How I Use It
What I really liked about Gamestar Mechanic was that fact that students don't even realize they're learning, they just think of it as "playing". But in reality, they are learning and understanding why and how games are made certain ways, with certain boards, with certain goals, etc.. The basis of the program is focused on Game Design and the five elements that are really used to create a challenging yet fun game. They learn the difference between "top-down" games and "platformer" games and how that point of view completely changes a game around. The program starts up with a graphic novel which introduces the characters and the purpose of why the student needs to complete, fix and/or edit levels in order to advance. It is highly engaging and not one student complained about playing it!
Once you get the students logged into your 'class' on Gamestar, it is so easy to get going. The Quest, or story, is broken down into different Episodes and Missions, so it is easy to assign certain episodes for any given day. I usually started the class by reading the opening of the graphic novel together, to make sure the students understood what their goal was for the day. Then I would assign an entire episode or a certain number of missions for the remaining class period. This way it kept everyone on the same part of the adventure. When a student finished his missions for that day, he was able to either play in the "Game Alley" (student created games that have been published) or tinker around in the "Workshop". You are also able to assign Projects to students that can be worked on during free time, homework, or over a vacation.
Another great thing is that Gamestar has ready made lesson plans, projects and even things like vocabulary card games that you can print out and have as reference.
There is a free account students can use to complete the first Quest, but trust me, they will want the next two! The Premium accounts are only $2 per student, so it is really reasonable and so worth it!