Thursday, August 11, 2016

Build Your Own Video Games with Bloxels

It's no secret in our family that my kids enjoy video games.  My nine year old loves not only playing them, but also learning everything he can about the history of video games and electronics.  He says he wants to create video games when he grows up, and is often pursing that interest the best he can for his age and skill level.  Recently, we were given the opportunity to review Bloxels, which Timberdoodle describes as a "hands-on, brains-on, design experience where your child will place, click and play his own video game" and I was curious if this would help him further explore his video game interests.

What exactly is Bloxels, you ask?  Well, it's a combination physical kit and app.  The kit contains the following:
  • 1 Gameboard
  • 320 plastic blocks
  • Bloxels guidebook 
  • free app

Essentially, children use the blocks and gameboard to create characters, scenes and layouts.  Each colored block represents something (water, coins, etc) that are essential to the average video game.  Once a child builds something, they photograph their creation with the app.  The app is used to create the actual game, and is available on Apple, Android and Kindle devices.  For reference, he used it on the iPad mini and I'm not aware of him having any issues on it.  

Elliott started by just experimenting with the features in the app just to get a feel for for how it worked and what he could do with it.  He learns by doing, and playing around with the pre-made templates allowed him to learn quickly.

Once he learned the basics of how it worked, he begin to create his own scenes and play around with it more.  He said "I like it because it's fun and I get to make my own game."

What I like about this app is that it truly is meant for beginners.  While he's played around with coding, this doesn't require any coding or knowledge of specific terminology or involve reading an extensive manual.  The child simply builds whatever they imagine and transport it right into the gaming platform.  The app is suggested for children 8 and older, and while younger children certainly can use it, I do think there is a little bit of a learning curve.  However, there are video tutorials and it still looked fairly easy for him to learn.

Although you can technically use the apps without the blocks, the blocks are such an interesting component, as they allow children to physically interact with their own ideas.  Truly, the blocks are what make this more than just an app.  Not only are children learning the very basics of video game design in a child-friendly way, they can work out any kinks and quickly alter their gameboard to see how their idea will look without changing the app, and physically manipulate ideas until they get exactly what they envision.

Three year old sorting blocks by color for her brother.

Not to mention, the blocks are great for just creating things for fun!  This is my son's Iron Man face.

I believe Bloxels provides a parents and teachers with a unique STEM activity for younger children interested in video game design.  It's a great way to bring technology to life and allow children to put their creativity and ingenuity to work.

Bloxels is available individually and as part of Timberdoodle's 2nd Grade Curriculum Kit.

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