Digital Games and Building: Gamestar Mechanic and Eden World builder

We are a bit of a ‘techno geek’ family. We love technology and gaming. We love to play, but all play games differently, WH is more about the score and winning, I just want to do the best I can in the time available (story of my life really!) and LT shows sides of us both (poor kid!). My study is around Games and Learning, and this week I have been focusing on ‘play’ in my reading. Coincidentally, around 10 days ago we accessed ‘Gamestar Mechanic‘ for the first time. LT (who is now 6) and I have been playing and working on this together, but it has been mostly driven by LT.

Very briefly, Gamestar mechanic is an online game that also teaches about the prinicples of game design, it is produced by The Institute of Play.  You can play for free (there is a premium paid version too), and while LT needs some help with the tricky end parts of the levels, he is getting much better at planning his strategy and moves. He has really loved building his own games and is eager to level up so he can unlock further features to build his games with. He can’t get enough of it, and in this short time has levelled up and has only 20% of the ‘game’ component left. He is excited about collecting the last few avatars and creating more games to share in the arcade. He has also written a little book to present to his class about Gamestar mechanic, he is so excited to share this amazing creative space.

Last night we downloaded a chicken ninja game for the android, and it was nice to be playing this with LT and pointing out the features of ‘good game design’ that built the game from level 1, like making clear goals, allowing replay of levels until mastery, slowly building up a number of different moves/skills to clear a level etc.  It also helped to solidify in my mind what I have known sub-conciously as a teacher for years: making explicit connection between different learning spaces helps students to understand and make these links for themselves. We need to teach students to look for the links in the world around them to help them make sense of life. Teaching is not a random process, it is planned and scaffolded by teachers to create meaningful opportunities for learning and understanding. It is this scaffolding that is done so clearly in Gamestar Mechanic, to make it a valuable online learning environment to help create savvy gamers. Here is a link to a You-tube about Katie Salen and the Quest 2 Learn school, where the entire curriculum is designed around game principles and scaffolding life long learners.

I had also been meaning to check out minecraft, as it has been recommended to me for a while now, so LT and I took some time to have a look at this through the week too. However I couldn’t find a free version of it, or a trial version for that matter,  so this was a short lived venture.

I was reminded this week by some students I work with about ‘Eden-World builder‘ for the i-pad. There is no online version/free version I could find, so we did pay 0.99c  for it for the i-pod. It allows you to build worlds, much like I envision minecraft to does (but I may be wrong…) LT has played with this a little too, and has so far built numerous TNT towers to explode! (boys will be boys…). We have yet to explore this in depth together, but I am excited by the possibilities.It will provide opportunities for us to explore forums and help features to learn about the ‘game’. It is a different space to work in to Gamestar Mechanic, and I’m sure we will have fun exploring how this work and talking about the different environments.

WH is excited about exploring the ‘Civilization‘ and seeing what this has to offer too, from our reading it is quite powerful for learning about history, politics and economics…so I’m sure you will hear about our adventures in a future blog!

What games/spaces for learning in the digital world do you use?

Until next week, may all your games be fun!

Fiona T

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Christine
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 09:12:37

    Some very interesting points made here – love reading your thoughts and thinking about learning – in this case through games – particularly love hearing what LT is up to – and his motivation and persistence !! Glad you were able to shift viewpoints from mumma to educator and researcher. Well done you 🙂

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  2. Melissa
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 13:03:50

    Gamestar Mechanic looks like the sort of game my kids would love. Must remember to check it out.

    I used to play Civilisation & it didn’t teach much about history really…

    You made some great points about learning and education. 🙂

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  3. Fiona T
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 07:02:38

    Thanks for your comment Johnathon. Yes, the idea that video games can ‘sneak’ in learning is one that has stuck, despite little grounding. The ideas around explicit teaching pedogogies with digital games is an exciting area for current researchers. Thanks for the articles, I will chase them up today.

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  4. Fiona T
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 07:31:07

    Thanks for your comment Johnathon. Yes, the idea that video games can ‘sneak’ in learning is one that has stuck, despite little grounding. The ideas around explicit teaching pedogogies with digital games is an exciting area for current researchers. Thanks for the articles, I will chase them up today.

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