Building digital games with your students using MakeCode Arcade

I have written here before about the BBC Micro:bit and its many useful applications in our primary classroom. Over the past number of months, I have used MakeCode Arcade to teach coding with primary students. The students used MakeCode Arcade to design and program their own retro games. This has proven to be a fun and engaging activity that students love.

MakeCode Arcade is an online platform that uses Microsoft’s MakeCode language to build fun, colourful games. It is simple and yet leaves room for students to create complex and intricate games. For me, this application is a winner because it uses what students love; “Gaming”, to develop problem solving and creativity skills.

MakeCode Arcade has a number of different tutorials that range from simple coded games to multipart complex games. It caters for all levels of coder. I have thought this to classes through Zoom calls and within an hour, students were making complicated and unique chasing games.

The platform is simple. You simply go to the website and choose “new project”. The interface provides you with three main parts. The console view, the blocks and the coding space.

This is very similar to the MakeCode interface and also follows the same layout as the scratch website editor. So if your students have experience with these platforms they will be almost set to go.

There are even video tutorials where one of Microsoft’s MakeCode experts walks you through the steps involved in the coding of the game. These videos are really useful and very child friendly, they could be used by your students at home if they wanted to progress their work or try out a new project without the teacher there to guide them.

A video walkthrough- How to make a maze game

The versatility of this FREE and easy to access website is fantastic. Students can access it at home or in school on numerous different types of devices. The games/lessons introduce and facilitate learning but students can easily adapt the games and create unique and new versions. For instance, in a class I used this with, we focused on creating a chase game. The students worked in groups and each group had a different game at the end. Some games had countdown timers, others used unique melodies and themes. The students spoke about ways they could progress their game by adding code to introduce new characters (sprites) and challenges. All of these students had never used MakeCode Arcade before, yet after just one hour of coding, they were designing and coding their own unique games.

Websites and applications like MakeCode Arcade are timely considering the draft primary curriculums focus on key competencies such as:
– Being creative
– Being mathematical
– Being a digital learner
This platform provides the ideal opportunity for students to develop these skills and express their own creative flairs.

For those who wish to learn more about MakeCode, Microsoft have a range of courses designed for students. These courses are completely free and provide useful videos and insights into how to use MakeCode in the classroom. Check out the courses HERE.

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