Review by Kim Alessi, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2017
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Great interface, flexible publishing options make game-making a snap

Subjects & skills
  • Arts

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Empowers kids with the ability to custom-create games; amazing online support.

Cons: Full features (including publishing student-created apps) require a pricey subscription fee.

Bottom Line: Engaging interface and tutorials will empower budding game designers, but the price tag could be a deal-breaker for tight school budgets.

Consider using GameSalad with students who already have experience with more basic game creators, such as Scratch or Hopscotch, either in a technology, STEM, or coding class, or in an after-school or summer workshop. Confident visual coders with solid logic skills may embark on GameSalad creations independently and get help from a fantastic, in-app Knowledge Base and online video tutorials, and an active community forum of fellow GameSalad users. A beginning student could create a straightforward, yet impressive, game in 1-2 weeks with relative ease under teacher direction (and with access to online support, if needed).

Teachers could also take a PBL or course of study approach with GameSalad. Game design is a lot more than just stringing code -- it's about planning, creating a story, and applying logic. Game creation and gamification are emerging and relevant ways to reach learners, and GameSalad is a fantastic way to solidify skills that have meaning to today's kids.

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GameSalad lets kids create custom games in a visual, rule-based coding system, so there's no need to know any coding language. Kids drag and drop images and sounds into a workspace to design scenes, then set behavior rules to drive game mechanics -- all with relative ease and in an engaging, resource-rich environment. Beginners can follow game development curriculum units with detailed student/teacher guides, video tutorials, lesson plans, schedules, checklists, rubrics, assessments, sample projects, and all the image and sound files ("assets") needed to complete a game. Advanced users can create custom assets, import them into GameSalad, and use the same drag-and-drop, programmable rule sets to customize game mechanics.

There's an active online community with lots of shared projects and how-to videos. Kids can publish their games for OS, iOS, Android, Kindle, and HTML5, and opt for monetization and social features with a Pro-level subscription; the Basic level allows for only HTML5 gameplay.

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There's a lot to like about GameSalad, and the initial experience is great. The intuitive design makes it easy for designers to plop in objects, assign behaviors, attach art to those objects, hit Play to see what happens, and then tweak it all in a continual process of iteration. This scaffolds design thinking well, makes digital making and game design more accessible, and builds the important skills of persistence, critical thinking, and reflection. 

However, unless teachers need a tool that allows their students to publish to a plethora of platforms -- for example, to sell their games in an app store -- the cost might be hard to justify. Those who don't wish to publish games have free game-makers to choose from, such as Stencyl, or the free versions of Construct 2 and Gamemaker Studio 2.

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Overall Rating

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

Logical, streamlined workspace, along with relative ease and speed in moving from design to product make GameSalad a leader among game-making apps.

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

Strong logic skills drive game mechanics through set rules and attributes. Prior knowledge of logic and visual coding helpful, but not essential.

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

GameSalad's own Knowledge Base and Cookbook, in-app and YouTube tutorials, and active forums combine to offer fantastic support.

Common Sense Reviewer
Kim Alessi Educational Technology Specialist

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Julie Y. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
South Portland High School
South Portland, ME
A great way to get kids coding!
I highly suggest this program. It's free. It limits what the coding student can do (for example- no "openURL") unless they pay for the full version, but there is a TON that can be done without having to pay for a full program. Plus: it lets them publish. If the teacher has a developer license, they can publish to iTunes! How cool is that?? Read full review