Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog

All posts in the “Games by Kids” Category

Gamestar Girl Reflects on Experience

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Posted Oct. 03, 2013

CategoryGames by Kids, Gaming Community, Guest Post

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One of the best things about working on a game for kids, is finding out how kids play the game. We talked with mustelidae, a Gamestar player who has been a strong part of our community for years. She’s a high school student and an aspiring game designer.

How did you get into Gamestar? 

           It began one night when I was nine years old. I remember that night clearly – my dad was driving me somewhere and it was raining hard. I don’t know what put the idea into my head, but as we were driving I decided that I wanted to make a video game.

           After that night, I embarked on an endless quest to find the means to make my dream come true. It wasn’t until several years later that I discovered Gamestar Mechanic through the STEM challenge. There’s something special about Gamestar Mechanic that I’ve always loved. Even though there are more powerful tools out there, the way that Gamestar Mechanic allows me to create in a very concrete, intuitive way is something that I haven’t found anywhere else.        

What do you like about being part of the community? 

           I really like being able to have other users review my games. It’s always interesting to see the opinions of people who don’t know me personally. I’ve found that their opinions are usually very honest and unbiased. These reviews have definitely helped me improve my game-design skills.  

           I also like seeing others’ games. I often get inspired after playing games by other users. Playing games can also broaden my perspective on what’s possible. Sometimes I get stuck within the confines of my usual game design patterns, but playing other users’ games can help me formulate new ideas.

Has Gamestar influenced any of your goals? 

           Gamestar Mechanic has definitely encouraged me to become a game designer. It was always a dream of mine, but it wasn’t until I found Gamestar Mechanic that I was able to actually try my hand at it. I found that I enjoyed it as much as I thought I would. Being able to participate in contests through Gamestar Mechanic has been great and has probably influenced my goals as well.

What would you change about Gamestar?

           There’s not a lot about Gamestar Mechanic that I would change. It’s a really great tool as is.

           However, I would love to have the ability to duplicate levels. My sister and I have both spent hours trying to create exact duplicates of environments that we wanted to use for several levels.

          I would also love to see some more features for creating quest or adventure games. Gamestar Mechanic has pretty much all of the action features that you could wish for, but it would be cool to see some more adventure features. Some of Gamestar’s newer sprites, such as the checkpoint and the backpack, work well for adventure games. I would love to see Gamestar Mechanic release more sprites and features along these lines. It would also be really cool if there was a feature that allowed users to incorporate some simple logic into their games. This would open up all sorts of possibilities for more complex games and stories.

Thanks so much, mustelidae, for sharing your feedback and experience!

FHI Game Jam

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Posted Jun. 07, 2013

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Events, Games by Kids

I recently wrote about the interscholastic program and competition we run in partnership with FHI 360.  In a nutshell, we train 9 NYC public middle schools to use Gamestar Mechanic, support their teachers, visit their classrooms, and organize a final competition where kids represent their school in a Game Jam.  Well, that Game Jam happened on Tuesday of this week and it was AWESOME!

In the four weeks leading up to the Game Jam, teachers divided their classes into groups of 2-4 and each group made a game in Gamestar.  The games could be about whatever they wanted, though, looking back, I think I’ll add some more parameters to this design challenge to keep the games more focused.  Then the Gamestar Mechanic team played and gave feedback on each and every game.  The groups had one week to iterate on their designs before resubmitting them to the Gamestar team.  We picked one winning group from each classroom and invited them to compete in the game jam.

On Tuesday, 11 groups showed up to the beautiful offices of FHI 360 in Union Square, NYC.  They were tasked with designing a single-level game that provided at least one difficult choice for the player in just one hour.  As they designed, the excitement and nervousness in the room was palpable.  And the kids made superb games! After the hour was up, Brian (General Manager of Gamestar Mechanic) and Eddie (Producer at Large Animal Games) judged the entries while the kids played each other’s games to assess their competitors.  Finally, winners were announced.

1st Place: Prison of the Mind by FlyingForever, Ventus14, W.Carter

2nd Place: Misguided City Boy by Yungdeion, Anthony17, Roberto27

Congratulations to FDA III for taking home second place prize, and MS244 for taking home the win!

Gamestar Gets Political

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Posted Oct. 18, 2012

CategoryGames by Kids

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It’s election season! If there’s one thing we know about politics, they’re hard to talk about – which is why the Gamestar team was so impressed by Stella99 and her game Romney vs. Obama.

The game begins with a mock election in level one: You play the level to decide who to vote for and see the tally of other Gamestar user’s votes. Once you decide who you’ll vote for, you leave a comment and Stella99 updates the level with sprites representing how many votes each candidate gets.

Level 2 is a political mini game. You play as either Obama or Romney and travel around trying to gather votes (points) from citizens. It’s a surprisingly tough level, but very fun!

The coolest thing about this game has been the community’s response. Kids are talking in the comments about how they view politics as a youth, what issues matter to them (“My little brother loves PBS!”), and the latest current events on the election trail. For the most part, the comments have been smart, insightful, and respectful. Stella99 notes in the outro of the game “. . there is no offense intended to either candidate, because I am sure that both candidates are worthy to become president.” If this is not a bipartisan, adult exercise in talking about politics, I’m not sure what is.

