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Learning the Core Principles of Game Design with Gamestar Mechanic

Learning the Core Principles of Game Design with Gamestar Mechanic

Gamestar Mechanic is a game and community designed to teach kids the core principles of game design. Created for 7 to 14 year olds, the platform features a powerful suite of game creation tools, enabling players to design original games through an easy-to-use, drag and drop interface. Game design provides an entertaining, exciting and empowering way for kids to learn important skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, creative thought and ideation.

The browser-based game taps into the natural passion for youths to play, make and share games. Built on leading pedagogical research in the areas of systems thinking, 21st century digital literacy skills and STEM learning, Gamestar Mechanic devote significant efforts to developing materials, content and professional development programs for teachers who want to learn how to support students, pursuing an interest in game design.

Embraced by schools and after-school programs, the game-based digital learning platform is now used by over 4,000 teachers, whose students have published over 350,000 games in over 100 countries. One school that has endorsed game design to engage students is the Divine Mercy Catholic Academy in Florida. Working with Dr. Anne-Marie Sutch-Stabio, Chief Learning Officer of CAMBS Enterprises, 8th grade students took a weekly class to learn about game design and explore the topic of ‘Space’. Gamestar Mechanic provides lesson plans for teachers, which Dr. Sutch-Stabio used in class to teach students the basic principles of game design in line with the common core standards for the topic of ‘Space’. Every week students had a homework assignment requiring them to research a space topic, and play a game focusing on a specific element of game design taught in class.

Students then put the information they had learned into a game format, to teach other kids in class about their space topic. The games had to include certain elements such as game levels, background images, avatars, timing, goals, points, strategy and the students also had to write the background story of the game.

Edmodo was used as a collaborative platform where class games were posted up for peer review, comments and feedback. Dr. Sutch-Stabio said “It was nice watching the collaborative learning that went on, they would talk back and forth and share information”.

Formative and summative assessments were used to evaluate the success of using game design and development in learning. The students really enjoyed the class and reported they wanted to move into more complex game design and develop programming skills at a higher level than Gamestar Mechanic provided.


Gamestar Mechanic is currently being developed and published by E-Line Media in partnership with the Institute of Play. The initial research and development for the platform was made possible in part by generous funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for an original grant proposal by James Paul Gee, Ph.D and Eric Zimmerman.

Gamestar Mechanic is also involved in supporting and presenting a number of youth game design competitions, including the National STEM Video Game Challenge presented in partnership with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. The annual competition, now in its third year, encourages youth in grades 5-12 to design and make original games. There were over 3,700 entries last year and two of the national winners were invited to participate in the prestigious White House Science Fair.

Game creation technologies such as Gamestar Mechanic can be a useful way of encouraging class participation, collaboration and understanding, and can make a significant impact on student development.