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Gamestar Mechanic Teaches Kids to Write Their Own Computer Games (Video)

Roblimo posted more than 2 years ago | from the they-grow-up-faster-than-you-can-believe dept.

Programming 55

In this video, Brian Alspach tells you how Gamestar Mechanic helps turn kids from game players into game authors, which helps them learn a lot about programming and how computers work in easy steps while having a good time. If you're a parent, you'll especially want to read this page on their site, which will help reassure you that these folks know what they're doing, and might even (hint hint) give you the idea of suggesting that your local school should subscribe to Gamestar Mechanic, which several thousand schools already do. The price varies between free and $6 per month, which is a great deal for something that can engage children for many hours every day -- and just might keep a parent or grandparent interested, too.

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Fuck you (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368027)

I'm here for news not advertisements.

Re:Fuck you (5, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368135)

You're on a site that mainly talks about blinkie devices that cost money. Your daily life must be hell.

Re:Fuck you (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368301)

Fortunately there's an article about Geohot getting arrested for a minor weed possession on the front page.

HOLY GRAIL OF NEWS THAT ITEM IS!

What about Scratch (5, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368187)

Scratch [mit.edu] is a development environment that not only is easy to learn, but is free as in beer and speech (as it is open source under the MIT license and CC-by-SA for most documentation and source code). There are also several variants that have been done by people other than MIT that are interesting as well, as it has been around for many years.

While this may be a useful tool, shilling for some group trying to make a quick buck doesn't seem right.

BTW, I agree with people complaining that Slashdot seems to be putting advertisements into the stories themselves. This isn't right and it does diminish what quality is left in the website.

Re:What about Scratch (4, Informative)

Roblimo (357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369015)

Thanks for the lead. A lot of our videos so far have been of people/companies Tim ran into at conferences. If you have ideas for video stories (and we can now do Skype interviews) please email robin@roblimo.com

Re:What about Scratch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39374671)

You should check out Codea for the iPad by Two Lives Left.

Even though I know the three guys behind it personally and catch up for some beers with them regularly, I don't think that should take away from how genuinely cool it is.

People are doing some amazing things with it (and I say this being a professional console developer for 9 years now) and it's just gluing together open source components with a nice GUI. It uses Lua, Processing, Box2D and other things.

Re:What about Scratch (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369499)

Hell what about the bazillion game SDKs you can download and use for free? Or hooking up with one of the modding communities? with the modern SDKs they are REALLY easy and what's more they have really great and friendly communities that will be glad to show a kid the ropes. That would seem to me a better way to get one's feet wet than something you gotta pay for that probably won't have nearly as rich and strong a community. Unreal, most of the Valve games, hell even some of the older games like Freelancer have pretty active modders that are happy to help out noobs.

Re:What about Scratch (1)

lance_of_the_apes (2300548) | more than 2 years ago | (#39372343)

This is 100x simpler than those SDKs and this product is for kids.

Re:What about Scratch (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369807)

So is Toon Talk http://www.toontalk.com/ [toontalk.com]

Re:What about Scratch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39370567)

> <font size="5" face="Comic Sans MS">
> <meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 5.0"/>

Doesn't inspire confidence...

Re:What about Scratch (2)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369883)

BTW, I agree with people complaining that Slashdot seems to be putting advertisements into the stories themselves. This isn't right and it does diminish what quality is left in the website.

You talk as if this is a new thing. The word "slashvertisement" has been around for at least 5 years - and for a reason.

Re:What about Scratch (1)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39372045)

BTW, I agree with people complaining that Slashdot seems to be putting advertisements into the stories themselves. This isn't right and it does diminish what quality is left in the website.

Yes, Your Honor, we come to /. to read the (ahem) fine articles. May I present Exhibit A.

Re:What about Scratch (2)

the agent man (784483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39372085)

>> While this may be a useful tool, shilling for some group trying to make a quick buck doesn't seem right.

