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 Apps

GamePress

GamePress

GamePress is a brilliant free app that allows students to build games easily on the iPad with no programming or graphic design experience. Whether you have a story to tell, a topic to teach, or just want to play a game, GamePress allows you to create, share, and play right on your iPad. For users who are new to making games, an interactive guide will help you make your first game in minutes!

Codea

codea

Codea is the perfect app for more advanced students. Built on the Lua programming language, Codea allows students to dig deeper than just graphics on the screen and actually venture into the app code. Making use of iPad features like Multi-Touch and the accelerometer there are so many great ways to make games more engaging. Although nearly anything is possible with the app, take a look at one of the most successful games created with Codea, ‘programming game’ Cargo-Bot.

BuildBox

Buildbox is an intuitive easy-to-use game system that is loved by beginners and experts alike. You can use the included templates, or go on your own to build one from scratch. With assets available for both 2D and 3D games, you’ll have the tools available to make your idea come to life.

One of the great things about BuildBox is the wide range of getting started tutorials. They not only help with game design but also with tips on exporting to Android and iOS so you can share and play your game creations with others. They’ve also created a series for complete newbies here.

Design Your Own Game Sites

Factile

factile jeopardy style game

With Factile, teachers and students can create Jeopardy-style quiz games within minutes. Have fun reviewing lessons in four game modes; engage students with Jeopardy-style, classic memory, flashcards, or multiple-choice games. Create custom games or create games from the over million already-created games in the game library.

The Buzz-in feature makes the games ideal for flipped classrooms, remote learning, or in-classroom experiences. Pro Buzzer mode has a game board with fun interactive buzzer sound effects, perfect for a game show experience. Students buzz in from home using their tablets, phones, computers or play on-screen in the classroom. They can play any game, not just the games they created. Fractile integrates with Google Classroom, making it easy for teachers to assign team review games or share flashcards for individual study games.

However, if you want to save your favorite games in progress, the pro version for home or school is not expensive and offers many features. The free account allows students to share their game, has multi-language (English, Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Italian, and Arabic) support, and kids can create up to three custom games. Plus, you can create an unlimited number of games and have 100 teams. 

Roblox Studio

roblox studio

Create amazing games on Roblox Studio, a 3D video game development platform. One of the fastest-growing kids’ entertainment platforms, Roblox offers lots of games to play and the opportunity to create new games with Roblox Studio’s Developer Hub. Intuitive to use, kids quickly become game developers themselves. Over half of Roblox users are kids. They love it because it’s free, has an ever-expanding library, and it is easy for amateur game designers to create their games.

Roblox Studio Developer Hub allows kids to create and test their game in an isolated environment, ready the game publisher for the Roblox website.

With over 50 million monthly players, a novice can make a game public to an interactive, global ecosystem. The Robux community encourages and supports the game design and the development of new, popular games. The Developer Hub offers lots of resources and Gameplay tutorials for beginners, and there’s no stopping creativity and imagination from going deeper. There’s even the opportunity for kids over 13 to earn money as game design and developers, an excellent way to explore a possible career.  

Roblox is free to play. However, for additional accessories and features, you need Robux currency. A team of 2,3000 people plus AI help monitor the games to keep them safe for kids. Parental controls, restricting voice chats to approved friends, and birth dates under 13 will filter inappropriate content.

GDevelop

gdevelop

Budding game designers will love GDevelop, an open-source 2D game engine. Created by Florain Rival, GDevelop is intuitive and fast. Kids don’t need any previous experience to create fun games without coding. By extending the open-source engine, students can learn and use the C+ programming language in the classroom.

Visual programming is easy and fun. Add ready-made behaviors to game objects when creating a simple platform or an ambitious indie game. Curious adventurers can write new, custom behaviors with the drag-drop system and logic; actions require fulfilling conditions to launch.

The GDevelop editor has the game scene in the middle, the Objects Editor with building blocks to the right, and the Project Manager with the assets and scenes to the left. Without programming, a child can develop levels and add events to their game; beginner tutorials and complete documentation for software provide help in all areas.

Create mobile apps that are compatible with tablets, iOS, and Android. Features include a physics engine, multi-touch support, path-finding, hit-boxes, multiple layers, cameras, tiled maps, and multi-language support. Create games within the browser and publish your game anywhere with one click – on the web, Steam, Itch.io, Newsground, Windows Store, and Facebook.

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.

More Game Websites and Apps To Explore

  • RPG Makercreates RPG stories with its Map Editor and Character Generator. The database and events features setting the character skills and appearance, defining equipment, enemies, battle states, and changing the game settings between turn-based and time progress battle systems. 
  • Flolab.io game engine allows kids to create favorite games and apps without coding experience.  
  • Google Maps Platformbuilds games on Google Maps infrastructure taking players to real-world locations. 
  • Game Builder Garagehelps kids understand the basics of visual programming. Each lesson has multiple parts for kids to learn at their pace. 
  • Kudo began as an AI-Fueled Dungeon game. It is a Microsoft Research project using the XBox controller within predefined rules and interactions to create imaginative games for XBox. 
  • Gamefroot makes coding fun, fast tracking the art of video game creation. Solve real industry problems while learning creative coding, design thinking, and publishing games developed.
  • Gethopscotch help kids build critical thinking, logic, and problem-solving skills while developing games for on iPhone and iPad. 

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.

15 Comments

  1. 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…

  2. 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

  3. 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.

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

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

      2. 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 :)

    2. 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.

  5. I have used Sploder.com for a number of years and my upper primary students have loved it. The problem is that Adobe Flash was retired in December 2020, so I can no longer login or use the website. I was surprised to see it in a current list of suggested game making sites on an article that was updated in August 2021. Laura, is there are way you are still able to use Sploder?

    1. Thanks for catching that! You definitely don’t want to use Flash for any reason at this date! We added on to the article in 2021 and when editing didn’t actually go beyond checking that the mentioned sites were still up on the web and operational. It’s been corrected and a new contender added in its place.

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