Turn-based Gamestar

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Posted Aug. 23, 2012

CategoryGames by Kids

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I’m constantly impressed by how creative Gamestar Mechanic designers can be. This week the Gamestar staff ran across two superb games in Game Alley. Both of these designers took on the challenge of making a turn-based game using the Gamestar platform. Now, Gamestar can be used to create games in a wide variety of genres including action, adventure, and platformer games, but all these genres are played in real-time. This means, if you take on an enemy, you and the enemy are battling at the same time. Many popular games (think Pokemon) use turn based mechanics where you can do battle turn by turn.

These two designers took the real-time constraint in Gamestar and turned it on it’s head. In these games you can battle bosses in a turned-based way, every turn choosing what kind of action or item you want to take. These games use keys and locks to represent the enemies hit points (health) in a surprising and innovative manner. Truly one of the best parts of working on Gamestar is seeing the brilliant ideas that come out of young designers. Enjoy!

A Turn-Based Game by Omni_builder

Turn-based Combat Example by jec41

National STEM Video Game Challenge: Celebrating Success

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Posted May. 23, 2012

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Events, Games by Kids

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An adventure game where your character moves around by manipulating the attractive and repulsive forces of the atom. A 3D battle against pathogens inside the human body. An early learning game starring a shark that teaches first graders about inequalities. They could be the latest releases from a premiere educational game studio, but these and 14 other incredible games were all made by students between the ages of 10 and 18: the winners of the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge Youth Prize.

On Monday, May 21, I had the pleasure of participating in the Challenge’s Celebration of Success where 28 youth game designers from around the country — out of a field of over 3,700 entries — were honored for their original game designs at an event held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC presented by Challenge Sponsor Microsoft.

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The youth winners began their visit with a VIP tour of the Smithsonian’s Art of Video Games exhibit where they got to see and play some of the most significant titles in the history of gaming. Then it was off to the auditorium where representatives from the game industry, government and the educational community — along with family and friends — recognized the designers for a job well done.

Challenge judge and game designer Sean Vesce of 20after1, who’s work includes titles like the Tomb Raider and Mech Warrior franchises, praised the designers’ work and talked about his own experience as a young game maker inspired by some of the great early Activision titles. Alex Games, Education Design Director at Microsoft also addressed the youth, telling them “You did something awesome! Making games, like anything good in life, takes a lot of hard work, a lot of perseverance and a lot of not giving up.” Dr. Games was followed by video congratulations to the winners from celebrity Challenge judge (and self-professed nerd) Zachary Levi of NBC’s Chuck.

Joining the sponsors and game industry professionals in praising the young designers were Representatives Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and Jim McGovern as well as Cristin Dorgelo, Assistant Director for Grand Challenges at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Following the ceremony, several of the winners of had the opportunity to demo their games for the guests in attendance.

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You can meet the 2012 Youth Prize winners and see some of the amazing things they’re doing in this video. You can also check out the complete winners list here with footage of each of the winning games and even links to play a few online.

Bully Blasters

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Posted May. 07, 2012

CategoryGames by Kids, Uncategorized

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Here’s another story about kids making games for other kids, but this time with a very specific goal – battling bullies.  Students from Fresno and Clovis Unified high schools recently launched Bully Blaster in the iTunes app store.  This article describes the gameplay:

“Using their fingertips, players battle bullying by fighting their way through waves of positive and negative words. By destroying the insults and collecting the compliments, gamers compete for their highest score.”

There is also a great video above the article that explains more about the game, the design process, and has quotes from the designers themselves.

For me, what really made this project stand out was the quote from high school student, Michelle Rodriquez, who said that the game allows the player to choose words that they have been called, and defeat them in the game.  This mechanic of allowing players to choose their own bully terminology makes the game very personal.  It also means that you are blasting the word, the idea and the insult, instead of the person who says the word.  It will be interesting to see how this kind of gameplay affects kids, both the bullies and the bullied.

Here’s a short video showing some Bully Blaster gameplay:

If you are interested in kids making games about healthy relationships and social systems within schools, check out this post about our new project Real Robots of Robot High.  This link gives you the background of the project and a chance to sign up for the beta!

For Kids By Kids

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Posted Apr. 27, 2012

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Games by Kids

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What’s better than kids making video games? Kids making opportunities for other kids to make video games!

You may have read earlier that this year we’ve partnered with Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program. The students at OLP are creating two challenges in Gamestar Mechanic as part of our series of Impact Challenges sponsored by the AMD Foundation.   Well, the first challenge, about ending war, has been up and running since March, and closed with more than 700 entries!  Recently, Global Kids spoke about their challenges at the 2012 Annual Youth Conference.  Below is a video of some OLP kids explaining their projects:

We are so proud to be part of this project. Youth creating contests for other youth in the game design for impact space is the kind of activity that will spur youth participation, leadership, and creativity. Not to mention, bring us a step closer to making the world a better place.

We’ll continue to work with Global Kids on releasing their second challenge in Gamestar, and judging both of the contests.