What ever happened to America? Making a product that costs does not "seem right"! So, who is paying developers, rent and heating? Strange, none of the developers working for me is willing to work for free. There always is a cost and somebody pays it. If somebody is developing software through some federal grant then the tax payers are the ones paying. Federal money is not supposed to be used to just maintain software. Software that is not maintained will disappear sooner or later. Is it really better to use tax money than having people who are the actually beneficiaries pay for the product directly? Oh, but education does not have any money, you may say. If that is really true then we cannot pay teachers anymore either and should just close schools to save even more money.

Re:What about Scratch (1)

lance_of_the_apes (2300548) | more than 2 years ago | (#39372419)

Completely agree. I don't understand the mentality of people these days expecting software to be free.

Re:What about Scratch (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374603)

The point here is that this seems like a blatant advertisement for a commercial service where it seems like Slashdot is putting advertisement in as stories themselves. Rather than being objective "journalists" or at least throwing stories up that seem to be "news for nerds" for something really innovative or original, this is rehashing something that has been done elsewhere a whole lot better with source code that you can obtain a license to freely modify and redistribute.

Keep in mind that the "free" in "free software" is not an economic disadvantage for those developing the software, but rather the freedom to reuse that software in a more productive way if you don't like what the primary developers are doing.

If you want to put this in game terms, it is the difference between modding for Runescape (that has draconian anti-hacking prohibitions and will do account bans on the forums including in-game banning if you promote hacking), vs. something like Minecraft (where the developers encourage the modding community with forum discussions) or even something like Ryzom that is completely open source and you can change anything. World of Warcraft is on that continuum more toward Runescape, but modding is a bit more tolerated. That is the freedom I'm talking about. Or if you want to compare compilers, compare Lazarus vs. Delphi or GCC vs. Microsoft C++.

People who develop software tools can certainly try to make money off of their efforts, but more often than not if you go with a proprietary solution you are stuck when the company who developed those tools gets into some financial trouble (aka they go bankrupt) or you get on a treadmill of never ending upgrades that you simply must pay for as an annual fee with "vendor lock-in" where the prices seem to escalate the more you use them. Or perhaps the developers simple get tired of even supporting the software and you end up with some abandonware.

Yes, open source/free software can be abandoned as well (especially if it is a one-man show in terms of the development efforts), but in that case a motivated developer can "take over" the development effort on perhaps another server. Bitcoin is an excellent example, where the original developer has left the project but its continued development seems to be going very strong. Open Office/Libre Office are very good examples where a fork in the effort can happen for very legitimate reasons even if there is a core development team continuing development.

I have some friends who have been able to make money off of open source software. You can't use the RIAA/MPAA type of distribution channels to make money (or more like a traditional proprietary software publisher), but that doesn't stop you from making money in other areas like consulting or offering paid customers custom bug fixes and early updates before other users.

Re:What about Scratch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39372703)

Scratch [mit.edu] is a development environment that not only is easy to learn, but is free as in beer and speech (as it is open source under the MIT license and CC-by-SA for most documentation and source code). There are also several variants that have been done by people other than MIT that are interesting as well, as it has been around for many years.

While this may be a useful tool, shilling for some group trying to make a quick buck doesn't seem right.

BTW, I agree with people complaining that Slashdot seems to be putting advertisements into the stories themselves. This isn't right and it does diminish what quality is left in the website.

First post to Slashdot
Using slashdot to promote a fee-based service-very sad this actually may be the article that ends my use of Slashdot. Many, many fantastic applications to learn about programming in an array of educational applications are free, have supportive creative communities supportive learning communities around them. Like so many new "featured" stories - this is about helping folks sell products. Nothing more.
Like others are saying - you should take a look at Scratch. Take a look at Python... ( and Slashdot should look at its corporate conscience) whatever - just try them before you head over to a subscription-based service that does 1/2 or more what those other application environments and communities do right now. And are part of the destructive "support" for our public schools. Also look at what master Slashdot is serving with its market positioning service - maybe its got a "do no more evil than google" mission statement now.

Re:What about Scratch (1)

Cow Jones (615566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389051)

Thanks for the link, I hadn't heard of Scratch before.

