Hello everyone, and welcome to the latest TESOL games and education blog! Using video games in the classroom can be highly engaging for students, but perhaps a more engaging activity is making games. Educators interested in task-based learning can leverage the game development process as a way to engage students in the four skills during an authentic task—creating a game that can be shared with and enjoyed by classmates.
This month’s blog highlights game development tools appropriate for all ages and skill levels of students. Each of these has their own strengths and weaknesses, and I encourage everyone to check out, and play with, a few to determine which tools best fit your students and classroom context. All of these tools are free for students.
Scratch is a programming tool with a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface. Users can make a variety of side-scrolling games, making this a great option for younger learners. Where Scratch excels is introducing learners to coding through a simple drag-and-drop interface that teaches them the logic behind coding without the need to learn to code first.
2. Gamestar Mechanic
Gamestar Mechanic is targeted at middle and early high-school students who are interested in game design, but aren’t familiar with the basics. Gamestar Mechanic uses a game format to teach these basics. Users are given one mechanic at a time to explore before they level-up and gain more access to a wider set of tools. (Note: Free for first quest; varied costs for additional missions and courses; US$1.99–$249)
Aris is a location-based game development editor. Creators can place markers, objects, or plaques on a map of their local areas. These markers, objects, and plaques can be enhanced with audio or video to create story-based games that are geo-tagged. Players venture out into the real world, and when they reach an area that is geo-tagged in the game, information appears on their phones to move the story along.
Twine is an interactive story development tool. Twine uses nodes, or individual web pages, that players can fill with text, images, audio, or video. These nodes can then be linked together to create a choose-your-own-adventure style game. A great choice for students who enjoy writing and story creation.
Ink is another text-based game development tool. Developers can create narrative stories with extensive choices for the player to make and have those choices be recursive—the choices can refer back to earlier choices in the game.
Unity is a powerful game engine used by many developers in both the independent and studio production games industry. Unity is free for students, but its technical requirements make it a better choice for older students.
Unreal is another incredibly powerful game engine used by professionals across the games industry and is recommended for older students interested in game development. Like Unity, it is free for students to use and has a number of tutorials than to introduce new users to all aspects of the software.
Do you have a favorite or reliable game development platform for your ELs? Share with us, in the comments below!
Until next month, make more games!