Game-Making in a Fourth Grade Art Classroom Using Gamestar Mechanic

Game-Making in a Fourth Grade Art Classroom Using Gamestar Mechanic

Michelle Aubrecht (Ohio State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2848-9.ch014


Making a game can be a creative act for students—much like writing a novel, making artwork, or designing a science experiment, it is a way to “play” with ideas. Game making is a creative and iterative process, and it may help students develop the ability to think non-linearly, create and understand systems, and hone such 21st century skills as critical and analytical thinking skills, while allowing deeper explorations of social issues that afford avenues for storytelling, allowing both game players and game makers to engage in meaning-making experiences. In the art classroom, students can explore design considerations, such as color, shape, balance, composition, rhythm, and meaning making. Game making is an iterative, multi-disciplinary mode of self-expression and communication, and it is a demonstrable example of student learning.
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The computer is the new tool, the new medium which links the concept of information and art together.... Due to the computer's complexity and its capability of being used for such diverse possibilities, it is a tool and a medium with its own built-in agenda. Electronic tools have a hidden point of view far more complex than that built into a brush, printing press, or a camera (Lovejoy, 1992, p. 139, 142, as cited in Rogers, 1995, p. 17).

This chapter discusses how this researcher used the free, online video game Gamestar Mechanic ( in an elementary art classroom and supported the art teacher in learning how to use this tool. Through this professional development experience (done as part of graduate research), the art teacher learned how to use Gamestar Mechanic and how game design and art can be integrated. Players (fourth-grade students in a low-income, urban school) learned basic game design principles and how to design games by playing and fixing them. Students can use Gamestar Mechanic to make their own games, post them online, receive feedback from classmates, teachers, and other players, and then revise and repost. Because game making is an iterative process, it is like the scientific method of stating a hypothesis, creating an experiment, testing, reworking, and retesting. It is also the method used by professional game designers.

Students spent time making a comic strip prior to using Gamestar Mechanic. Each student made a three-panel comic that functioned as a storyboard, helping them grasp the concept of avatar, obstacle, and goal. This experience gave both the researcher and the teacher feedback allowing for formative assessment so that future lessons could be redesigned. An alternative practice that could enhance lessons and learning outside the art classroom might occur if teachers collaborated in using Gamestar Mechanic to support learning math, science, reading, writing, spelling, and story composition.

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