I'm currently teaching my nephew the basics of programming. I had a really hard time finding a good environment suitable for a 10 year old. I finally decided on Robot Karol, mostly because it's available in German, and because it presents a nicely reduced set of commands for beginners. We're going to stick with it for a while, but he's already suggesting a lot of things that Karol can't do. Most of these are multimedia related, like playing sounds or doing animations. I think I'll show him Scratch next.

klicki bunti programming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368293)

no text

GameMaker? (4, Interesting)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368415)

So how does this compare to Game Maker, or Stencyl or any of the other items like it? That's not to say it's a bad product, but does it have anything that makes it stand out from the crowd?

Re:GameMaker? (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368629)

Well from the looks of it Gamestar is expensive. :)

(It does have a free version, but the paid version is quite pricey at $4-$6 a month.

Re:GameMaker? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369057)

Stencyl Pro [stencyl.com] is $149/year [stencyl.com]
Game Maker [yoyogames.com] is $39.99 to $99

What was that about expensive?

Re:GameMaker? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369123)

$149/year ($99 for educational license) is iStencyl Pro - that is, iOS version.

Flash version is free.

Re:GameMaker? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369221)

Heh. Game Maker (or is it "GameMaker" now?) used to be cheap. One-time price of $20. Of course, times has changed.

Compared to the old Game Maker, $4-$6 a month is quite pricey (at least if you planned to use Game Maker more than 5 months). Compared to the new Game Maker...not so pricey.

Re:GameMaker? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369527)

It's still one-time price, so if you use it for a year, it's already cheaper than GameMaster.

Re:GameMaker? (4, Informative)

JorgeSchmt (905156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370377)

I work on programming Gamestar Mechanic and wanted to clarify: Gamestar has free and premium versions (and free versions are free and not time bounded, i.e. not just free trials). Premium versions for consumers are $5.95. In schools, a free version for classroom use is also available (also not time bounded and account for about 85% of the educational use) and premium versions are deeply discounted (i.e. $8.95 for an entire class per month) for educational use.

Re:GameMaker? (1)

rwreed (470734) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371147)

One of the big differences is the "quests", which not only teach you about using the tool, but more importantly teach you about game design (or at least level design) and how to make your game interesting/fun. The free quest covers things like setting goals for the players and using space in the levels to control difficulty.

I've only gone through the free quest. It was interesting, and I'm interested in seeing more, but I wasn't interested in paying a monthly fee. If there was a one-time, reasonable cost for the premium content instead, I'd probably go for it.

The site claims that more free content is coming, but I've been watching for more than a year and haven't seen any new free quests yet.

What has this site come to? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368539)

The quality of the content on this site is the lowest it's ever been.
I think it's time to move on.

Goodbye, all. Hopefully I'll run into you elsewhere.

Re:What has this site come to? (0)

gregarican (694358) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368903)

If you're anonymous then how will we recognize you? *scratches head*

Re:What has this site come to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39375237)

If you're anonymous then how will we recognize you? *scratches head*

Oi! I'm Anonymous. We are legion, etc etc etc.

Re:What has this site come to? (2)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369693)

You mean you didn't find the video informative? I just learned a new definition of the word 'sustainable': to use up every available resource in 45 seconds, instead of the usual 20.

Re:What has this site come to? (1)

eternaldoctorwho (2563923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370443)

Seeing the word "sustainable" these days is not interesting. In fact, it's almost to be expected [xkcd.com] .

Or the schools could just download Alice for free (4, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368611)

Yeah, they could pay you $6 per student a month. Or they could just download Alice [alice.org] (which is much better and teaches actual OOP) for free.

But thank you for your Slashvertisement.

Re:Or the schools could just download Alice for fr (1)

narcc (412956) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370161)

Or they could just download Alice (which is much better

Tell me more

and teaches actual OOP)

I thought you said it was better?

Re:Or the schools could just download Alice for fr (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375247)

Or they could just download Alice (which is much better

Tell me more

and teaches actual OOP)

I thought you said it was better?

Yeah, we know, and if you're not coding in assembly you're just a hipster dilettante.