Design for Grandma

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Posted Apr. 20, 2012

CategoryGames by Kids

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Here is a very quick and sweet story of a boy who loves games and wanted to share them with his blind grandmother.  Because there are not many accessible games for blind people, this boy decided to make his own for herQuarky’s Quest is an example of being driven to design a game because of your audience.  Often young game designers think about the cool features they want to put in their game, or the crazy story it will tell, before they think about who their game is made for.  A great design exercise is to choose the audience before creating the game.  What kinds of games would kids make to be played by babies? By the elderly? By people who cannot see? By non-gamers? By teachers?

Quarky's Quest Screenshot

If games that don’t use visual cues, like Quarky’s Quest, interest you, check out:

Papa Sangre

Rock Vibe

BlindSide

 

 

Youth Game Designers at the White House Science Fair

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Posted Feb. 08, 2012

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Events, Games by Kids

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I think it was when we walked past the battery of TV cameras and photographers in the East Room that it hit me: these kids are being recognized at the White House… by the President… for designing video games!

As the leader of the Gamestar Mechanic team here at E-Line Media and coordinator of the National STEM Video Game Challenge Youth Prize, I had the pleasure of accompanying two of our 2010 winners as they participated in the White House Science Fair on February 7th.

Tuesday’s event was the second Science Fair to take place at the White House during President Obama’s administration and represents his commitment to recognizing outstanding student achievement. As the President put it in his remarks to the students

Now, it is fitting that this year’s fair is happening just two days after the Super Bowl… I’m looking forward to having the Giants here at the White House so we can celebrate their achievements.  But what I’ve also said — I’ve said this many times — is if we are recognizing athletic achievement, then we should also be recognizing academic achievement and science achievement.  If we invite the team that wins the Super Bowl to the White House, then we need to invite some science fair winners to the White House as well.

Over 100 youth from a variety of STEM-oriented competitions attended the event, and let me tell you: these are some impressive kids. From students designing improved football helmets to help prevent traumatic brain injuries to the youngster who invented a waste-free sugar packet that dissolves in water, the ingenuity displayed by these talented young people was something amazing.

Representing the STEM Challenge were Shireen Zaineb, now in 8th Grade, from Milwaukee, WI. Shireen designed her winning game using Gamestar Mechanic as part of her work in technology class at the Milwaukee Montessori School with teacher Sherri Dodd — one of our first Gamestar Mechanic educators!

Joining Shireen was Jasper Hugunin, also in 8th Grade, from Islander Middle School in Mercer Island, WA. Jasper coded his own game from scratch using Javascript. Jasper’s game is designed to teach the player introductory computer science concepts like writing code, logical reasoning and debugging as they lead a robot through a series of mazes.

Along with a select group of students attending the event, Jasper had the opportunity to exhibit his game for the other kids and dignitaries present. Hearing Jasper describe the thought process that went into designing his game — to the likes of astronauts, Senior Department of Education officials and even Bill Nye the Science Guy — really reinforced for me all of the reasons that we think game design is such a great activity for young people.

When we launched the STEM Challenge in 2010, we knew that designing a digital game has tremendous learning benefits. Two years later, through the support of our sponsors and outreach partners, it’s truly incredible for me to see the competition grow and the work of our students be recognized at the highest levels.

I managed to snag a few photos of the event, which you can see in this slide show. You can also see the full video of President Obama’s remarks here.

The 2012 edition of the STEM Challenge the Challenge is accepting entries from middle, high school and collegestudents, as well as educators, through March 12, 2012 at stemchallenge.org.

Congratulations to Shireen, Jasper and all the amazing kids who participated in the White House Science Fair!

Collaboration in Game Alley

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Posted Jan. 09, 2012

CategoryGames by Kids

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Game Alley is a community spot in Gamestar Mechanic where designers publish their games to share with the Gamestar network.  There are thousands of Game Alley games, and many of them are creative and special.  Today, I’d like to highlight a game that is doing something completely new:

The Alpha Collab: Part 1 by zenwarrior54

Here zenwarrior54 created the first two levels of a story.  zenwarrior54 set up the beginning of this adventure and purposefully did not design any further.  The outro of this game calls upon another designer to create the next chapter of the story.  This is how zenwarrior54 describes the premise:

“HELLO EVERYBODY! I had an idea for a series of games: I would make the first one in a series, then decide another player to make the next part, then when that player is done making that part, he/she would decide the next player to make the next part. And it goes on. Anyone can participate if they are called forth, so this will be a series that really belongs to the entire community.  So here we are! Now for the actual game: You are a young boy named Samuel . . “

And the game begins with the story of Samuel setting out on his quest.  I highly encourage you to play the game here – it’s a level about collecting information, no enemies and no chance to get hurt.

While Game Alley was not initially constructed for this kind of collaboration, the kids who make up are community are exceptional and invent new ways to share all the time.  Collaborative storytelling through game design is a real opportunity for learning (creative thinking, problem solving, expression).  This sounds like something I would assign in a class, but instead, it was born organically in Game Alley.  Now I’m waiting for Part 2!