Review by Chad Sansing, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2016

Garry's Mod

Complex physics sandbox is daunting but rich

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
8-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)
3

Take a look inside

5 images

Pros: Tons of user-generated content, realistic physics, and deep customization options make every playing session feel fun and new.

Cons: A steep learning curve and some violent content limit classroom accessibility.

Bottom Line: This physics sandbox ramps up the complexity but not the usability, leaving it up to the right teachers and students to unlock its benefits.

Teachers can use Garry's Mod (GMod) as a demonstration tool for physics experiments that are otherwise impractical for class. For example, a teacher could create a rocket, giant catapult, or two objects that push against each other with more force than can be safely (or possibly) generated at school.

Teachers can also help students model experimental designs and solutions to physics and 3-D geometry problems, and students who want to share their work (with the appropriate permissions) can create and post expository pieces explaining their creations on DIY sites such as Instructables. Teachers and students can also use GMod to create explorable 3-D maps and models that connect to class content.

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GMod is a physics sandbox stuffed with art and models from Valve software's popular games, including Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike. With a large library of generic objects, recognizable props from Valve's games, and pre-built devices such as thrusters and wheels, users can build and share nearly anything they can imagine.

Every object's physical properties can be modified, letting players tweak things such as lighting or the amount of force and torque an object can create or withstand. With GMod, students can model solutions to physics problems, draw hypotheses about how things work in the real world, make films or sculptures, or just have madcap fun.

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While the toolkit and physics engine are superb, GMod is nowhere near as easy to use as its spiritual cousin, Minecraft. If students don't already have experience with similar editing software, they'll need to spend a significant amount of time learning the ins and outs of the game's tools, materials, and settings. GMod also has some highly distracting assets –- weapons and scary, rag-doll character models -– which, like TNT in Minecraft, might derail more productive play.

As a teaching tool, GMod benefits from focused use and clear expectations –- including what specific objects should be used. It's definitely a "right kid, right time, right project" teaching and learning tool and unreasonable as a requirement for an entire class. But certain kids will fall in love and engineer fantastic creations.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

Offers mind-boggling possibilities for building with models and art from Valve Software's hit games, along with an active user community -- but it's not designed to grab new users.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

There's spectacular potential for learning everything from physics to digital filmmaking, but it'll take an equally spectacular teacher and/or student(s).

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

With realistic graphics, no tutorial, and an interface that functions more like a game-development environment than a user-friendly game menu, Garry's Mod can intimidate new users.


Common Sense Reviewer
Chad Sansing Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Jason M. , Student
Student
4
Great for learning, but must teach students how to use it.

I play this game on my own free time and its great. Physics play a massive part in this game if you are trying to build a vehicle. Its also great for animation, you can create rag dolls and position their eyes, arms, legs fingers and even the mouth. You can download what users of the made such as the wiremod. the wiremod use even thing you could use on a circuit board, and a computer, you gotta know how to use gates and how gyroscope works how motion sensors will activate.You can open of the command prompt and add your own code to the game. But there is violence there are guns and AI's that you can kill, there is blood, and a little swearing depending on what AI you spawn. Other then that this is a great game and I love it!

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