Have Games Will Travel

Have Games Will Travel:

An Invitation to Primary and Secondary teachers to participate in a series of workshops to collaborate and explore the development of game creation in the classroom.

by Toni Falusi

Have Games Will Travel – Exploring Tools for Game Development in the Classroom.

Video games are often undervalued in an Educational setting, possibly due to the complex unique, interactive medium they pose and the requirement that to fully understand a game, the user must experience the gameplay firsthand. (Hergenrader, 2016, p. 32). In contrast, the attraction of games is undeniable to most young people (Turkay, Hoffman, Kinzer, Chantes, & Vicari, 2015) and as an educator I feel the need to leverage the potential of this medium as tool in the 21st Century teaching and learning environment. This chapter will provide opportunity to explore the what and why of games in the classroom, with a focus on the creation of video games to address components of the Digital Technologies Australian Curriculum. Digital game development in the classroom, provides authentic learning opportunities for open-ended, creative thinking in a student-centered environment (Navarrete, 2013, p. 329)

The content will be addressed through a series of facilitated face to face workshops, with participants collaborating online in a Google+ Community. The first session will focus on History, Principles of Game-Based learning and Curriculum with each subsequent platform explored in separate workshops providing an opportunity for teachers to create a game, individually or in small groups, to be shared as a teaching resource. External participation in the workshops is available through the Google+ community and participation in online discussions.

http://babyblues.com/comics/february-10-2010/#respond. This image is copyright protected. The copyright owner reserves all rights.
http://babyblues.com/comics/february-10-2010/#respond. This image is copyright protected. The copyright owner reserves all rights.

History of Video Games

Video games have been played for over four decades and began as a way for humans to interact with computers in a fun manner and to test the capacity of the machine. Radio National website hosts a four-part series of podcasts exploring the history of video games and the predictions for the future.

Principles of Gamification and Game-Based Learning GBL

Van Eck, (2006) identifies three approaches to Game-Based Learning GBL implementation in Schools.

  • Students design and develop their own games
  • Academics develop Educational or ‘Serious’ games or
  • Commercial Off the Shelf COTS are teacher identified and integrated into teaching and learning environments.

Academic research can be identified to support or negate each approach with benefits and challenges. However, there is agreement that the teacher plays a pivotal role in the successful implementation of Game-Based Learning, and the constructivist nature of all three. (Arnab, et al., 2012; Beavis, et al., 2014; Van Eck, 2006)

The desire to embrace the motivational and engaging aspects of video games has been linked to the increase in the interests of digital game based learning within the educational sector (Nolan & McBride, 2014) . The use of rewards and group points as incentive for engagement in learning activities and positive behavior (Workman & Williams, 1980, p. 142)  has been used in my classroom long before the term gamification was introduced. Whilst I used extrinsic motivation for a common goal, I was not intentionally gamifying my classroom.

The focus of this chapter is to facilitate students in the creation of their own video games and it is therefore essential to understand the theory behind game play and the links to good learning principles.

Watch the following video:

In the video James Paul Gee discusses the 13 principles games use of good learning that he has divided into three key areas:

  1. Empowered Learnings
  2. Problem based learnings
  3. Deep understanding

Within these three areas he further explains the underlying principles that contribute to effective games. (Gee, 2005)

  1. Identity – the player’s connectedness to the virtual work of the game through the ability to choose a strong character or develop their own.
  2. Interaction – feedback should be responsive and immediate and games reacts to a player input.
  3. Production – feeling of ownership of decision within the game where the player makes decisions within the game.
  4. Risk taking – provision to scaffolded when failure occurs such as saved levels throughout the game.
  5. Customisation – opportunities to customise gameplay through the player’s choice of level difficulty.
  6. Agency – player has ownership and sense of control as they are responsible for their actions in the gameplay.
  7. Well-Ordered Problems – Challenges faced by the player are scaffolded allowing players to solve problems at a basic level and apply that learning to a new problem.
  8. Challenges and Consolidation – Provide opportunity to combine learned knowledge with new where skills required for a more difficult level have been introduced and opportunity for mastery presented.
  9. “Just-in-time” and “On Demand” – Games present necessary information when its required such as access to instructions or rules can be accessed when needed by the player rather than just at the beginning of play.
  10. Situated Meanings – Games provide context for words and concepts.
  11. Pleasantly Frustrating – allowing players to face achievable goals that are still challenging.
  12. System Thinking – Games encourage players to make connections involving relationships where decision influence something else.

