Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Let The Gaming Begin!

Not being what one would call a gamer, knowing how easily it would be a rabbit hole from which I might never return (Remember, I lost a whole summer in the world of Myst), I have saved this next website from the American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2012.  Yes, I've waited an entire year.  The committee placed it under the heading of Media Sharing aligning it with the following Standards for the 21st-Century Learner:

  • 3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess.
  • 3.3.4 Create products that apply to authentic, real-world context.
Gamestar Mechanic is a free website for basic use.  According to the Privacy Policy your real name, address or phone number is not required for registration.  You will be asked your age to determine which portions of the site are available for your use. (Certain sharing and networking features, no live chat, is for those over the age of 13.)  Users under the age of 13 are not asked to provide email addresses.  If users are registered through an educator in the classroom their real name may be required. Here is an image of what is offered as explanation for parents.

When initially accessing the site, in the upper right-hand corner, you can log in, head over to the FAQ section or submit a written request via email for assistance.  It is important to note that Adobe Flash Player version 10 or later is needed for using this website.  The Sharing Games section (as do all the sections)  provides very complete information as to what is available.  You can recommend your game to another mechanic with their user name, a link to your game can be sent to an email address you list, you are given an URL link, an HTML code for embedding and buttons are provided for various social network sharing.

Moving down the page a video to learn more about the site is supplied.  Links with more information for teachers, parents and taking an online course are available.  You can register or log in in this section too.

Skipping ahead further before we begin, an explanation of what users can expect at the site is displayed.  You can play and learn, take courses, make your own games and join the community.  In the parents section this is simplified into play, design and share.

To start using the site I clicked on Get Started.  Enter in your user name, a password, birth date, check the box Gamestar Mechanic Terms of Service and select Register.  (At most screens you can get to the Parent and Help pages.)  At the new screen you are asked to choose your favorite subject, animal, color and activity in case you need to be reminded of your password.  They shuffle the choices at the next window to confirm your selections.

There are several choices at the next window.  The column on the far left represents the free use of this site.  According to the instructions you need to complete a certain amount of play in order to publish and showcase your games.

After choosing Get Started, the next screen gives you several options as shown in image one. Since it stated you need to complete episodes to publish and share I decided to choose Quest.  The second image represents the first page in the Quest.

A adventure story begins where the character of Addison (you) is revealed. In the first episode you have to play and beat four games. Each game has a series of levels.

To begin mouse over and click on Naviron Adventure. (It took me two tries to win the first level. I am definitely not a gamer.) When each mission (game) is completed, the next is unlocked.  You are rewarded with a sprite when you win.

The second level on mission two, Altair Journey, seemed to take forever.  The right combination was hard. It was a challenge in that I needed to not only jump from the bottom but from spire to spire.  Definite thinking and strategy are involved along with hand-eye coordination. 

By the third and fourth missions I was getting the hang of it.  They even threw in a rogue element to the story.  Episode 1 was completed.  (Whew!)

Four more episodes need to be finished.  Between each episode (game with levels) the story began in the introduction continues.  It's like you are in an animated comic.  The image below is after the story has continued.  It's a map of the factory showing I have completed episode one but the challenge of episode two is waiting for me. 

The second and third images show the new missions.  This time instead of player you are put in the position of being a designer.  Addison and company are in a bit of trouble.

In order to continue my exploration of the site I paused here to design a game.  To design a game select Workshop at the top of your screen.  (See image above.) The next window advises you of the rules of the site as well as your standing.  I clicked on Build A New Game!

You are now at the game creation window.  The four small icons on the right represent, top to bottom, move, edit, clone and erase.  They refer to items on the grid.

On the left the top setting is for your game name, game introduction message, game win message and goals and rules.  The other setting is for the level in which you are working.  At the bottom you can see there is a green light for save but not for publish.  It's red.  

To place avatars, enemies and blocks on the grid click on them and move them to a square on the grid.  If you want to use any of the tools on the right click on one, move it to the grid over the item and click.  To release it, move it back to the side and click.

Once you have the blocks, goal, avatar and enemies in place, click on play (top left) to see how the game you have designed works.  You can toggle back and forth between play and edit until you are satisfied.  When you successfully win the game you have created the publish button turns green.  You still can not publish it though, according to pop-up instructions, until your first quest is finished.  The image below is what my created game looks like.  

The next area I will cover in this post is the section for teachers.  At that page you can learn the basics of Gamestar Mechanic, access and view loads of lessons and videos from Gamestar Mechanic and other sources, connect with other educators on Edmodo, and follow a link to their blog. 

As an educator you can sign up your entire class for free or a premium package is available.  The cost is $2.00 per student.  This image shows a portion of the information you need to provide to sign up your class for either account.

After having spent hours at this site, I can readily understand why it was placed on the Best Websites for Teaching & Learning by the AASL committee.  Students are actively engaged in learning and creating.  I highly recommend this site.  Now back to episode two.  I need to get Addison out of the elevator.

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