Building STEAM For The Next Generation
In a world which is becoming ever more interactive, demand for technically skilled developers and creators is growing.
Yet many countries are facing a shortfall in the number of digital creatives they produce. In Scotland alone, there are over 13,000 vacancies in the tech sector each year.
While the current generation may be ‘digital natives’, teaching the skills required to become digital creators remains problematic.
How can young people be encouraged and inspired to learn the technical skills the world needs?
Making Beautiful Games More Accessible
Established in 2007, YoYo Games initially made videogames. This quickly evolved into developing a game creation platform, which would enable amateur and novice developers to create and publish their own games.
The company released GameMaker, which uses a drag-and-drop visual programming system accompanied by a proprietary scripting language (GameMaker Language) to enable the option of direct coding. Games created with the software can be published across multiple platforms, including all major videogames consoles, PC, Mac, HTML5, mobile phones & tablets.
YoYo Games has been developing GameMaker ever since, making the platform more capable, more accessible and more efficient at creating games with each new iteration. The latest version (GameMaker Studio 2 v2.3), has introduced new elements to make games even more polished, and accessible to other creators, including artists and animators.
Education & Academia
GMS has proven popular within educational and academic establishments. The platform is currently used in approximately 2,000 schools, colleges and universities worldwide
Teachers around the world have reported far greater levels of engagement with pupils and students, who do not interact with other aspects of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Maths (STEAM) curriculum.
GameMaker’s focus on accessibility, and ability to create working games quickly, encourages a kinaesthetic approach to teaching, with students able to create and see tangible results within a very short space of time.
Many teachers have reported that the use of GameMaker has helped them engage with students from excluded backgrounds, or learning issues, while at the same time forging a far stronger student/teacher bond.
Side Quest 2020 – Get Into Games
In 2020, YoYo Games helped thousands of children and young people across the UK to try game development for the first time, as part of the Side Quest project.
In response to the school closures caused by the Covid-19 lockdown, the UK games industry mobilised to help children stuck at home to use their time productively and learn how to make videogames.
Led by Into Games, a non-profit organisation which helps people to find careers in the games industry, many of the country’s leading developers and publishers provided help, materials, resources, and challenges which would enable young people to develop games based upon titles they already played, knew and loved.
Following an introduction brokered by InGAME, YoYo Games stepped in as the key technology partner for the programme, making thousands of copies of GameMaker available, for free, to pupils across the whole of the UK. The platform’s ability to run effectively, even on older computers enabled children and young people from all backgrounds to join in and make their own playable videogames.
The programme was so successful that Into Games is now creating a new, dedicated, national gaming competition for UK schools, to be launched in 2021.
YoYo Games attributes a large part of its success with educational establishments and novice game makers to its large and enthusiastic global community.
Over 30,000 experienced users, creators, and teachers from around the world devote a great deal of time to helping others who are at different stages of their game development journey. They create tutorials, provide guidance and insight for those having problems and even create their own localised guides and tutorials.
The community also features a growing number of teaching resources and lesson plans, which are being created by current and former teachers who use GameMaker within an educational context.
The company encourages and supports the community’s efforts, seeing itself as a ‘conductor’ rather than a ‘moderator’, there to enable and support, even when the community extends onto external platforms such as Facebook, Discord, etc.
YoYo Games believes that this approach has led to a ‘virtuous circle’ in which developers who have used the software to create commercially successful games, are inspiring and encouraging new users.
Many developers who have published successful games, remain active within the community, providing detailed advice and support to others.
Blockbuster Games Included
YoYo Games can boast a growing number of commercially successful titles which were created with GameMaker.
Some recent games, which were developed with GMS, include:
- Undertale (MetaCritic rating of 93%)
- Levelhead (Steam rating 9/10)
- Hyper Light Drifter – (Apple’s iPad Game of the Year, 2019 (92% – Humble Bundle))
- Skelattack (published by Japanese publisher Konami)
- Pong Quest (Steam rating 8/10)
Even for those not releasing full games, GameMaker can provide an additional revenue stream, or even a career. The GameMaker Marketplace enables users to create assets such as tutorials, lighting effects, audio and art assets and make them available to others – free or for a fee.
More Than a Tool
GameMaker is far more than a software ‘tool’. It enables users to bring their ideas and imagination to life. It encourages people to engage with the STEAM curriculum and learn valuable new skills.
For some users it can even change their lives. The company has received a huge amount of feedback from users who report that GameMaker has had a positive impact on their family or career. It has brought parents and children together and created new opportunities for families to bond. It provides a release for people in stressful jobs and can even provide users with a new income stream, or a new profession as a game developer.
Making Beautiful Games Accessible
YoYo Games’ goal for GameMaker is to make it even easier for novice game makers to take their concepts further and broaden the platform’s reach to make it accessible for other types of creator, such as artists and animators.
By enabling novice developers to make faster progress and create more ambitious games, with higher production values, the company hopes that the software can be used even more widely and encourage people from more diverse backgrounds and skill sets to engage more effectively with STEAM subjects and develop valuable new digital skills.
In July 2020, YoYo Games announced that 10,000,000 copies of GameMaker have been downloaded. The software now has approximately 100,000 active monthly users, with over 1,000 downloads per day, in over 100 countries around the world
In January 2021, YoYo Games was acquired by Norwegian software company Opera. We look forward to the outcome of this acquisition taking YoYo Games – and GameMaker – to even more users around the world and empowering even more people to create their own videogames.
This is one of six case studies written by the Scottish Games Network for InGAME. You can find the others, covering other organisations across the Dundee gaming cluster, here.