Maker Tools For Designing Games

By: Mike Carmon

Think there’s only one or two tools at your disposal to design a fun, engaging, interactive game with your friends? Not so! During our week of Game Design Camp in July, we demonstrated the vast array of maker tools a game designer has in their arsenal, and despite a jam-packed week of game designing, we only scratched the surface of what we can create!


We started off simply with using perhaps the most powerful tool we have completely on it’s own: our minds! Crafting a story one word at a time, we rounded the circle of campers multiple times and developed characters, setting, and a plot to create our very own story! We quickly realized how we can create something from nothing, no matter what tools we may or may not have.

As the week progressed, we utilized more and more maker tools to design our own games: LEGO EV3 robotics-inspired tag games was a popular one, where campers used coded color sensors instead of their hands to "tag" each other. In addition, there were Minecraft games coded in Python on a Raspberry Pi, and even a catapult-launching challenge with our very own WMSI-made 3D-printed catapults!


Our campers used their storytelling abilities to transform a story into their own board games. In one board game, the objective was the efficient training of sled dogs, and certain moves on the board garnered the player additional supplies and training techniques to successfully complete this task. Even baseball was made into a fun board game version, where a spinner determined the result of a player's at-bat turn. It was fun watching the campers take their passions and mold them into an engaging, multiplayer board game!


One of my personal highlights of Game Design Camp this year was our final activity of the week: the construction of a maze out of cardboard and classroom materials (chairs, tables, etc.). The WMSI-spin: the maze had to be navigated with our eyes closed and with only the help of a coded EV3 LEGO MINDSTORMS ultrasonic sensor. Our campers fully embraced this challenge and got to work on a wonderfully intricate and tricky maze, and then coded their sensors to detect objects in their vicinity.


One by one, each camper took a turn venturing through the maze: crawling, jumping, sneaking, and tip-toeing, we quickly realized how engineers can create some pretty cool solutions to real-world problems, making the world a better place one line of code at a time!

Is it time for our next Game Design camp yet?