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Review by John Sooja, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2015

Project Spark

Powerful, complex introduction to coding and game design

Subjects & skills
  • Arts

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: A wealth of tutorials and powerful collaborative features can help users build a game limited only by their imaginations.

Cons: The learning curve can be steep: There's a lot to know to build a game, and there's a lot to learn to use this tool.

Bottom Line: Though it's difficult to master using Project Spark, those who dive deep wil be rewarded with a game-making tool that inspires.

Teachers can use Project Spark to teach rule-based logic and other computing concepts. In a game-design or computer-basics course, Project Spark could help students learn how to write scripts or instructions for any game entity or "prop" (characters, objects, items, effects, sounds). They could also customize topography, program behaviors and events, write dialogue, and sculpt environments and levels with paintbrush-like ease.

Teachers can assign group or solo activities, but group work might be the best fit, since the tool's sharing features do so well to encourage teamwork toward a specific goal. Teachers might also have a whole class make a game, with each student or group tasked to accomplish particular aspects of design. It is recommended to vet outside levels and games prior to student consumption, as many are very rudimentary and not fully operable. Moreover, some of the games contain inappropriate material (some users have found ways around restrictions by carving letters into part of an environment to spell a curse word). 

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Project Spark is a digital game creator that lets students build their own games. Students can browse, play, and learn from other community-designed games and from plenty of genres: action/adventure, first-person shooter, arcade, puzzle, strategy, and platformer. Students will build 2-D or 3-D environments, write dialogue and scripts for their characters and stories, and execute complex lines of logic. This "kode," as Project Spark calls it, dictates what the game world, objects, and characters will do and how they will behave. Once finished, students can upload their creations for others to play and/or remix.

The game builder is pretty challenging to use. While Project Spark provides a relatively realistic platform for teaching students what goes into making a video game, it also takes a lot of time to master. The bevy of tutorials, forums, and guides available online help a great deal but take time to explore. The game is free (it previously wasn't), as is all of its downloadable content.

Project Spark is great for teaching basic video game logic as well as collaboration and co-design. Students can begin by simply playing with what has already been created by other users: Pac-Man clones, tower defense games, zombie first-person shooters, pinball games, soccer games, racers, and more. Every object, character, and creature in the editor has a "brain" and follows a simple maxim: If x happens, then the object or character will perform y. Students will learn about a "rule" (a single line of commands that contain a "when" and a "do"), what a "sensor" is, and what "actuators" do.  

After learning the basics, through the healthily robust collection of online video tutorials and guides, they can continue to learn new and more complex techniques through tutorial assistance, eventually culminating in a finished game. The game they'll build, though, isn't exactly polished, with somewhat long loading times and the occasional crash and lag. 

Overall Rating

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

Welcoming design and interface encourage play and creativity. Students will be excited by how easy it is to jump into the game and learn some of the logic behind the scenes.

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

Students design levels, learning how to “kode” their characters, scripts, and gameplay. Through trial and error, students will create and play-test, then jump back into the editor to make adjustments.

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

While the game comes with enough information to get started, both teachers and students will want to take advantage of the official online forums, community-driven blogs, video tutorials, and guides. 

Common Sense Reviewer
John Sooja Classroom teacher

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