The Games for Change blog commended Gamestar Mechanic's “meta-game” aspect, adding that it differentiates it from other game design products in the marketplace. As gameplay unfolds, a number of different "game design topics and gameplay mechanics" are released to the players (Games for Change, 2010). Progressing through the game, the player is given the tools to make a his/her own game. The player actually learns about game development through gameplay.
Proto (2010) highlights critical thinking, systems thinking, and problem solving skills as the benefits of participation in Gamestar Mechanic. This immersive learning environment is open-ended and easily lends itself to the application of STEM content. In 2014-15, Gamestar Mechanic was one of the tools used by students in the National STEM Video Game Competition (http://gamestarmechanic.com/challenges/about/stemchallenge2015).
In addition to standard gameplay and game development, Gamestar Mechanic also offers an online game design course for serious designers.
The Gamestar Mechanic website features FAQ for parents and educators and a handbook for the parents. The program is sensitive to child rearing and development issues, such as screen time and Internet safety.
Gamestar Mechanic was originally created by the Game Lab and Katie Salen, who is best known for her work at the Institute of Play. Its first iterations were supported by a grant from the McArthur Foundation. In 2010, E-Line Media partnered with the Institute of Play to release a commercial version of the game. The basic version of the game is still free, but premium updates and add-ons require payment, as does participation in the Game Design Course (https://gamestarmechanic.com/).
To date there are over 250 thousand participants in Gamestar Mechanic and their have been played more than five million times (https://gamestarmechanic.com/).
There are very few limitations for this product.
While there is a price for add-ons, it is not a great one. Possibly the greatest barrier that Gamestar Mechanic meets is the resistance of game-averse educators.
Gaming and Gamification in STEM Education
Educational Games are slowly becoming more entrenched in the field of education because of their immersive and motivational capacities. In addition, gamification, "the integration of gaming element, mechanics, and frameworks into non-game situations" has drawn the attention of the business and education worlds ( Johnson, et al., 2013) The NMC has set the horizon for adoption of Games and Gamification at two to three years (Johnson, et al., 2013).
Games naturally lend themselves to STEM learning because of the critical thinking and problem solving skills required. Many types of games are content agnostic, so that of STEM activity can readily be applied to a game context or gamified in the framework of more traditional learning.