Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2018

GameMaker Studio 2

One of the best creation tools available for aspiring game developers

Subjects & skills
  • Arts

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • 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: Offers an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface for novices; powerful scripting for pros.

Cons: Free version doesn't allow the creation of any executables; learning curve for novices is pretty steep.

Bottom Line: Provides teachers with the best choice for a full unit or class on game design, and gives students a tool to help them realize their game-making dreams.

GameMaker Studio 2 is a great choice for an in-depth unit or entire course on game design. Other game-making lessons from or Scratch can see faster results on the basics, but after a few hours, teachers and students who are looking for a game-making environment with substance will want more. To get students started, have them think about their favorite video games and what kinds of objects and mechanics they involve. Break the games down into components, and discuss how each of those components needs to be controlled separately by the background code. Then, start with GameMaker Studio 2's tutorials and demo projects, teaching students how the game development environment is set up. Advanced students can then go on to design their own games for the class, or even for sale in the Marketplace.

GameMaker Studio 2 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 beyond the classroom. Its community is active and extensive, partly due to being available on the digital distribution site Steam. Through Steam, student 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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GameMaker Studio 2 is the real deal; its drag-and-drop programming environment allows new game designers to jump right in and create 2D games. With it, they can create professional-level games, but it's still accessible to amateurs and those on a budget. When students want access to more flexible or nuanced behavior for game objects, they can switch over to the built-in GML language, which is based on C. The included image, room, sprite, object, and tileset editors give complete control over the game, all within the workspace. Any users of the original GameMaker: Studio version will find many new available functions, but, since the new update is backward compatible, projects from the original will also work here.

GameMaker Studio 2's user interface for 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. Games can be run/played at any point, making for instant feedback on what has been already created.

Depending on the purchased license, students can create games for use in desktop, mobile, console, or web environments, and even sell them in the Marketplace. A huge community is available for getting help and finding ideas. The trial version of GameMaker has limited resources and, with it, you can't create executables. But it gives sufficient functionality to figure out if this game development environment is what you need.

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Learning how to assemble a basic game in GameMaker Studio 2 is easy when you follow the included step-by-step tutorials. These put learning right in your workspace. They have a logical flow 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, and get help in the active community forums. These resources also introduce students to basic concepts of game design that will work even outside GameMaker. In general, GameMaker orients students to the programming, design, and development environment, but it's only a tool; knowing how to design an in-depth game would generally be learned separately. Already being familiar with game development terminology would also be helpful.

Once students have a game idea, though, GameMaker Studio 2 is an open-ended tool for making it happen, whether they're going for a simple move-and-shoot game, or one with more sophisticated graphics and gameplay, or even a physics engine. It has enough capability to handle students' first games all the way up to professional-level, sellable games. Also, creating a game with the drag-and-drop interface allows students to take a look at the code behind the blocks and learn more about how the programming works.

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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 2 is well-documented and has one of the largest online communities for a game-making tool. A valuable user manual, a knowledge base, and step-by-step tutorial videos help new designers get off to a good start.

Teacher Reviews

(See all 4 reviews) (4 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. Read full review