Make your own Video Games! or “Logowriter, eat your heart out!”

May 15, 2007 by

Last May, one of the summer-time professional development flyers among the plethora that all teachers receive at the end of each school year caught my attention. A class in how to construct your own video games for learning was being given in my area. Now, I’ve been a gamer all my life; my parents purchased our first Atari 2600 when I was in Kindergarten and I played the heck out of Miner 49er. Though my taste in games has changed over the years, my gaming enthusiasm has not. I still enjoy sitting down to play a couple of hours each week or so (I’m currently trying to “collect them all” in Pokemon Diamond for my Nintendo DS). Playing games is a way for me to relax, but more importantly, helps me stay connected with what students, especially elementary age, are doing in their leisure time. So when I learned that a huge time conflict wouldn’t allow to me to attend the video game creation class, I was heart broken.

Until now!

Scratch Logo Scratch Cat

Thanks to the wonderfully resourceful Hope C.E. Primary School Blog, I was clued into what looks like a fantastic new program for creating your very own video games and other programs……for FREE! The Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT (such a great name!) has developed Scratch, a Logo-inspired program that allows any computer user (MAC or PC) to piece together their own video game using simple building blocks, in much the same way that a child would construct a LEGO building. Now, I’m sure it’s not as simple as placing one block on top of another, from from the screenshot above, it looks as thought it would be pretty simple to have students develop simplistic games and/or programs. From what I remember of my Logowriter days, telling the little turtle to draw a house or a car, and then animate it by constantly erasing the image and then shifting positions, was fairly easy. To think that students could have a way to program their very own games for reviewing classroom materials, practicing math facts, or creating their very own version of Oregon Trail has me hopping up and down with excitement.

I spent the better portion of the day just downloading the program (which I probably shouldn’t have done, seeing as we have limited bandwidth and all). I’m definitely going to play with it this summer, and see how easy it would be to use in the classroom. My guess is simple commands like having your character move forward 20 steps and play noises would be pretty simple, given the screenshot above. Thankfully there are plenty of resources for educators on how to use the program, including videos, tutorials, and more.

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12 Comments

  1. I’ve been waiting for Scratch to become available. I first heard of it last summer but it was still in limited beta. At the time I started messing around with Squeak and Star Logo TNG. My goal was to get my son (eight at the time) started programming.

    This summer I’m going to give Game Maker’s Apprentice a try. I’ll see if I can create my own games for teaching my curriculum. If I do it I’ll blog about it as I go.

  2. I would definitely love to follow an amatuer game developer’s blog; especially someone willing to do it for education. My guess is that most of these programs have quick and simple ways to put together practical games (much like Dreamweaver is for web design), but have a steep learning curve for developing more robust games.

  3. I’m loving Scratch, my 8 year old is really getting into it, and I think I would like to try G.M.A. over the summer. I think it would be cool to go through some of the learning curves with people who have the same purpose (education) in mind.

  4. Eric

    I want to make a shooting game that you fight in.

  5. A shooting game that you fight in. So in other words, an FPS type game where you can also drop your weapons and fight hand to hand? That would definitely be pretty cool, but I wonder how well a shooting game would go over in a school. Perhaps if you were shooting ghosts or aliens with make believe weapons.

  6. Tom Smith

    My son started using Multimedia Fusion 2 at Cyber Camps last summer and when I compare it to the other products it has a much more intuitive interface. While some 8 year olds might need a little extra help – a preteen or teenager will have no problems with it.

  7. Croquet will eventually be the 3D version of what Scratch does.
    http://www.croquetproject.org
    and more on its Croquet’s education aspects on Wikipedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croquet_Project

  8. Eric

    I used Scratch with a college class, and I agree with Tom Smith. Teaching regular ed 4th graders, would be difficult. I think it would be a great idea for a gifted class or older students.

  9. Connie

    This is a fun program to work with. I use it with 5th graders and 4th grade enrichment classes. I’d love to hear from other elementary educators that use it.

  10. Lindsay H.

    I was simply searching techsavvy.com and came across this posting. What a cool program! I have not been a gamer my whole life, but definitely remember Atari! I look forward to summer vacation when I can play around with this website. I am shocked that it is free! I currently teach 7th grade math. Many times when I speak with parents whose children are not performing the parents tell me that their child is “addicted” to video games. This may be the way to reach these students!

  11. Every one of your visitors ought to save this page.

  12. I used Scratch a long time ago. The world of games give me other doors to open, and diferent plataforms to explore.

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