Students developing their own games are not going to be able to address all these principles, but should be guided in a discussion depending on their developmental level to choose appropriate areas that they can incorporate into their game.

DK Books has produced the video to provide a basic introduction to the ingredients of a good game and is aimed at primary school students.

Extra Credits has a series of videos that provide additional information about games.

The genre or type of game developed by workshop participants is dependent on the small group members and can be negotiated for each platform.  Games can follow a narrative, explain a concept or be promote awareness of an environmental or local concern. Video games provide opportunity for simulation or real world problems and situations in a structured, meaningful environment where experimental learning can safely occur (Sampson & Panoutsopoulos, 2012).

Peer review and feedback opportunities provides a real-life audience to test game concepts and prototypes to enhance game design and playability (Hergenrader, 2016), which will be achieved by sharing games with workshop members in the Google+ Community.

Watch: Real-World Lesson: Designing a Video Game at: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/project-management-technology-lesson#


Opportunities for the development of productive, purposeful critical and creative thinking skills are embedded into the learning areas of the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2014) and identified as an essential component of 21st Century learner.  The implementation of the Digital Technologies Australian Curriculum  ([ACARA], 2014) focuses on Computer Science concepts, including coding and programming proficiencies to be taught from Year Three Schools. The Digital Technologies Hub website hosts a series of video and resources to support the implementation of the curriculum. Visit: https://www.digitaltechnologieshub.edu.au/teachers/australian-curriculum (Training, n.d.)

This learning area content support students to develop skills to create and develop video games on platforms such as Scratch, GameStar Mechanic, Bloxels, Tynker and Swift.  These coding tools are emerging and expanding rapidly in response to educational demand.

It is an expectation that students graduate from educational institutions with digital literacy skills that allow them to critically evaluate digital information, creatively solve problems and navigate a digital society (Adams Becker, et al., 2017, p. 28). Game creation provides an opportunity for authentic cross curricula teaching and learning such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) which is a current focus within the educational sector.


The game development platforms included have extensive online communities that enhances each tool to provide a supportive, collaborative and constructivist (Denis & Hubert, 2001) experience for students, teachers and parents.




Games are created on the Scratch platform using blocks of code in a drag and drop interface, to manipulate sprites on the screen. The website runs on a PC and Macintosh with an offline version available for download for use when connectivity is an issue.  Scratch is an open-ended experience with the ability to share games, as well as modify and customise the games of others. The internet is populated with Scratch resources and Professional Learning opportunities, including Code Club Australia which is establishing a network of event for students aged 9-11.

Resources: http://scratched.gse.harvard.edu/guide/

Gamestar Mechanic

GameStar Mechanic


This online platform is designed for 7-14 year olds with the option for parent moderated and educational environments. Learning on GameStar Mechanic is presented via ‘quests’ or missions to build skills, earning items that can be accessed to build your own games. There is a combination of free and paid content with significant educational discounts available. Discussion groups and external resources are available on the internet to support teachers, including lessons developed with core curriculum subjects.

Resources: https://gamestarmechanic.com/teachers/resources


Bloxels Builder


Beginning life as a crowdfunded Kickstarter project, Bloxels a is available as a free app on Apple IOS, Android and Kindle phones and tablets to build video games. In addition to the app, a hands-on Bloxels Game Builder Starter Kit blends real-life and digital content together to facilitate collaboration and problem solving opportunities. Each component of the 13-bit pixel video game is built from animated characters, block art decorations, game layouts, collectables, power-ups and enemies. The open ended, scalability of this tool make is suitable for students in Kindergarten through to Year 12. The creators of Bloxels are committed to developing eductional support material which is continually evolving.

Resources: http://www.bloxelsbuilder.com/educator-getting-started-guide

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds


This coding tool is an IOS app for iPad that directs learners through a series of lessons presented as puzzles to master basic coding concepts. Swift Playgrounds is supported with a Teacher Guide and lessons for students in Years 5-10. The app is focused on core concepts of coding rather than a tool to develop a video game, but these skills can be applied to other game development platforms. Apple are publishing new support materials and offer free in store coding sessions to teachers and students.




