Games Creation Made Easy

scratchI just bought an HD video camera from Big W for $148. Thank God the Flip phenomena of cheap flash card video cameras has finally crossed the Pacific from the US. Mine came directly from China, another brand variant but no doubt there will be others and the price point will continue to drop.

The ubiquity of cheap video cameras (Flips and webcams alike) is helping to fuel the explosion of online video content and some of the best material is being made by kids. While filmmaking is becoming just another skill in the communications arsenal, it doesn’t seem that games have got there yet. While games are being played more widely and on more platforms,  user created games haven’t yet taken off in a big way. But I think it’s only a matter of time before the educational value of making games reinvigorates the mathematics curriculum. Well, we can only hope.

This month’s ACM Communications journal profiles a tool that has been created at MIT to makes games creation more accessible. It’s called Scratch and it is certainly intuitive. The free software (Mac and Windows) can be downloaded and used to create simple 2D games using a modular, lego-brick-type programming interface. The complexity of computer programming languages has traditionally been a big barrier to entry for people who just want to create games. Scratch is designed to be used in the classroom and has the ability to incorporate customised artwork and the creators claim it works because it is   ‘tinkerable’, ‘sociable’ and ‘meaningful’. The ability to publish games on the web and interact with an online community of users is obviously an important part of the educational experience.  15% of Scratch games are remixes and there is a Creative Commons attribution system designed to encourage this. It’s worth checking out the games remembering that many are the first explorations of school kids creating interactive media. If you’re after a bit more complex content you might want to move up to Game Salad. The drag and drop games creation tool now offers a $99 pathway to iphone application development and there are already a lot of these games available at the App Store. I can’t wait to see these tools being integrated into creative education programs and I’m beginning to work up a few ideas of my own. Also announced this week, free downloads of Unity 3D and the Unreal engine available. With all these options there’s no excuses anymore. Let’s make games!


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