Re:Or the schools could just download Alice for fr (1)

narcc (412956) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377805)

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it

You seem to be under the false impression that OOP makes development easier/faster/less error prone. Abstraction should offer at least some benefits, you know. All OOP has done is add unnecessary complexity, increase development time and costs, all while adding performance-killing overhead -- that's the opposite of what you want from abstraction.

Re:Or the schools could just download Alice for fr (1)

tgv (254536) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374827)

Interesting. I'm going to check it out.

Slashvertisement or the downfall of slashdot (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368867)

seriously ... it's so obvious and this has been happening way too often recently. For years they were the infamous networkworld, inforworld, shitworld and myassworld and now this ...

It makes me really think when I'll have something news worthy what are really the odds of getting truly slashdoted by real people like me ...

I'll probably stick to google news from now on.

Can't count (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369029)

I can't count the number of these Gamebuilding toolkits I've seen over the years. They all have ultimately been lacking, limiting you to a very narrow type of game and had bad scripting languages as their backbones.

Re:Can't count (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369173)

Scripting languages? Why back in my day we had toolkits that let us make only one game with none of this newfangled scripting stuff and we loved it [wikipedia.org] . Uphill, in the snow, both ways, lawn etc etc etc.

Re:Can't count (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369379)

What about Game Maker? That toolkit + IDE has spawned first-person shooters, RPGs, strategy games, RTS games, puzzle games, exploration games, turn-based games, well...most types of games. It has always lacked behind in 3D and multiplayer, but even then there were exceptions (such as Hover Tank 3D and Wanderlust).

Can Slashdot bloggers be bribed? (1, Insightful)

StoutFiles (2471680) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369081)

After reading this...just wondering.

Transcript - won't miss much in video (5, Informative)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369263)

Can't say you'd miss much from the video this time around, other than that it becomes clear that it is a relatively simple 2D tile-based environment (at least, that which is shown).

Title: Gamestar Mechanics Teaches Kids to Make Video Games
Description: "Level up" from player to designer

[00:00] <TITLE>
The Shashdot logo with "News for nerds. Stuff that matters" zooms out from the top-right to the bottom-left corner.
A view of the interviewee, Brian Alspach, fades in. He is standing in front of a booth backdrop that reads "... just play games when you can make them?" and "...me Generation" and "...th game design studios"

[00:01] Brian>
I'm Brian Alspach I'm the Executive Vice President at E-Line Media, makers of Gamestar Mechanic.

[00:06] Brian>
At E-Line we like to make educational games, games that connect things that kids are really interested in [...]

[00:12] <TITLE>
A view of a few children behind laptops.

[00:12] Brian>
and passionate about with real learning.

[00:14] Brian>
So in Gamestar you start out playing a fun game where you're learning to design and make games.

[00:20] <TITLE>
Back to the view of Brian talking in front of the booth backdrop.

[00:20] Brian>
But then you get a chance to actually make games of your own, and really reinforce critical thinking skills, systems thinking skills, design literacies.
So really excited about doing something like that where we take what kids really like to do and connect it with what they can do.

[00:33] <TITLE>
The view changes to Brian sitting behind a laptop on a desk with a view of the laptop's screen.

[00:33] Brian>
It's really designed for kids age 8 to 14 as their first experience in game design.

[00:38] Brian>
We're gonna go ahead and get started.
I'm gonna log into my account, I'll show you guys a few things.

[00:43] Brian>
Most kids in games start out in our Quest.

[00:46] <TITLE>
The view changes to a screen capture of the Gamestar Mechanic website showing the Quest.

[00:46] Brian>
The Quest is an adventure game story where you are playing the kind of game you'll eventually be able to make.
You play through this fun adventure game, and as you're doing it, you're learning the principles of game design.

[01:00] <TITLE>
The view changes back to Brian sitting behind the laptop.

[01:00] Brian>
You're also earning all of the tools and the assets you'll eventually be able to use when you make your own games.

[01:06] Brian>
We start you off playing the kind of games you'll make and then eventually we'll put you in missions - and this is the very first level you're seeing here - we're sort of teaching you how to move around, but you're also learning about how the enemies, the avatars, the goals, having locks and keys here as a first goal and trying to reach the end of the game as a second goal.
How all of that works together to make a vido game system that's fun and challenging for a player.

