Review by Mark Chen, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2014

GameMaker: Studio

One of the best creation tools available for aspiring game developers

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Arts

Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
5-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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Pros: Offers an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface for novices; powerful scripting for pros.

Cons: Basic version creates games for Windows or MacOS, not independent Web-based games.

Bottom Line: Provides teachers with the best possible choice for a full unit or class on game design, and gives students a tool that can get them well on their way to realizing their game-making dreams.

GameMaker: Studio is a great choice for a unit on game design. Faster game-making tools (like Flowlab or Sploder) are available for teachers who want to do just one or two lessons on game design, but after a few hours, both teachers and students would likely become pretty frustrated with how limited those tools are. One option would be to use Sploder for an introductory lesson and then transition into GameMaker: Studio. Alternatively, teachers may want students to first create tabletop games to start thinking about game objects and mechanics before immersing them in the digital realm with GameMaker: Studio.

 

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GameMaker: Studio is the real deal; its drag-and-drop programming system allows new designers to jump right in. When they want access to more flexible or nuanced behavior for game objects, these would-be designers can switch over to the built-in scripting language. An additional program may be necessary to create art assets, but GameMaker also includes a basic sprite editor.

Working with GameMaker: Studio is easy; its user interface for game creation is consistent and clear. Making a game is a straightforward process of assembling all the game pieces into a common library, shown through an expandable hierarchy tree, and then setting up various “objects” using those art or sound pieces. This is followed by adding different behaviors to the objects (such as what to do when a player pushes the left arrow key or when one object collides with another), creating a new “room,” and placing the objects in the room.

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Learning the creation process is easy since GameMaker includes a series of step-by-step tutorial projects. These have a logical flow to them and could easily be used to scaffold students into game design. Aspiring game designers can supplement these tutorials by watching a good pool of amazingly well-done third-party YouTube videos. Both resources also introduce students to basic concepts of game design that will work even outside GameMaker.

Additionally, GameMaker: Studio is one of the most popular game-creation tools, meaning it comes with active support forums and numerous opportunities to participate in a learning community that extends outside the classroom. Its community has grown significantly in the last few years, partly due to being available on the digital-distribution site Steam. Through Steam, designers have an easy way to share their games and access other people’s games, as well as an alternative support community to participate in.

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Overall Rating

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

Has a consistent quality control and organization scheme for the creation, placement, and manipulation of game objects and their behaviors that makes getting into a good workflow easy.

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

Provides new users with a set of optional built-in tutorials and -- even better -- a robust online community that offers easy-to-follow learning videos. Students gain skills with real-world applicability.

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

GameMaker: Studio is well-documented and has one of the largest online communities for a game-making tool. The Steam version lets users play and share games quite easily.


Common Sense Reviewer
Mark Chen Researcher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Susan R. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Lebanon High School
Lebanon, NH
Wow, holy gamemaking with Gamemaker Studio

Gamemaker Studio is an excellent tool to use for programming once students have moved past basics of Code and Kahn Academy, Scratch, or other basic programming tools. What's unique and wonderful about Gamemaker Studio is games can be designed at many different levels, and, that the action block programming can be used or GML (integrated scripting language) hand-coding to really tweak your games.

Gamemaker meets the level of the student and provides the opportunity for students to challenge themselves and think at a higher level in terms of programming and design because with Gamemaker Studio the possibilities are near endless. It is a creativity creator and the creation is limited only by the limits of the imagination.

The Official YoYo Games website will provide users with the basics for learning to use Gamemaker Studio as well as many game ideas. However, there is an abundance of tutorials online along with several channels that provide video series tutorials that walk users through the basics of getting started with Gamemaker Studio and setting up requirements in your game .

As with all classroom programming curriculum, teacher established requirements and criteria for the finished product are necessary. Students must think through how they will meet those requirements and criteria and what they will create to do so.

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