Common Sense Review
Updated September 2016

Garry's Mod

Complex physics sandbox is daunting but rich
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 4
  • The load screen features in-game art, including uploaded screenshots from users.
  • Players can use a dizzying number of objects and tools.
  • Use the axis tool to connect an arm to an anchor to make a simple rocket-powered watermelon catapult.
  • Attach wheels, lights, and thrusters to a basic construction block to make a vehicle controlled by user-defined keys.
  • Players can create with mirrored surfaces and adjust lighting.
Tons of user-generated content, realistic physics, and deep customization options make every playing session feel fun and new.
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.
Chad Sansing
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense 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.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

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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What's It Like?

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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Is It Good For Learning?

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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See how teachers are using Garry's Mod