[01:31] Brian>
So as you play through these games and you're learning, you're also earning all of those avatars and characters and blocks you'll be able to use in your game.
At any time you can switch over to the design experience in your workshop and make your own game.
It's all drag-and-drop parameterized-based design.

[01:49] Brian>
So I'm gonna make a really simple game right now.
I'm gonna start by adding an avatar - that'll be the guy I'll control - and every game needs to have a goal in it, so I'm gonna add a goal block.

[02:00] <TITLE>
The view zooms in on the laptop screen

[02:00] Brian>
Then I'm just gonna throw a few more blocks in here just so we have something else going on in our game environment.
Just like that, I have a really simple game.
It's not a very good game, but it's simple - I've got my Avatar over to his goal block.
Now that's not a great game - it took me about 30 seconds to make [...]

[02:23] <TITLE>
The view zooms back out to the view of Brian behind the laptop.

[02:23] Brian>
but that's where you can start off.
You can see I did that without having to write any code or to program.

[02:27] Brian>
You can go from there and make very sophisticated games.
I'm gonna show you guys really fast a game.
This was a game made by a 10-year old from down here in the Austin area, from [?] Texas, who won a national video game design competition last year.
He's made this game, he's published it to our online community where other users can play it, and we're gonna check out his game that's all about dinosaurs, sustainability, energy and ecosystems.

[02:50] <TITLE>
The view zooms back in on the laptop screen, showing the game Dinosaur Sustainaibility[sic] by rhys

[02:50] Brian>
He's actually using a game to model a real-world system.

[02:57] Brian>
So in this game I'm this little dinosaur guy, and I have an energy meter.
If my energy meter gets down to zero, I'll lose the game.
The way I keep it up is by eating these plants, each one replenishes my energy meter a little bit.
I've gotta survive for 45 seconds by keeping my energy up.
Now, if you do what I did the first time I played this game, and you eat all of the plants really quickly, you will find you have not used your resources in a sustainable way.

[03:25] <TITLE>
The view zooms back out to the view of Brian behind the laptop.

[03:25] Brian>
So you will not be able to survive for 45 seconds.
He's really modeling how energy could work in an ecosystem.
I think I'm gonna make it here and I won't take you guys through the whole thing, I'll just show you one more level where he does something that's really cool that he's learned to do as a game designer:

[03:42] Brian>
He takes that same concept and he builds on it in the next level.
So, now, the same setup: I'm trying to survive for 45 seconds and keep my energy up, but I've got a competitor - I've got a non-player character - who's competing with me, running through the game and competing for my scarce pool of resources.
Now my strategy has to change a little bit.
What's interesting is even if I play relatively well, I don't always win in an ecosystem where I have a competitor who's out to compete with me for resources.
I won't take you through the whole thing, he goes on from here and he does really cool stuff where he introduces a carnivore who's trying to eat me and my competitor herbivore.

[04:24] Brian>
In our online community, we've got over 120,000 games that kids have made using the platform that they can share with each other.
The kids have played each other's games over 1.5 million times at this point.

[04:41] Brian>
gamestarmechanic.com , you can check it out online, sign up for a free account and start making your game.

[04:46] <TITLE>
The view fades to two children, a boy and a girl, behind laptops.
The boy is interviewed.

[04:52] <TITLE>
Two shots are shown of banners, one reads "Level up from gamer..", the other reads "...to Designer!" on 2D platform game backgrounds.

[04:54] <TITLE>
The view is of the boy sitting behind a laptop.

[04:55] Boy>
I'm creating a game.
The point of the game is you have to get this star - which I have not put down yet - you have your character and you're gonna put your... I'll put up my character right here, and then hold my star here, and then.. I'm putting a maze around them.
I'm making a maze.
You have to go through the maze and there's, I'm making dead ends like there.
You have to get through the maze to get to the star.

[05:23] Timothy>
Is this what you wanna do when you grow up?

[05:25] Boy>
I just like to play a lot of video games.
A couple of years ago I sort of wanted to make a video game.
My dad found this, so he got me to get over here.

