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Review by Megan Leppla, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2014

Pixel Press Floors

Ingenious game-creation tool translates kids' paper-and-pencil designs

Subjects & skills

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (4 Reviews)

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Pros: Creating video games from your own drawings lowers barriers and opens game design to more students.

Cons: Students with little gaming experience might find it challenging to get started.

Bottom Line: An excellent resource for practicing design and engineering skills, and a great way to encourage gamers to dig deeper.

Teachers can use Pixel Press Floors to teach basic design concepts. By drawing predefined shapes (or “glyphs,” as they’re called in the app), students create blueprints for their game that can be tested, designed, played, and shared with a global community in the arcade. If individual devices aren't available, multiple accounts can sign in to one device. Students can take turns creating their own games and challenge one another to their game creations. Teachers may want to get specific with assigning games as homework, but it’s most likely that Pixel Press Floors is best suited for self-directed learning. For those students who are always eager to play games in class, this is a great resource to get them thinking about the work that goes into making those games.

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Editor's Note: As of January 1, 2017, Pixel Press Floors is no longer available for download. However, the developer is continuing to support Bloxels.

Pixel Press Floors gives students the tools to create and customize their own video games -- bringing their ideas to life and allowing them to share their creations with a global community. Not feeling up for the task of creating a game from scratch? The arcade is full of games from other kids. Getting started is as simple as drawing out ideas with pencil and paper. Students can draw their ideas for a game, take a photo, and upload that to their levels. Students will need to play by the rules (stay on the lines, use a ruler, and use existing "glyph" language), but it's still pretty incredible how customizable the experience can be while staying within these parameters. Plus, the connection between analog and digital makes creating your own game feel pretty magical. Students are encouraged to test out their game and iterate on their design before sharing it with other gamers in the arcade.

Although the app doesn't lump itself into the education category, there are plenty of opportunities for learning. Students quickly find that there's a lot to consider when laying out floors, distributing points, and building lava pits. They have to ask questions and make predictions as they draw out the game blueprints. After uploading the drawing, they can test the game, see what works and what doesn't, then make revisions for the next version. By creating their own problems to solve, kids will learn a lot along the way. How-to videos provide context for students to get started, but they may get frustrated before they can find them.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Seeing your drawing become a living video game feels like magic. Once kids figure out the glyphs, they'll be hooked.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The emphasis on iteration and access to solid creation tools make learning basic design and engineering skills fun.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

How-to videos are helpful for getting started, but some students may have trouble finding them.

Teacher Reviews

(See all 4 reviews) (4 reviews)
Featured review by
Adam G. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Jefferson Elementary School
Jefferson Hills, PA
Great potential with some room for improvements. Kids love it!
I absolutely enjoyed using this app and would highly recommend it to other teachers. The ability to send work home with students for technology use without technology was awesome! Many of my students went home and came back the next day with finished designs! In fact, the students that were engaged to this degree were not usually the ones that I typically find most studious! So, in terms of student interest and engagement, I would rate this app a 10. The only real issues that we have had were in the capture of the paper image. As I previously mentioned, the contrast issue in the grid seems like a simple fix for Pixel Press. I would also hope that they can refine the capture quality so that there would be less erroneous marks in the captured image in the future. Aside from the ability to send the papers home with students, the app also has the option of posting the levels to an online database of user-created levels. This is very exciting for the students and adds a nice element to the project since the students can post their levels online and play them from another device at home. The app helps students develop the basic understandings of computer programming in that it shows students how a code is translated to something with meaning by a computer. My students were able to quickly adapt to the app and often times had a working video game level within 10 to 15 minutes. The only other difficulty that I ran into was adaptability. There are some ways that this app and activity can be modified for special needs students such as skipping the drawing portion and going straight to the iPad. It is possible to design the whole level without the paper drawing element. For some students who are unable to neatly draw their design, this is a better option. I also had some students questioning why they could not simply go straight to the iPads as well. Of course, I wanted them to understand the traditional media to digital media transition. However, given the problems that we had with the app interpreting grid lines as design lines, I began to question this precise idea as well. If the software could be improved upon, it would be much easier to draw first, but at this point it is a toss up. Aside from this, my special needs students still struggled due to the small size and the tedious nature of the design process. It would be helpful if there was some way of making this more manageable for them. Some may argue that this is not art, but I would argue that weaving is not art either, it is craft. So, rather than teaching an outdated form of craft, I am choosing to teach a modern, technological craft that implements design and creativity. For this purpose, the Floors app is a terrific addition to my curriculum and I will continue to use it in the future to teach about computer programming and video game design.
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