Games and Learning/Topics/Case Studies/Gamestar

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Gamestar Mechanic empowers kids to have fun while they explore their passion for games and game design. In addition to being a fun game, Gamestar Mechanic was also designed as a learning platform to foster the development of 21st Century skills while teaching the principles of game design. To learn more about using Gamestar in your class or after school program, please check out the For Teachers section of our website.

Designed by the institute of play, Gamestar mechanic is used as part of the curriculum at quest 2 learn.



Salen, K. ( 2007 ), 'Gaming literacies: A game design study in action', Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia 16 (3 ) , 301-322. /

Educators and education advocates have recently acknowledged that the ability to think systemically is one of the necessary skills for success in the 21st century. Game-making is especially well-suited to encouraging meta-level reflection on the skills and processes that designer-players use in building such systems. Membership in a community of game producers means sharing thoughts and experiences with fellow players. This ability to gain fluency in specialist language and to translate thinking and talking about games into making and critiquing them (and vice versa) suggests that games not only teach literacy skills but support their ongoing use. Rather than imagining that education can be transformed by bringing games into the classroom, researchers should consider not only the effects of the thinking engendered by those who play, but also by those who design the play. This paper offers an overview of the pedagogy and development process of Gamestar Mechanic, an RPG-style online game designed to teach players the fundamentals of game design. It will discuss some of the early results of the project, with an emphasis on the conceptual framework guiding the work, as well as the kinds of literacies and knowledge structures it is intended to support.

Torres, R. J. (2009), 'Using Gamestar Mechanic Within a Nodal Learning Ecology to Learn Systems Thinking: A Worked Example', International Journal of Learning and Media 1 (2).

We are currently witnessing a foregrounding of complexity as one of the defining characteristics of our new century. Stephen Hawking 2000 has said that we are living in the era of complexity and that complexity itself will form the science of the 21st century. Similarly, Heinz Pagel 1988 has written that those who master this science will form the economic, political, and cultural superpowers of this new century Rambihar and Rambihar 2009. That we are living in a global era of vastly complex economic, political, and technological change may be in part why “complex” or “systems thinking” has been identified in many a current list as a critical 21st-century skill. Though research has shown that systems thinking is a seemingly difficult skill to attain Sweeney and Sterman 2007, in recent years game scholars Gee 2007; Salen 2007; Zimmerman 2007 and science and engineering organizations Federation of American Scientists 2006 have claimed that video game play and game design may be useful means through which to develop this essential skill. I present here a “worked example” taken from a game design research study conducted in the spring of 2008 using Gamestar Mechanic, an online game intended to help middle and high school students develop basic game design skills. Game design and systems thinking skills, in this study conceptualized as dialogic in nature, were regarded as having the potential to guide learners to understand the dynamic complexity of systems of various types. The overall study focused on testing the viability of Gamestar Mechanic and the learning ecology it instantiated to improve participants’ systems thinking skills. A principal research question that guided the study was: Does a learning ecology generated and mediated by the game design software Gamestar Mechanic improve participants' ability to engage in systems thinking? A second question concerned the question of how: How did participants come to develop systems thinking skills? The worked example is made up of a set of artifacts created by one participant, Tania. The artifacts are examples of work generated as a result of designing games within Gamestar Mechanic.

Games, I. A. (2010), 'Gamestar Mechanic: learning a designer mindset through communicational competence with the language of games', Learning, Media and Technology 35 (1), 31-52.

This article presents the results of a three-year study of Gamestar Mechanic, a flash-based multiplayer online role-playing game developed for the MacArthur Foundation's digital media learning initiative by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Gamelab in New York. The game's objective is to help children adopt a designer mindset, together with its associated forms of language and literacy in the context of computer game production. Using case studies and discourse analysis, this article examines the ways in which learning 'the language of games' provided by Gamestar Mechanic can help even young students learn thinking skills and communication important to learners in the twenty-first century, and can help transform the way children understand the games they play in positive ways.