This computer programming tool has a combination of free and paid content with educational discounts available. A free mobile app is available with limited functionality which can be used for initial exploration of the coding puzzles. The PC based courses are scaffolded and customisable and allow students to progress through at their own pace proving opportunity for skills and knowledge to be applied creatively. Rewards and certificates are earned as users complete challenges to gain XP and unlock additional features that can be used in their own projects.   This resource is included as an alternative for teachers who have limited coding experience as the subscription options includes marking and assessment tools.




This platform is the most complex of the tools included in the workshops and will be an optional choice for participants.  Unity is a cross-platform programming tool with advanced graphics capability. Users can download a free personal version or additional features are available through a subscription, including an education package.  Free learning resources can be accessed via the Unity website and there is a wide variety of assets and a community of developers across the web. An understanding of general programming language such as C# or UnityScript is required to make use of the maximum features.


This chapter has been an invitation for teachers to explore a variety of platforms as a basis to introduce digital video game development in the classroom. Academic research has been provided in support of the efficacy of games in an educational context to address the ongoing polarised negative associations linked to violence and antisocial behavior, as well as the positives, associated with the engagement and collaborative opportunities games provide (de Freitas & Maharg, 2011.

Additional Coding Resources


[ACARA], A. C. (2014). Foundation to Year 10 Curriculm: Digital Technologies Learning Area. Australia.

Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., Freeman, A., Hall., Giesinger, C., & Ananthanarayanan, V. (2017). The NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Arnab, S., Berta, R., Earp, J., de Freitas, S., Popescu, M., Romero, M., . . . Usart, M. (2012, July 01). Framing the Adoption of Serious Games in Formal Education. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 10(2), 159-171. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/toni/Downloads/ejel-volume10-issue2-article186.pdf

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, [. (2014). Foundation to year 10 curriculum: Digital Technologies. ACELA1428. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/

Beavis, C., Rowan, C., Dezuanni, M., McGillivray, C., O’Mara, S., Prestridge, C., . . . Zagami, J. (2014, January 1). Teachers’ Beliefs about the Possibilities and Limitations of Digital Games in Classrooms. E-Learning and Digital Media , 11(6), 569-581. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2304/elea.2014.11.6.569

Becker, K. (2011). Distinctions Between Games and Learning: A Review of Current Literature on Games in Education. (A. Information Resources Management, Ed.) Hershey, , PA, , USA: IGI Global. Retrieved from http://services.igi-global.com/resolvedoi/resolve.aspx?doi=10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch105

de Freitas, S., & Maharg, P. (2011). Constructions of games, teachers and young people in formal learning.

Denis, B., & Hubert, S. (2001). Collaborative learning in an educational robotics environment. Computers in Human Behaviour, 17(5-6), 465-480. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0747563201000188

Gee, J. P. (2005). Good Video Games and Good Learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85(2), 33-37.

Hergenrader, T. (2016). The place of videogames in the digital humanities. On the Horizon, 24(1), 29-33.

Mäyrä, F., Holopainen, J., Jakobsson, M., & Montola, M. (2012). Social constructionism and ludology. Simulation & Gaming. 43(3), 300-307.

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. (2007). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web2.0 era. ascilite. Singapore. Retrieved from http://www.dlc-ubc.ca/dlc3/educ500/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2011/07/mcloughlin.pdf

Navarrete, C. (2013). Creative thinking in digital game design and development: A case study. Computers & Education, 69, 320-331.

Nolan, J., & McBride, J. (2014). Beyond gamification: reconceptualizing game-based learning in early childhood environments. Information, Communication & Society, 17, 594-608.

Sampson, D. G., & Panoutsopoulos, H. (2012). A Study on Exploiting Commercial Digital Games into School Context. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15(1), 15-27.

Training, E. S. (n.d.). Australian Curriclum Unpacking the Digital Technologies Curriclum. Retrieved from Digital Technologies Hub.

Van Eck, R. (2006, March/April). Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless…. EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2), 16-30. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2006/1/digital-gamebased-learning-its-not-just-the-digital-natives-who-are-restless

Whitton, N. (2010). Learning with Digital Games. New York: Taylor and Francis.

Workman, E. A., & Williams, R. L. (1980). Effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation in the classroom. Journal of School Psychology, 18(2), 141-147.

Part 3: Invitation

Part 3: Invitation

Inviting organisations, systems or workplaces to meet, respond & adopt the challenge of game-based learning.

In this section:

Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) developed by the
School of Information StudiesCharles Sturt University, 2017.
Charles Sturt University