For my third tech choice activity, I chose to play Gamestar Mechanic. The concept is that of a game teaching you to create games. Not so much the coding aspect, but rather what it takes to make a game engaging, challenging, and fun to play.
According to the Gamestar Mechanic curriculum guide, the 8th and 9th grade students that I teach are at the tail end of those for whom the game is intended, namely 4th through 9th grade. After having played it, I don’t think this would inhibit any student’s experience with the game, and the concepts even apply to students at a high school level. A particular idea suggested by the curriculum guide that would work well in my classes is using the game to teach prototyping. As an engineering teacher, teaching my students to fail, and then learn from those failures is paramount.
I found the layout of the game to be relatively intuitive, with the clear distinction between playing and creating the game. As far as the gameplay goes, just like any real video game, there are cut scenes between the game play. These particular scenes are drawn in sort of a steam punk comic book style. While there are certainly students who will appreciate this, I feel they would have done better to choose a slightly more appealing style. Some music during the cut scenes could have also helped. However, the style doesn’t take away from the game play, it just makes it slightly less interesting, so it’s not a very big deal.
One of the main concerns I would have using this in my classroom is the amount of time it takes to get through all of the levels to the point where you have a lot of the different sprites and playing options to be able to put together a decent game. Playing the game as a learning experience first is absolutely necessary, but because I’m not teaching a programming or game design class, the time is difficult to justify.
All in all it was a fun experience creating games and having the instant gratification of getting to play them. A huge benefit that makes me want to try using Gamestar Mechanic in my classroom is the fact that it’s all browser based. I’m always looking for applications that can be run by Chromebooks because they make up about half of my computer lab. I know students would love this, and it’s already set up so well for the classroom, so I’m considering using it for a group activity in my Exploring Technology class this coming semester.