Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog

All posts in the “Guest Post” Category

Game Designer Guest Speaker

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Posted Oct. 10, 2013

CategoryGaming Community, Guest Post

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One of our game designers here at E-Line Media, Mike Wikan, had a unique opportunity recently. He visited a middle school class in St. Gabriel’s Catholic School in Austin, TX where he spent time with the students talking about what it means to be a professional game designer. Here’s Mike’s recap of his visit:

I got to spend some time with the wonderful Technology Class at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School in Austin the other day! They let me take up an hour regaling them with stories about game development, what skills I use, and my opinions on the importance of story in development, as well as answering their myriad questions! For example, one of the kids asked “When you are making a game, what is the process for getting Art into the game?”

I described the process of bringing a character into a game: First the designer describes the sort of creature he wants to make and creates a written design describing its properties!  It’s important to give enough detail for the artists, but not so much detail that the artists don’t have room to add their own ideas.  It then passes to the concept artist, who creates drawings to show what the creature might look like.  After we get it looking right, it passes to the modeler, who then creates a 3D mesh of the character and adds all the texture maps that give it color and the right look.

Usually at this point the modeler adds a “skeleton” to the model so it can be made to move.  It then passes to an animator who adds all the animations so it can be made to move around and perform in the ways the designer specified at the beginning. Lastly, it goes to the programmer, who adds all the computer code to make it move around in the world and perform its behavior. It takes a lot of talented people working together to make anything from scratch in a game. It’s important to leave enough room for everyone to add their own special creativity to everything they work on!

It was very enjoyable talking with them and their teacher followed up with a note that the talk seemed to have really inspired them and she has had a substantial increase in interest in the subject from her students. It was lots of fun and I highly encourage other game professionals to take the time to work little trips like this into their schedules!

 

 

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!

Educator Highlight: Tyler Watts

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Posted Apr. 16, 2013

CategoryGaming Community, Gaming Education, Guest Post

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Two of Tyler's students using Gamestar

We’re starting a new blog series here to showcase some of the amazing teachers who have been using Gamestar Mechanic in their classrooms and to encourage them to share their stories, ideas and projects with other teachers.

Today, we’re talking to Tyler Watts.  Tyler has been using Gamestar Mechanic for three years now with his students in Kansas City, MO.

Tyler, thanks so much for being a part of our new teacher series! We’re excited to hear more about the ways you’re using Gamestar Mechanic and other game design tools in your classroom. Why don’t we start with a little background on you – where you’re from and what you teach.

Tyler:  I am from Kansas City, MO, and I teach at KIPP Endeavor Academy, a charter middle school that teaches grades 5-8th. I teach Computer Science, which focuses on teaching programming and computational thinking. We work to become producers of digital content rather than only consumers of it.

What made you start using Gamestar Mechanic with your students?

Tyler:  I used Scratch with great success with my Computer Science students, and they would learn how to create animations in Scratch well. When I told my students to make a game, they would struggle on where to start. It was evident that they knew how to play games, but lacked game design knowledge. I needed something to teach them the elements of game design, and that is what caused me to find Gamestar Mechanic.

Were there any challenges in the beginning and if so, how did you overcome them?

Tyler:  I faced two challenges in Gamestar Mechanic. The first was that some students lacked the hand-eye coordination skills to complete some of the timed Platformer levels. This challenge was overcome by allowing me showcase my NES skills. :) I will show a student how to get to the end of a level and purposely lose at the end, so that the student completes it for themself. I encourage students to ask for help from a peer before coming to me.

The second challenge was that students love Gamestar Mechanic too much! I signed up my first group of 123 students up for Gamestar on a Friday, and over 30% of them logged on to Gamestar over the weekend. This statistic amazed me because, due to the Digital Divide, many of my students do not have Internet access at home, so some were going to the library just to play Gamestar. They were choosing to do game design just because it was fun! I didn’t tell them that they could or could not log in to Gamestar at home.

How have you seen game design impact your classroom?

Tyler:  Game design encourages students to think of how many small elements can form together to make a product. This thought process teaches computational thinking, which supports problem solving and STEM skills. Thinking of your audience for a game teaches a student empathy and digital citizenship because it encourages students to think of others’ experiences. Finally, game design encourages creativity, which I agree with Sir Ken Robinson in that it is a new “literacy” for the 21st century.

How do you see game design impacting education as a whole?

Tyler:  In the United States education system, we are removing the fun and playfulness of learning. Playing is a natural element of the way that the human mind learns. Game design challenges students to think creatively, collaborate, and problem solve. These skills will be key for success in our students’ future.

Are you using other game design tools with your classes? And if so, do you start them on one and then move them to another or how do you decide which tools to use?

Tyler:  Gamestar Mechnic prepares students for MIT’s Scratch. From Scratch, students move on to MIT’s AppInventor to design apps for Android phones.  Other resources that I am thinking about using are YoYo Game’s GameMaker and or AgentSheets.

What inspires you as a teacher? What keeps you driven to engage your students?

Tyler:  Seeing the joy of creating something on a computer either in Gamestar, Scatch, or AppInventor. As the video at Code.org says, programmers are today’s wizards.  They can make something out of nothing, and share it with the world.

What else would you like to share about your classes or your teaching practice?

Tyler:  Instead of describing in words, I would rather show a video of my students that was created by one of my professors, Dr. Friend, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. It can be found at http://vimeo.com/51598746.

Thanks again, Tyler, for sharing your story with our audience!

If you’re a teacher using Gamestar Mechanic in your classroom and want to share your story, please get in touch!

Guest Post – Kerri on the STEM Challenge

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Posted Mar. 25, 2013

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Events, Guest Post

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Hey guys!

We’ve been doing a ton of traveling and game design workshops around the country to gear up for the National STEM Video Game Challenge.  Our guest blogger today, Kerri Schlottman, is E-Line Media’s VP of Business and Partnership Development and has been coordinating the efforts on making these workshops a success (and they have been).  Here’s Kerri to tell you more:

E-Line's Biz and Partnership Development Superstar

As you know, E-Line Media is a founding partner and co-presenter of the National STEM Video Game Challenge. This exciting Challenge encourages middle and high school youth to design their own games as a form of 21st century skill development and STEM learning – plus, making games is creative, fun and exciting, so what better way to encourage youth than by tapping into their natural passion for games! This year, the STEM Challenge received funding from the Hive NYC Learning Network and from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to hit the road and teach kids across the country how to design their own games.

We had no small feat – 30 workshops in just two months! We’re still in the swing of things and are working with an incredible group of museum and library educators across the country. Some of our partners for this amazing road trip include: American Museum of Natural History in NYC; Brooklyn Public Library; Orlando Public Library; Parmly Billings Library in Billings, MT (where over 50 kids showed up!); Hawkins County Library in Rogersville, TN; Museum of History & Industry in Seattle, WA; Sahara West Library in Las Vegas; Cranston Public Library in Cranston, RI; Arizona Science Center in Phoenix; Madison Children’s Museum in Madison, WI; and Iridescent Science Studio in the Bronx – to name a few.

Each workshop introduces youth to core game mechanics, how to build balanced game systems, and the iterative design process. Participants have a chance to make non-digital games in small groups and to also get started building games with Gamestar Mechanic. Plus, plenty of play testing and feedback!

All of these fun workshops have been an effort to spread the word about the STEM Challenge and to expose youth to the huge educational benefits of game design. To learn more, visit the STEM Challenge site! Original games can be submitted through April 24.