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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Project Spark provides all the tools kids need to build a virtual world and create the rules that govern it, letting them explore their imaginations while having fun learning about game design and programming. Keep in mind that user-generated content can be unpredictable. The designers have kept the violence relatively tame and included no strong language or references to sexuality, alcohol, or drugs. But some content creators might generate worlds, objects, and dialogue that get around these restrictions in creative ways -- such as sculpting letters into the environment that spell a curse word. Parents worried about what their kids might stumble upon online can change a setting to ensure kids access only developer-moderated content.
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What's it about?
PROJECT SPARK is less a game and more a user-friendly platform for building your own game. It comes with its own set of pre-built adventures, including a traditional fantasy quest, but the premade games are really meant to showcase what you can do using Project's Spark's powerful game-building tools. Players can sculpt and paint three-dimensional environments; create complex logic governing the behavior of characters and objects; script their own stories filled with drama, motives, and purpose; and even use the Kinect sensor to capture voice dialogue and animations that can be assigned to game characters. Once complete, kids' games can be uploaded for other users to play and "remix." The starter kit comes with a wide variety of game objects and themes for players to use in their creative activities. More are available in the game's marketplace, and these content packs can be purchased either with real money or virtual currency, which is slowly accumulated by completing various tasks within the game.
Is it any good?
Project Spark is a blank canvas for creation. Presented with an empty virtual expanse, players can craft nearly any sort of interactive experience they choose. Virtual Frisbee, pinball tables, run-to-the-right platformers, tower defense games, multilevel action role-playing games -- all of these and more can be made using the game's robust and surprisingly accessible creation tools. It takes a while to master more complex tools, such as programming the "brains" of characters and objects to make them do what you need them to do, but it's all done using an accessible logic language that simply asks what a thing should do when another thing happens. All it takes is a little patience and a good idea to create something well worth sharing with the rest of the game's community.
Admittedly, it's a bit rough around the edges in places. The Crossroads mode, which lets players shape a lightly preprogrammed adventure as they play it -- crashes occasionally. Plus, it would've been nice if the developers provided a few more themes and object packs in the starter kit rather than forcing players to earn or buy new ones. But kids who get into this deeply imaginative and rewarding digital creation experience likely will spend enough time playing to be able to purchase plenty of extra content without resorting to spending any real money. Kids with any interest in learning how games are made and how to make games themselves really can't go wrong with Project Spark.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about online safety. How do you deal with inappropriate user-generated content: by reporting it or ignoring it? What are the likely outcomes of each action?
Discuss creativity in games such as Project Spark. Do you prefer playing games made by other players in Project Spark or making and sharing your own? What's appealing about being creative? How is creativity in video games different from creativity in more traditional arts, such as painting, writing, or composing?
- Platforms: Xbox One
- Subjects: Language & Reading: reading
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, defining problems, problem solving
Creativity: imagination, making new creations, producing new content
Self-Direction: goal-setting, initiative, work to achieve goals
Tech Skills: digital creation, using and applying technology
- Pricing structure: Free
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Microsoft Studios
- Release date: October 7, 2014
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.