5 Brilliant ‘Design Your Own Game’ Websites for Students

Laura is a writer and recent Cambridge graduate with particular experience in the area of education technology. She has worked with a variety of different education companies and is active in the 'edtech' community on Twitter, so she prides herself on always being in touch with the latest developments and exciting new tools in e-learning.

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the use of gaming in the classroom – from the ‘gamification’ of learning to the use of Minecraft to teach everything from physics to strategic thinking.  Since long before education technology even existed, video games have been a hugely successful way to engage students, creating a fun and compelling environment in which they can learn, develop and interact with their peers. But allowing students to actually take control of designing the game themselves takes the concept to a whole new level, allowing them to practice a host of new creative and technical skills. Here are 5 top websites – let the games begin!

 

Design Your Own Game

1. Sploder!

Design Your Own Game - Sploder

This brilliant website allows students a vast range of options. Without having to understand coding, they are able to use simple command tools to create intricate games of all kinds, from arcade to platform games, space adventures to physics puzzles. Easy to use and incredibly user-friendly, it puts students in charge of every detail from the ground up. Students can unleash their creative side with a personalised graphics editor, letting them truly customize their creations before they embed them in a website or share them with friends.

 

2. Draw 4 Play

Design Your Own Game - Draw 4 Play

Ideal for younger students, this game allows the player to create their own pathway for a stick man hero by spray painting a route for him onto the game board. They then take control of the character to guide him along the path they have created. As levels progress, students have to learn to use new tools, like an eraser that deletes obstacles instead of creating them.

 

3. Isoball 3

Design Your Own Game - Isoball

Great for learning about kinetics, this physics game requires students to create the landscape of their own game using blocks and ramps to guide a rolling ball in the right direction. Forces and momentum are key topics and the learning intensifies as the levels get harder and harder.

 

4. Jacksmith

Design Your Own Game - Jacksmith

The ingenious and funny storyline of this game is great for younger students wanting to get in the driving seat but not yet advanced enough to create an entire game from scratch. The game follows the story of a poor blacksmith trying to defeat tyrannous overlords and rescue a princess. In order to do so, the player has to help him forge weapons for the battle. The player controls every aspect of the forging process, from heating the metal to pouring it into the mould to hammering the edges of the sword, requiring a host of commands, steady hand tests and processes to remember. The game is in cartoon form, so the weapons aren’t too scary!

 

5. Purpose Games

Design Your Own Game - Purpose Games

Specially designed with students in mind, this site allows them to design more academic games, like multiple-choice quizzes, head-to-head ‘knowledge battles’ or map-based geography games. Great for allowing students to design their own fun games to check their knowledge at the end of learning about a particular topic.

 

What ‘design your own game’ sites or tools are you using to encourage students to get creative in gaming? And do you think these are worthwhile skills for students to learn? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, JD Hancock.

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  • http://twitter.com/jennEDVT Jennifer Baudreau

    I recently discovered Gamestar Mechanic and have been using it in one of my classes. (http://gamestarmechanic.com/). It’s a great platform for middle-school aged kids (but could also be used for older or younger), and there are very well-designed “quests” that teach students both how to use the platform AND the elements of strong game design. (There are similar quests for teachers as well…) Plus there are various badges that students can earn. Can’t say enough good things about it…

    • FractusLearning

      Thanks for the tip Jennifer. Looks great!

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  • Jeffrey Earp

    Great plug for game making Laura. In the MAGICAL European project we’ve created a library of digital environments for learners’ game making. This lists over 50 different game making tools that you can try out and use for learning, teaching and research. You can join the community of library users free of charge, rate and comment on any of the listed tools, share game-making experiences and add a new tool to the library catalogue. To find out more about our work in collaborative game making for learning, come and visit us at the MAGICAL website or mail us at magical itd.cnr.it. We’d love to hear from you. Keep up the good work. Cheers, Jeffrey

    • FractusLearning

      Thanks Jeffrey. Appreciate the kind words.

  • http://twitter.com/merylvdm Meryl van der Merwe

    I have been teaching students to design games using programming languages like Scratch and Alice (see my page reviewing those languages at http://www.squidoo.com/teach-computer-programming) but these game sites look like a great pre-cursor to teaching actual programming. I will definitely be trying out all 5 of these as well as the one Jennifer has mentioned in the comments. I find that modern kids and teens learn much better in the environment they love ie online! And of course most love gaming so it is an ideal way to get them learning.

    • FractusLearning

      Brilliant Meryl. Glad there are some good actionable tips for you. Do let us know how you get on!

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  • wyatte

    Hi folks. Two questions while we’re on the subject.

    1. How you see the distinction between games and exercises? Does it matter to you? (Purpose Games above is an interesting case in point)

    2. Depending on your angle, Isoball and Jacksmith could be seen as games or as game making tools. How do you see them?

    I’m really interested to know how the community views games and game making so your opinions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • FractusLearning

      Thanks for the comment Wyatte and good conversation starter :)

      1. To me, the distinction between games and exercises lies in whether the site/tool/lesson/etc. exhibits elements of gamification (the use of game thinking and game mechanics). A game should have an ulterior motive outside of just learning (ie. get a badge, progress to the net level, etc.)

      2. I see both of these sites as ‘games’ that help students understand game design and mechanics. They are a great first step to spark a passion for programming or coding, and trigger a creative mindset where playing games is more about creation than consumption.

      Thanks again for the comment. Nick.

      • wyatte

        Thanks for the reply Nick.
        Question 1: if it’s using badges for rewards that makes the difference then a drill&kill-style infotainment application may also fall in the games category, right? The reason I ask (a bit sceptically you’ll gather) is that back in the world of what used to be called educational software, behaviourist stuff came to be considered old hat. Nowadays with the GBL boom it seems anything goes so long as it has the tag #game and preferably #app as well. But maybe folks are quite happy with that.
        My own feeling is that to really enrich learning with the motivational and engagement potential of GBL, there needs to be a high level of what you’ve called game thinking and game mechanics embedded in the application/activity. A question of degree (and quality) perhaps.

        Question 2: I’d say games too and I totally agree with you that sparking a creative rather than a passive mindset is vital.

        Anyone else care to comment?

        • FractusLearning

          Yes. Agree completely. I would say that it needs to be seen as a spectrum rather than simply a ‘game or not’. Great insights and look forward to seeing some other opinions on the topic :)

    • Jeffrey Earp

      Q1. See what you mean about Purpose Games – basically templates for making pairing exercises played game style against the clock with a scoreboard. Interesting thing here is getting kids to make the activities for other kids, helping them to learn. Also useful for consolidating their own content knowledge and that’s not necessarily the case with making games.

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