[05:40] Timothy>
So you've actually been playing this not just at the show, you've been playing it before that.

[05:44] Boy>
This is the first time I've played this game.

[05:45] Timothy>
That's great!
How old are you?

[05:51] Boy>
I'm 9.

[05:54] Timothy>
Is this the sort of thing you're gonna pursue at some point?

[05:56] Boy>
I might do this when I'm older - I might.
I'm not sure yet.

[06:00] <TITLE>
The view changes to that of Brian in front of the booth backdrop once more.

[06:01] Brian>
When a kid makes a game in the product there is an online community built into it where they can share the games they make with other users, who can then give them feedback, help them improve their game designs.
You can also take your games out of the product and embed them - just like a YouTube video - on another website or on your blog or whatever.

[06:15] <TITLE>
A screenshot of the website is zoomed in on, followed by Brian in front of the booth backdrop again.

[06:20] Brian>
My background actually personally is through a very circuitous route.
I was an English major in healthcare technology for 3 years and then I - you know, some of the other founders of the company and I - we really decided we wanted to something that would have some meaningful impact in the world.
So we founded E-Line as a double bottom-line publisher of games and entertainment, for kids, that have learning benefits.

[06:38] Brian>
Gamestar Mechanic actually grew out of an academic research project that was funded by the MacArthur Foundation with the goal of teaching, making a game that would teach kids how to design games and build critical and system thinking skills while they did it.
The project was originally designed by a group out of New York City called The Institute of Play which is a not-for-profit that's very big into game-based learning techniques and doing innovative stuff there.
We became involved as the publisher a few years ago and helped bring the product to market, both for consumers and in the educational channel.

[07:11] Brian>
We've been out for about a year and a half now and in that time we're out in about 2500 schools.
We've had [...] 100,000 games made by kids that have been played over 1,000,000 times.

[07:20] <TITLE>
A closer view of the Dinosaur Sustainaibility[sic] game is shown before going back to Brian.

[07:24] Brian>
You can go to gamestarmechanic.com and sign up for a free account.
With the free account you'll be able to go through a introductory game design learning experience and make an unlimited number of games there.
There's also a premium version, [? not/uh] for consumers, that's $5.95/month that has about 3 or 4 times as much content in it and we're adding new stuff all the time.

[07:48] <TITLE>
The view changes to the first view again with a young boy appearing concentrated on the laptop in front of him.
The Shashdot logo with "News for nerds. Stuff that matters" zooms in from the bottom-right to the top-left corner.

Re:Transcript - won't miss much in video (1)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369535)

Wait.. is this actually a Timothy interview? I assumed, but there doesn't seem to be any credit and, come to think of it, it didn't really sound like him (there's a lot of background noise in the part where the interviewer actually speaks, though).

If it's not Timothy - sorry dude-whose-name-wasn't-noted!

Codea perhaps? (1)

toriver (11308) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369799)

For the iPad, programming in Lua, $10 on the app store.

how about real data from 10,000 games made by kids (5, Informative)

the agent man (784483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370283)

Instead of the monthly armchair conjecture how about some real data? Yes, many of us have played with some tool and found it more of less usable or interesting resulting the obligatory "you should use X because I did too or at least somebody told me that it is cool" but who has actually run some large scale study with thousands of students to see:

1) if they can learn game design

2) what they learn and if what they learn transfers in any way to topics of relevance to schools, e.g., STEM

3) if teachers in a wide range of environments from inner city schools to Native American communities can actually teach it

Short answer: WE HAVE and as far as I can tell (feel free to contradict me) NOBODY ELSE. The study includes levels of motivation, breakdown by gender and ethnicity, computational thinking pattern analysis of the game and simulations produced, exploration of transfer between game design and STEM. And, perhaps most importantly, most of the schools participating (all over the USA) tried it with non self selecting students. In other words, not the geeky Friday afternoon computer club boys. ALL the kids. See some results here:

http://scalablegamedesign.cs.colorado.edu/wiki/Publications [colorado.edu]

Re:how about real data from 10,000 games made by k (2)

JorgeSchmt (905156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370655)

