Assigning Game Projects in Gamestar Mechanic


A few weeks ago, I was talking with one of the folks at Gamestar Mechanic, and she asked if I had begun using the “projects” element of the site (which teaches students about video game design and then allows them to build and publish their own video games). As it turns out, while I have a teacher account for my classroom activities, I regularly use a student account that I created, so that I can “see” what student see. So, I had not even know the project option was there.

Boy, am I glad it is. It’s a growing wealth of templated, adaptable projects that a teacher can assign their students, allowing a teacher to track progress, give feedback in updates, and keep the focus on a particular game idea. There are projects covering science and social studies, and basic and advanced game design. You can even create your own (which I have done here for my summer camp, where I want them to create a version of PacMan as an early assignment).

What’s nice, too, is that each project comes with a sizeable bank of characters and tools. This is important because students earn those tools and sprites as they play through the Quests. You start out with a minimum amount of tools. Using the projects allows students contained access to a nice range of options not otherwise available early in the gaming.

Peace (in the game),


A Collaborative Mix Tape


#clmooc #FF playlist from CollaboList on 8tracks Radio.

Our friend, Ian, turned the Making Learning Connected MOOC onto a music sharing site called 8Tracks, and then he generously set up an account that we could access for collaboration. The result is that a bunch of us are adding songs to the #CLMOOC #FF Mix-tape, which is a pretty neat idea. I started off adding a song that captured the summer (Get Lucky by Daft Punk) but then, thinking of this community, began to add song about writing to the mix.

Peace (in the mix),


Collaboratively Color Coding a Credo

Colored Coded Credo

Last week, we worked on credos and belief systems in the Making Learning Connected MOOC. I used podcasting and Voicethread for my credo, opening it up for input and reaction from others. But I noticed that Chad Sansing had done some interesting things around color-coding credos with the principles of Connected Learning. I decided to follow his lead and a site called Prism (or “Good Guy” Prism, as Chad referred to it, given the name recognition these days with Snowden and NSA).

The site is a coding site, allowing you to set up a system of coding text, and then opening it up to others. Honestly, I am still figuring it out, but I put the text of my Credo into the site and worked on some coding, and now, I am opening it up to you to do the same. The results of this kind of collaboration will comeĀ  clearer as more folks dive in.

Please visit my Credo and add some color. (You will need to sign up, I believe).


Peace (in the colors),



Collecting Video Vines Together


I know this is probably obvious to others, but I discovered that all of the short Vine videos I had been making as part of the Making Learning Connected MOOC were not just online at Vine, but also were sitting as files in my Video folder on my iPad. So, I took them, popped them into the iMovie App, and created a larger (which is relative, given the size of Vine videos) video collection. It’s kind of odd to see them all together, though.

Peace (on the vine),

Book Review: You

Novels about video games often run the risk of being too immersed in the gaming culture to establish a solid story, or they go the other way and become so little about the game that the story never connects.

Austin Grossman’s novel, You, mostly avoids those pitfalls as he weaves a story of a game design company with an interesting backstory. The narrator, a childhood acquaintance of the founders of Black Arts gaming, has come back for a job as a game designer after failed attempts to find a foothold in life. The company is on the edge of ruin, taken over by a investor looking for quick profits, and the company’s glory days are far behind it now, with the death of one its visionary programmers and the exodus of a senior partner.

Oh, and a nasty bug is loose in the game worlds, and it may very well destroy the virtual universe created by the company. Also, through some crafty programming and marketing that led the company to build software for e-trading, the bug may very well precipitate a financial Black Monday on Wall Street, too. These plot points move the book along, and Grossman’s experience in the game design field is evident. But is the human stories told here, of various characters asĀ  the narrator, Russell, remembers what it was like to be part of this group of young outcast high school Dreamers who wanted to change the world, and saw their chance with video game design.

There were some scenes when I started to lose the thread, particularly when Russell gets visited by the four archetypes of heroes from the games he is playing (in order to find the bug, which creates sword that destroys everything) and designing (Russell is the lead designer for a new game). But mostly, Grossman keeps the story moving forward, and the enigma of Simon, a character who has died but whose legacy infects everything in the company, the game and the book (including the creation of the bug) is intriguing, and I wish there were more about him. But maybe Simon as a mystery is part of what drives the narrative here.

You works as a novel, and a primer on the inside of a game design company.

Peace (in the pages),


Making Avatars in a Webcomic Classroom

Holyoke WorkshopComicClassroom
In the summer workshop for high school English Language Learners, we’ve been talking a lot about digital literacy and online identity, particularly about avatars. This concept of representing oneself will come back around as we move into video game design, too, and yesterday, after viewing a fascinating New York Times slideshow that features portraits of people and their avatars, I brought our students up into Bitstrips for Schools.

One of the first tasks in Bitstrips is to create an avatar for use in the site, so it ties in perfectly to what we had been discussing. And the webcomic space is very user-friendly, even for struggling writers. Today, I will give them an overview around how to create a comic in Bitstrips. But as they were working on their avatars, I kept refreshing the homepage of the site, showing how their representations of themselves were populating the “classroom.” They got a kick of that, shouting out to refresh the page.

Take a look at the class picture and you get a sense of the students I am working with this summer. (A few students were absent or are still working, which is why there are some blank spaces).

Peace (in the comic),

The MOOC Meme Collaboration

For the past few weeks (more in past weeks than in recent weeks), fellow explorers in the Making Learning Connected MOOC have been making memes about what we are doing. Here is the full collection (so far), created in Google Drive as an example of collaboration:

Peace (in the meme),

Game Design: the Good and the Bad

In the digital literacies workshop I am co-leading for English Language Learner high school students this summer, one of the focus areas and an overall thread will be game design. Yesterday, in our first real meeting with students, we led a discussion around what makes a game fun to play and what makes a game boring to play. As I have done with other groups in the past, I took their ideas and put them into a word cloud.

The good:

The bad:

It might be interesting to dig up the other word clouds from other groups of kids, and compare some of the themes of ideas.

Peace (in the thoughts),


Hacking Tic Tac Toe into Tic Tac KaBoom

Today, in a workshop that I am leading for high school students, I am going to walk through some basic elements of game design, which will lead to an activity around hacking the game of chess. First, though, we’re going to simpify things by reworking the classic game of Tic Tac Toe as a way to demonstrate how adding elements to the system of the game add to the complexity of the playing of the game. I’m going to share the hacked version of the game that I developed, with advice from my 8 year old son, called Tic Tac KaBoom.

Here is what it looks like:

Tic Tac KaBoom by KevinHodgson

Peace (in the hack),