Gamestar Mechanic is an online game and community designed to teach the guiding principles of game design and systems thinking. The game is published by E-Line Media and supported by a partnership between E-Line Media and the Institute of Play.
Initial development of Gamestar was supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation based on a grant proposal authored by James Paul Gee and Eric Zimmerman. Initial design and development of the game was by Gamelab in partnership with Katie Salen, The Institute of Play and the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab (AADLC) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The game was released commercially in the Fall of 2010 and is currently supported by a partnership between educational game publisher E-Line Media and the Institute of Play.
Audience and game play
The game is optimized for youth ages 8–14. Players learn the principles of game design by playing a narrative-based Quest where they play, repair and build games using the in-game design tools. As they advance in the Quest, players also earn "sprites" (characters, avatars, enemies, etc...) for use in their own games. At any time, players can switch to their Workshops and make an original game using the assets they have earned. Players can publish their games to an online community within the platform called Game Alley where other users can play and leave feedback on their games.
Playing on the website is free of charge, but there are premium options available for both consumer and educational use.
An online learning program is also offered in which students can take an online course in game design with an instructor and receive video feedback on their designs from professionals in the game industries.
Sprites are all of the things that players can unlock and use in their games. Most sprites can be earned from the quests "Addison Joins the League", "Addison Joins the Rogue", and "Dungeon of the Rogue". The other sprites that can be earned are from the challenges. The "Pink Block Caper", and the "Background Challenge" are some. Some challenges are temporary, but once the player wins the sprites from them, they keep them forever. The "Wild West" challenge is an example. The final way to get some is from the sprite packs that players can buy in the store. The "Freezer pack" and the "Autumn pack" are examples. If the player has completed all of these tasks completely, they now have almost every sprite there is. Most sprites are either avatars, enemies, blocks, items, or systems, but some of them are backgrounds and music. But there is a way to earn sprites that are not found in challenges or the quest, as notified by Gamestar Mechanic User "24paidihm." the "Healthy" and "Das Rheingold" sprites can be obtained by following the instructions on his game known as "Factory 7 Sprite Museum"
As of March 2014, the game has been used to create over 500,000 games that have been played over 15 million times. Over 6,000 schools and community organizations have adopted the platform.
Gamestar has won numerous awards for excellence in educational technology and children's media including
- 2012 American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Top 25 Best Website for Teaching and Learning
- 2011 Kids at Play Interactive (KAPi) Award: Tool for Digital Creativity and Empowerment
- 2011 International Serious Play Awards Gold Medal Winner
- 2011 Indiecade Awards Finalist
- "More About Gamestar Mechanic". Retrieved 6 April 2012.
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- Stefanie Olsen (November 1, 2009). "Educational Video Games Mix Cool With Purpose". New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2012.
- "E-Line Media". E-Line Media. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- "Best Websites for Teaching and Learning". American Association of School Librarians. Archived from the original on 2012-09-20. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
- "Winners Announced for Second Annual Kids at Play Interactive "KAPi" Awards at CES 2011". Children's Technology Review. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- "2011 International Serious Play Award Winners Announced". Educational Games Research. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- "2011 Festival: The Finalists". Indiecade. Retrieved 6 April 2012.