Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog

All posts in the “Games by Kids” Category

Custom Backgrounds


Posted Jan. 03, 2012

CategoryGames by Kids


Happy New Year! 2011 was a big year for Gamestar Mechanic.  Thousands of players joined our community, and we added countless features to the Gamestar world.  One such feature is just beginning to hit its stride: custom backgrounds.

We received a multitude of requests for custom backgrounds before we implemented the feature.  Even though there was demand, we took our time carefully planning the feature before putting it in the game.  A good custom background matches the gameplay and story of the game.  It’s not distracting, and it’s not offensive.  And, of course, it is a background that you are legally allowed to use.  To earn the right to use their own custom backgrounds, players must go through the Custom Background Challenge where they learn how to make backgrounds appropriately and responsibly (available to premium users in the Workshop under Challenges and Contests).

I’d like to highlight some awesome games with custom backgrounds.  Check ‘em out!

Train to Nexus (Easy) by Alakazam

This long game tells the story of Rick, a normal office worker who leaves work one day to unknowingly embark on the adventure of a lifetime.  Backgrounds are landscape and sky photos.  (Despite the title of this game, it isn’t that easy).

The Wyvern’s Rage by nitrox116

This is another difficult and long game, but it takes only one look at Level 1 to see the impact of the custom backgrounds.  nitrox116 creates an enchanting and spooky mood using the backgrounds and in-game messages.  I also like how this game’s levels switch between Gamestar backgrounds and custom backgrounds.

Tales of Versagon by Omni_builder

This game is one long level that creates a rich world where the hero (you) must take on multiple quests.  The background is hand-made by Omni_builder and each pixel is mapped carefully to the game space.  Even if you don’t finish this whole level, it’s worth it to take a look at this background and appreciate the hard work and precision put into it.

What are the ways custom backgrounds could be used in the classroom?  They can definitely bring an artistic and personalized angle to any game design project.  Let me know if you try out using custom backgrounds with your students!

Kid Designers Outside of Gamestar


Posted Nov. 08, 2011

CategoryGames by Kids


My previous post highlighted two super awesome games made by kids in Gamestar Mechanic.  It’s fairly simple to design games in Gamestar; there is no programming required, and you are prepared by play and fix missions in the Quest to make games that are balanced and fun.  That being said, not every type of game can be created in Gamestar and after creating a good number of games, some kids may be inspired to program their own.  Making a game from scratch is a process.  It involves solid game design, art creation, programming and a lot of planning.  Here are a few impressive examples of games made by kids from scratch.


Blatch is a matching game for the iPad ($0.99) created by GRL5, a 15-year-old.  This game is simple and deceivingly challenging.  The goal is to clear all blocks from the screen by matching blocks of the same color from the bottom row of two columns.  When a pair is matched, they will disappear from the screen, and the blocks above them will fall down into the bottom row.  There are multiple possibilities for matching the blocks, but only one matching order will clear all blocks from the screen.  You can learn more about Blatch and the designer here.

I played this game on easy mode and still barely managed to pass one level.  Usually, that would be a turn off for me, but the mechanics of this game are simple and fun, so I really wanted to keep trying.  This game is also beautiful aesthetically — there are no scoreboards, timers, or other meta data to distract you from the brightly colored blocks.  GRL5 did a great job!

Bubble BallBubble Ball

Bubble Ball is a physics puzzle game where you design a course to get the ball to the goal.  Robert Nay, a 14-year-old* from Utah created this game for the iPhone which, as of today, has gotten over 9.1 million downloads.  Wow!  Robert coded this game with Corona SDK, an environment that lets developers create games for Android and iOS platforms.  Robert designed the game’s levels with his mom, Kari.  More info here.

This game is so basic that there is no sound and graphics are truly bare bones, but the gameplay is fantastic. Levels start out easy and slowly increase in difficulty, and I feel like a total genius every time I beat one!  Check out Robert’s studio Nay Games.

Sissy's Magical Ponycorn AdventureSissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure

This heartwarming game was created by Cassie (5-years-old!) and her dad.  Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure is a short point-and-click adventure game playable for free online.  Cassie’s dad did the programming while Cassie designed the game, voiced the characters, and created all the art.  When the game was published online, it created a huge amount of buzz on game blogs and Twitter and was a finalist at this year’s IndieCade. Find out about the process of making Ponycorn here and read even more here.

The game is short, sweet, and HILARIOUS.  Just goes to show that brilliant games can come from kids who are too small to even write a line of code.  I also learned that lemons are evil =)

Know of other games designed by kids? Let me know!

Games by Kids – Katya’s Favs


Posted Nov. 01, 2011

CategoryGames by Kids


There are thousands of kids publishing games in Game Alley on about almost as many topics.  Kids make games that tell stories about their lives, that simulate a system they are learning about in school, that features interesting puzzles, or that are simply full of as many sprites as possible.  While a lot of games in Game Alley are fantastic, these are two of my favorite:

Dinosaur Sustanability” by rhys

Dinosaur Sustainability

Dinosaur Sustainability

This game by rhys was a winner for the 2010 STEM Video Game Challenge, and rightfully so.  This is a resource management game where each level is a little trickier than the last.  You are a dinosaur trying to survive.  At first you have all the food you could dream of and no competition, but as the levels progress, you have other dinos competing for your rations and some who are even trying to eat you.

I love this game for two main reasons.  One, it’s an awesome portrayal of predator-prey relationships and resource management.  If you eat everything too quickly, you’ll have nothing left.  But if you eat too slowly, someone else might get to the goods before you do.  The key to winning this game is balancing resources, which is a lovely game mechanic.

This game also stands out because of its built-in scaffolding.  Level 1 teaches you the basics of survival, and the subsequent levels introduce new challenges.  Each level builds off of the last.  This is exactly how good games teach players.  Well done, rhys!

Missing!” by mustelidae



I like this game for very different reasons.  It does not have much gameplay (you collect a point here or there), but boy does it have story, and a unique way of telling it!  You are a tiny hero, solving the mystery of Mrs. Pickleton who did not show up to accept her “pie of the century” award.  By talking to the townspeople, you unlock the mystery of where Mrs. Pickleton could be and why she didn’t come to claim her award.  But here’s the amazing part, you talk to other sprites by using a combination of message blocks and teleporters to create a dialog tree.  Awesome!

This game features mechanics found often in RPGs (role-playing games) like collecting clues and conversing with NPCs (non-player characters).  Yet, mustelidae developed a unique way to use a component we intended for location changes (teleporters) to instead transport the player into a conversation.  Kudos, mustelidae!

At the top of Game Alley you’ll find our featured games section which we update weekly.  Some of the most innovative games by kids can be found here.  Happy playing! And let me know what some of your favorites are!