Learning the Principles of Computer Game Design

Gaming is a hot topic. Mention it and everyone seems to have an opinion. I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of letting our children play computer games. There’s plenty of information online and I think each family has to make their own decision. Each child is different and only a parent knows whether a child will benefit from gaming or not. 
For us…my girls don’t spend a lot of time playing computer games. They have many and varied interests. So I don’t mind the odd hour or two they spend at the computer. They have shown no signs of getting addicted, and actually they seem to gain a lot from their game playing time. But that is only our story!
A few months ago, I came across a website called Gamestar Mechanic. This site doesn’t just allow children to play games, it encourages them to design their own and share them online. 
Gamestar Mechanic is a game and community designed to teach kids the principles of game design and systems thinking in a highly engaging environment.

I created accounts and the girls and I set off to see what it was all about.
Gemma-Rose and I decided to begin by making a game of our own which turned out not to be a good decision. We had access to various elements and a grid to lay them upon. But we had no idea what makes a good game and our first attempt was quite useless.
We should have started by playing a ‘quest’ or one of the graded available games. Soon we realised this and started playing…
As we played, we soon picked up some ideas and principles about game making. Gemma-Rose charged ahead through the levels, and I was humbled by needing many attempts before I could advance. As I tried again and again to get my avator through the maze of obstacles and enemies, I soon realised there were two ways of accomplishing the task. I could hurry my way through and rely on speed and chance, or I could think carefully about the mission. I was soon thinking… looking for safe spots and watching the patterns of enemy movement very carefully. And finally I made it through a level!
My girls have progressed through many levels and quests, and some of the games they have produced are quite impressive. Once I found out what Gamestar Mechanic was all about and felt sure my children were in a safe environment, I stopped logging in and left them to it. I’m not a gaming person! 
This is a lot of information for parents on the site. Here’s some excerpts:
How is Gamestar Mechanic educational?
Gamestar Mechanic is designed to foster critical 21st century skills such as systems thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, digital media literacies and a motivation for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning: all skills that are increasingly important in a highly-networked, digital, rapidly evolving 21st century world.
Beyond their value as entertainment, digital games and game-making tools are key entry points for many young people into digital literacy, online social communities and tech-savvy identities. A game designer must be a socio-technical engineer, thinking about how people will interact with the game and how the game will shape both competitive and collaborative social interactions.

How can I engage with my child through the game?
Gamestar Mechanic is designed so that kids can jump in and begin playing with little or no help. That said, we do believe that there are great benefits to engaging with your child through the game.
Most parents don’t think twice about reading a quality book with their child or ‘co-viewing’ a quality television show – but few think about ‘co-playing’ a quality videogame with their children. Games are interactive, complex and highly engaging – making them a fertile environment for intergenerational gameplay.

How much does Gamestar Mechanic cost?
A player has the option of being a Free Member or Premium Member of the Gamestar Mechanic Community.
Free Members have access to a subset of the episodes in the Quest portion of the game. As they complete episodes in the Quest, they unlock a full suite of game creation tools and more than enough ‘sprites’ (i.e., avatars, enemies, blocks, etc.) to design and publish fun games. Free Members can also participate in certain design challenges that test their game design skills.
Premium Membership grants your child access to a more robust and enriching experience with cool features like Premium Quests; cool sprites, backgrounds and music to extend their gamemaking capabilities; Premium Channels in Game Alley and Premium Contests and Challenges.

If you’d like to find out more, visit Gamestar Mechanic, sign up for a free account and explore!

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  1. Reply


    I played video games with Adam when he was in hospital, in the summer. There was nothing else to do for the week but it was really companionable and fun. It surprised me that it was quality time, as much as any other game.

    Thank you for the link.
    God bless:-)

  2. Reply


    I remember Duncan playing games while he was in hospital too! It certainly took his attention off his pain.

    I don't often play computer games with the girls, but I agree it is a more sociable occupation than I once thought. The girls are always sharing games, helping each other through difficult levels, asking each others' opinions on the games they are making, playing each others' games… Playing games, for them, isn't a silent occupation. They discuss everything!

    I am sure your girls would enjoy this site. Thanks for sharing my post!

  3. Reply

    Squeeeee! Thank you for this Sue! Micah is going to flip over this (in a good way 🙂

    1. Reply


      Thank you for stopping and commenting. I hope Micah enjoys Gamestar Mechanic.

      God bless!

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