Common Sense Review
Updated July 2014

GameMaker: Studio

One of the best creation tools available for aspiring game developers
Common Sense Rating 5
  • Downloading and following tutorials is easy.
  • Tutorials provide step-by-step directions.
  • The first game tutorial features a bouncing clown.
  • Provides examples of online games students can explore and draw inspiration from.
Offers an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface for novices; powerful scripting for pros.
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.
Mark Chen
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 5
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

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? 5

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? 5

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.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

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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What's It Like?

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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Is It Good For Learning?

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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See how teachers are using GameMaker: Studio

Lesson Plans