Gamestar guy here.. we've found a bunch of studies on gaming and game design and its correlation to STEM skills and higher order thinking skill development. In fact, Gamestar Mechanic began with a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to explore whether a game could teach game design concepts and help kids acquire critical and systems thinking skills. On our site, we have available for download two PHD dissertations written about Gamestar and how skills learned in game design transfer into positive life and academic skills.

http://cdn.gamestarmechanic.com/1.24b/pdfs/Games_PhD_Gamestar.pdf [gamestarmechanic.com]
and
http://cdn.gamestarmechanic.com/1.24b/pdfs/Torres_PhD_Gamestar.pdf [gamestarmechanic.com]

Re:how about real data from 10,000 games made by k (1)

the agent man (784483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371583)

Looks like nice work but these were not large scale studies by any stretch of the imagination. Moreover, at least according to one of these documents, the gamestar aim is not to teach programming per se but to teach design. That is completely OK, but it also suggests a very different investigation of transfer. Can I design a game about ecologies and will I learn something about ecology in the process? Fundamentally, this sounds mostly like a constructivist model of pedagogy which does make a lot of sense to me. We are more interested in the far transfer of programming concepts, or more precisely, computational thinking skills that get acquired in one design activity, e.g., the design and implementation of a Frogger game and later applied to a completely different design task such as science simulation authoring. I think the research you are pointing to has neither the same aim nor a comparable scope of the work I am referring to.

More generally, my comment was not targeting gamestar. I just wish that people would do some homework before they post. It is actually possible to systematically investigate how well a tool will work in a classroom at motivational, cognitive and educational levels. This is not a poll for your favorite ice cream flavor.

Re:how about real data from 10,000 games made by k (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374653)

That is part of why I mentioned Scratch at the beginning of this discussion. Scratch has literally tens of thousands (more like in the hundreds of thousands at the moment) of software submissions that can be broken down by age, gender, and geographic location (ethnicity isn't being recorded to the best of my knowledge). In terms of the ages of the kids, it ranges from 3rd graders to college graduates developing software with those tools (with the sweet spot being mostly middle school kids with some high school kids doing most of the work).

As far as the quality of the submissions, most of them are very primitive in that development environment, and I'm not sure if a proper survey of the submissions has really been done, but my point is that the raw data is available from real content that can be evaluated if somebody would want to slug through that mass of data. Being MIT, I know some scholarly studies of the development environment have been done over the years. It just takes some graduate student hungry for a master's degree to plow through that data and try to massage it into a useful publication... or some professor wanting to enslave a group of graduate students for his own behalf to make that evaluation.

Re:how about real data from 10,000 games made by k (1)

the agent man (784483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377995)

Yes, but there is a big difference. Just about 100% of these users are self selected. In our study we have just about 0% self selected. It is not clear what one can learn from interpreting motivation or learning gains, especially without pre/post tests, from a self selected group. For all we know these users may already be interested or even experienced in programming. The real question is how well students who do not ever plan to show up on the Friday afternoon club or any other after school program, in other words 95% of students, would do.

www.love2d.org (1)

kikito (971480) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371765)

It's awesome, it's free( as in freedom and as in beer ), and runs on linux, windows and mac.

thanks (1)

Beklemeyinnet (2596605) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374425)

Thanks for the lead. A lot of our videos so far have been of people/companies Tim ran into at conferences. If you have ideas for video stories (and we can now do Skype interviews) please email dansguardian@gmail.com

video converter for mac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39374649)

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Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39374997)

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Little Big Planet (1)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375165)

My children (girls, aged 5 and 6) love Little Big Planet and I think it's brilliant. Not only does it involve the game mechanics of traps/baddies/checkpoints and scoring points it also has really good logic (switches,sensors) controllable components (pistons,winches,motors) and really good physics: dense metals can crush you, light cardboard doesn't, helium balloons float, cogs/gears really will turn each other when you place them with their teeth interlocking with no "cheating" going on inside the game engine.

It's superb fun and educational in so many ways. Needless to say, when they've gone to bed of an evening I fire it up and make things too, seen as I don't have any Technic Lego any more :)

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