Gamestar Mechanic

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $Basic is free, $2/student, consumer version is $19.95.
  • Genre: Edutainment

Common Sense Media says

Grand adventure teaches you to design your own games.
  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $Basic is free, $2/student, consumer version is $19.95.
  • Genre: Edutainment

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Gamestar Mechanic encourages creativity, curiosity, and originality. The message is: Sure, playing games is fun; but designing them yourself is even better.

Positive role models

The story treats designers, thinkers, and engineers as heroes. As you work your way up the ranks of the League of Designers, you'll be encouraged to not only be brave, but also creative and smart as well.

Ease of play

The methods used to teach game design here are cleverly laid out in easy-to-understand language. Using the click-and-drag controls is also a nice, simple way of designing game levels. It allows kids to focus on the creativity of their design, as opposed to worrying about complicated programming.

Violence

Some of the games that will be both played and designed involve fighting and shooting. None of the imagery is realistic, and none of the violence is graphic.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

Language is closely monitored by the site.

Consumerism

There is a long, detailed, feature-heavy portion of the Gamestar saga that is available for free, but to move beyond that point, you'll need to pay a fee for premium membership: $19.95.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

Minor privacy and safety concerns: Sharing your own created games, and playing the created games of others, is a major part of Gamestar Mechanic. And while there is a community aspect to it all, and players are encouraged to comment on other's games, the dialogue is very closely monitored, and there is no live chat. The site's Rules of Conduct are strictly enforced.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Gamestar Mechanic is a web-based video game with its own online community, that, through an epic adventure-based plot, teaches kids the fundamentals of game design. Kids will be able to publish their created games and try out the original games of others; and this site closely monitors all created content. Any communication on the site is also watched over carefully, and there is no live chat of any kind, nor any use of personal information. Some of the games that will be both played and designed contain minor cartoon violence (including weaponry), but the old-school, sprite-based graphics are not realistic at all. Also, know that you can set a time limit for how much your child can play the game in one day (and tell your kids not to worry; the shutdown is context-based, meaning they won't be kicked off until they reach a point where they can save their game).

What kids can learn

Subjects

Math

  • patterns
  • sequences

Science

  • motion
  • physics

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • logic
  • strategy
  • thinking critically

Creativity

  • innovation
  • making new creations
  • producing new content

Tech Skills

  • digital creation
  • using and applying technology

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

Kids learn about games by designing their own with this fantastic tool. When going on missions, they unlock a steady stream of content that deepens their workshop experience.

 

Learning Approach

The in-game and on-site documentation teaches a lot about game design and invites classes to incorporate whatever content they can imagine.

 

Support

Gamestar Mechanic gives kids clear goals, and the learning guide offers dozens of conversationally written lessons.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Math

  • patterns
  • sequences

Science

  • motion
  • physics

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • logic
  • strategy
  • thinking critically

Creativity

  • innovation
  • making new creations
  • producing new content

Tech Skills

  • digital creation
  • using and applying technology

Kids can learn how to create their own video games, albeit on a very basic level and with the game's limited design software. Directions are clear and easy to follow. Creations are real and playable. The process of building these games teaches kids to think both mathematically and creatively at the same time. It's a rare game that allows kids to feel true ownership over their work; Gamestar Mechanic fits the bill.

This Learning Rating review was written by Christopher Healy

Parents say

Kids say

What's it about?

Gamestar Mechanic follows a young wannabe game designer named Addison (who can be male or female) on a journey through the ranks of the League of Designers. The setting: A futuristic sci-fi world where game designers are treated like superheroes. Users spend most of their time on Gamestar Mechanic learning about different types of games (platformers, shooters, puzzles, and top-down adventures), playing samples of those types, and then using the sprites (character icons) and backgrounds they've earned to create their own. Games that are created are shared online and reviewed (in a moderated forum) by other players.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Gamestar Mechanic is a stunningly in-depth, and endlessly interesting, foray into the world of game design. But it's all played out like a sci-fi adventure game in and of itself. The concept is brilliant, and playing through it is undeniably entertaining. The collecting aspect, in which you play games in order to earn new visual elements to place in your own games, is a great touch that should keep kids coming back for more (if the sheer fun of the whole thing didn't do that already). Sure, the games you create won't be next-gen 3-D epics, but when you see that something you've designed yourself can be enjoyable or challenging, it creates a great feeling of accomplishment. The word "achievement" gets thrown around a lot in the video game world, but here, the work you do really feels like it earns that title.

 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how learning to design games can help in other parts of life that have nothing to do with video games. For instance, can plotting the layout of a video game maze help you when hooking up a new peripheral to your computer? Or maybe when constructing a piece of DIY furniture? The skills learned here are not just about gaming.

  • Parents can ask their kids what kind of games they like designing best. And why? Do they prefer heavy action? Or are brain-twisting puzzle games more their thing?

  • Parents can also use this opportunity to talk about being a good digital citizen. Kids are encouraged to review the games posted by other players. If you don't like a game, how can you say so in a way that would be helpful to that game's designer, and not hurtful?

Game details

Platforms:Mac, Windows
Price:$Basic is free, $2/student, consumer version is $19.95.
Pricing structure:Free, Free to Try, Paid
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Institute of Play and E-Line Media
Release date:September 10, 2010
Genre:Edutainment
ESRB rating:NR for (Mac, Windows)

This review of Gamestar Mechanic was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byDiEx-80 February 3, 2011
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Not perfect, but a small start in game creation for kids

My issue is that this is being pushed as a game creation tool. I have problems with that since it is restricted between monthly subscribers or free users.

If your child wants to learn to make games, there are free tools out on the net that don't need a monthly subscription. Even RPG Maker XP can be a good tool for a budding game designer. If you are wanting a good community, GarageGames is a great community and tools to make 2D & 3D games. (Granted, its $100 for the basic things but are very user friendly)

What other families should know
Too much consumerism
Educational value
Educator Written bycjones727 June 8, 2012
AGE
18
QUALITY
 

Overly Complicated

I registered and played with Gamestar Mechanic. I can't imagine a 10 year old being able to use it and come away with any educational value. There's no pop-up bubbles over the tools that help you build a game and I'm not about to sit down with my child for hours and read a manual like a textbook. Even if I wanted to, I didn't quickly locate a manual or easy help menu when I hit a roadblock. If by chance your kid does have the patience and ability to figure this out, he's destined for engineering school--and top of the class. Maybe I did't get far enough into the game design but the avatars were boring and basic and had no relation to the personal interests and criteria I selected at the start. The interface of the site is overly crowded and the artwork upon entry seems to have no relation to the game your designing.
Gamestar mechanic seems like a great concept but it must be designed by Engineers.

Educator and Parent of a 3 and 6 year old Written bybjoseph April 18, 2012
AGE
5
QUALITY
 

Becoming Responsible Game Designers

I would add this to the great things already said about Gamestar Mechanic:
1) In regards to "responsibility and ethics" there are a wide range of game design challenges within the site that ask youth to design games addressing social issues like ending war. Youth who participate in these challenges can learn how to combine their interest in game design with social issues.
2) Unlike other online gaming environments, there is no push to spend more money on virtual items. Once youth have full access to the site, there is no consumerist push to distract them from learning how to design their games.

What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Safety and privacy concerns

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