Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2018
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The Infinite Arcade by Tinybop

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Simple game-design app has endless creative potential

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science

Skills
  • Creativity
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
2–6
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Pros: Students get to learn the design process by testing games, making improvements, and sharing with others.

Cons: Without in-app game-making hints, students will spend a lot of time going back and forth between the manual and design screen.

Bottom Line: Letting students design, play, improve, and share their own games opens up opportunities for learning potential in many subject areas.

One possible use of The Infinite Arcade by Tinybop would be during flexible periods of the school day when kids can explore individual passions. Beyond that, however, this tool lends itself to using game design to teach across curricular areas. Within the context of science, the app is a natural fit for the Next Generation Science Standards performance expectations for engineering practices, such as optimizing design solutions. In ELA, students can design a game and then demonstrate expository or technical writing skills by writing instructions or explaining the purpose of the game. Or have students use the Tabula Rasa mode to create games based on fictional elements; for instance, students can demonstrate their understanding of plot structure by creating a game that exemplifies it. In social studies, students can enhance their understanding of geographical concepts and how civilizations form by creating a game that explores the impacts of different terrain options and unforeseen obstacles on their characters. In math, students can play each other's games several times and determine average time to completion, or teach perimeter and surface area by having students add polygons with specific dimensions into their game boards. In any subject area, promote writing and collaboration by letting students play each other's games, giving written feedback to help their peers improve upon their design.

Tinybop participates in Apps for Impact, which gives free apps to teachers in Title 1 schools and underserved communities. More information on this is available under the Parents & Teachers menu.

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Kids and adults alike will enjoy using The Infinite Arcade's tap, drag, and drop features to design, play, and share their own games. Begin by selecting a game type such as pinball, ball and paddle, platformer, or maze, or start with a blank world to create your own. From there, determine how many lives characters get to battle villains, collect gems, and overcome obstacles in order to reach the desired goal, be it entering a victory portal, gathering all the collectibles, killing all the enemies, or simply staying alive. When characters or the ball runs out of lives/turns, the player loses. 

Design options abound with opportunities to create obstacles, add hints, build or modify structures, customize text bubbles, and more. Although the design process is fairly intuitive, students should expect a fair amount of trial and error to get their games to work the way they want. The ease with which students can test games and then go back to edit is one of the app's strengths, and while in-app hints are limited, users can access the multilingual instruction manual for guidance.

Kids can be game engineers. But, more than a game, The Infinite Arcade by Tinybop is a powerful learning tool because students define problems, develop possible solutions, test their game, and then come back to make improvements. Each student learns decision-making skills and is empowered by a large variety of choices as they build and manage their own collection of games. Teachers can leverage student engagement by providing learning opportunities that enable students to pose challenges, tell stories, and bring concepts to life. Students will need careful oversight and guidance, though. It's easy to get off on a tangent and create a game without much thought at all. However, with accountability and formative feedback from peers and teachers along the way, students can learn and teach classroom content with The Infinite Arcade's fun, unique platform.

Students can hand their device off to a classmate or generate a link to share and play each other's games. Since users can create their own messages to let players know they've won or lost, students might need a reminder that being a good sport is important online, too, and that positive win/loss messages are best.

Overall Rating

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

Kids can get creative and build exactly the game they want to play, and teachers have tons of options for connecting games to subject area content.

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

By using part of the engineering process, kids learn how to optimize solutions to problems. Careful planning and teacher guidance can make this a powerful tool for game-based learning across the curriculum.

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

Twenty-one languages are available, from English to Uzbek. The in-app instruction manual is simple and straightforward, with clearly labeled images.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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