awesome team at Gamestar Mechanic began releasing a series of brand-new Challenges for your students to play through. These challenges will not only allow your students to unlock new sprites and gear but also provide them with a great lead up to a new Contest that will task them with creating their own games using these newly-released sprites! This challenge is awesome for lessons in game design, plot, character development, user-centric design, and creative writing, among other things.

As mentioned in earlier posts, designing a balanced game, one with flow, involves system-based thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, art, storytelling, and digital media literacy. It involves “Systems-Thinking” and “User-Centered Design”. To develop even a simple game, a student must act as sociotechnical engineer, thinking about how people will interact with a system and how said systems shape both competitive and collaborative social interaction. This is the 21st Century Story-Teller’s Art. This is where Liberal Arts meet STEM. This is what STEAM is all about! This is why those of us who were children of the 90’s remember and even revisit a great old game, much as though it were a great piece of literature we had read in childhood. I’m not trying to blaspheme here. Please do not attack me for putting Cloud and Frodo in the same basket, but I would argue that they might just belong together.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the team at Gamestar clearly had a lot of fun putting these challenges together. They are well-designed games in which students will have the opportunity to earn never-before-seen sprites that also contain a lot of humor. I may be getting my geek on a little too much, but I seriously had some “laugh-out-loud” moments as I played through the two challenges that have been released so far. I’m seriously stoked for Episode III to be released today!

As this is the Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog and I am a teacher, I think in lesson plans. So without further ado, here is a sample lesson plan for you! (I am so a poet and totally know it!)

The Lesson

This is a sample lesson plan that I’ve made as generic as possible. Please adapt it ot your classroom as you see fit.

National Standards (Lesson Objectives):

Common Core ELA Standards:

  • RL 6.3. Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
  • RL 7.3. Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).
  • RL 6.5. Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
  • W 6.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
    • a. Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
    • b. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
    • d. Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events. e. Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.


  • 4a Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • 4b Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
  • 6a Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
  • 6b Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • 6c Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.


This lesson assumes that students have:

  1. Completed the quest, “Addison Joins the League“.
  2. Completed some challenges from the workshop (Message Block, Level Map, & Background Challenges are highly recommended).
  3. Completed the Challenge Card Activity or similar activity in making a game from scratch and getting feedback.


First, Students will work through The Game of Sprites series in the Gamestar Mechanic Workshop:

Next, students will complete the Tell Thy Own Tale Challenge.

  • Tell Thy Own Tale Challenge Opens – Friday, December 9th.
  • Tell Thy Own Tale Challenge Closes – Monday, January 2nd.
  • Tell Thy Own Tale Challenge Judged – Friday, January 13th.
To meet the objective outlined above and to make an epic entry for the challenge, students should have:

  • A game that meets all the requirements laid out in the “Tell Thy Own Tale Challenge”.
  • A unifying story (you can unfold this tale in your game and level intro and win messages… yes, I mean write it out).
  • Multiple levels – Epic scope assumes multiple levels of development…
    • Each level increases in challenge and complexity.
    • Each level builds on the unifying theme of the story.
    • Each level has finishing touches, like background & soundtrack.

Students may also want to include (hint hint… to increase epic awesomeness):

  • A boss or two (Just beef up a sprite with the wrench tool)
  • Text message blocks to help unfold the story (get these from the message box challenge)
  • One or more levels that have an epic scope (aka: Multiple Screen Scrolling)
  • Create a level with more than one route / strategy to win.

Avoiding an Epic Fail:

  • Maintain balance – Do not make your game nearly impossible to win. Alternately, do not make it so easy that it’s a joke. (Remember: easy to learn & difficult to master).
  • Tell the story with the 5 Elements – Don’t lose your players by telling a story in cut screens (Level Intro & Win Messages) that has nothing to do with the game they’re actually playing. Try to fit your space, components, mechanics, goals, & rules to your story or your story to your space, components, mechanics, goals, & rules.


The teacher will scaffold this challenge with lessons about plot, character, and setting to help students make an Epic Tale of Epic Awesomeness… (You can’t use the word “Epic” too much is a situation like this).

Ultimately, any additional context you provide for this activity would depend largely on your objectives. GBL (Game Based Learning) is all about selecting the correct activity to meet your objectives, otherwise it’s just GIL* (Games Instead of Learning).

If I were focusing on Designing User-centric narrative experiences, either for a creative writing activity or a user-centered design lesson, I would want to focus heavily on

  • The Elements of Plot
  • Character Development
  • The Iteration Feedback Loop
  • Challenge, Opposition, & Emotion in Games.

*Just making my own clever acronym… not another Final Fantasy reference…

One Response to “Game of Sprites – An epic adventure in STEAM learning.”

Kevin HodgsonDecember 3rd, 2016 at 11:21 pm

Thank you! The plot design map comes at a perfect time for our own Hero’s Quest Gamestar Challenge … off to check out the new challenges that might also help.

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