Educators & Organizations

A brief history of GT7K

Gametron 7000 — GT7K — developed out of a game design class I taught at the Academy of Urban Planning at Bushwick High School in Brooklyn, New York City.

I first taught this class during the summer of 2011 and we tested out several different game-making tools before finally settling on GameMaker as our development tool. GameMaker's great — but it had several flaws that made it difficult to use in the classroom. It had to be downloaded and installed. The kids easily lost interest during all of the technical explanation. It wasn't free. It wasn't easy for students to take their save files home, and every week they sat at different computers and had to redo their work. And they couldn't collaborate easily.

So as a developer, rather than continue to use tools that didn't fit our needs, I decided to build my own game design software that would solve these problems — GT7K.

GT7K debuted during the spring of 2012. Teaching the same class (along with co-teacher Kristana Textor), we demoed GT7K to the students and let them work together as a group (a mock game design company they named "Prototype Studios") to build their game creations. And while GT7K was still rough (and still is), the experiment was a big success. The kids seemed to love it. And the problems we had previously experienced went away.

Right now, I'm building GT7K 2.0 (Gametron 7001?) along with some new collaborators. We've been working with a visual artist to develop an attractive set of default assets for game creators to use. And we've been working with a user experience designer who will help us improve the usability of GT7K without sacrificing creative flexibility.

What's next?

Well, GT7K is still very new, so we're concentrating on a few things at once.

GT7K had its start as a piece of software for high school students, and we think it can grow and be a great resources for students with an interest in game design, so we're in the process of defining an educational curriculum that can go along with GT7K. In additional to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math) and systems thinking, we've also found that teaching game design can get students interested in subjects like creative writing, graphic design, and interactive art. It can also teach personal skills such as leadership and cooperation. And because it's games, kids get really excited to participate. So we're in the process of figuring out how to make GT7K work best to facilitate these other kinds of learning.

But GT7K isn't just for high schoolers. In fact, we're seeing interest from people of many different age groups. So we're also working on designing GT7K to work well for anyone interested in game design. GT7K isn't dumbed down. And we believe that by tackling the issues involved with making a game design tool smartly we can create a platform that is both easy-to-use and very expressive as a creative tool. Both music and digital visual arts have seen a renaissance in tools that bring creativity to the masses. We are only just beginning to see see that sort of thinking in the world of game design. GT7K wants to be a part of that movement.

What you can do to help us out!

You are seeing a very rough-cut version of GT7K. Right now, we're leaving GT7K as free and open as possible and it is purely a labor of love funded by other unrelated projects. It makes no money. We do it for the kids. Literally.

Here's what we need from you:

If you're a teacher or part of an educational group, please reach out an say "hello!" I'd love to talk. We've been extremely fortunate so far to have found numerous people in education to give feedback, guidance, and help. I have no formal training in high school education — I'm flying by the seat of my pants in all of this. And the more people I can talk to and learn from, the better.

If you're a teacher or part of an educational group that's interested in using GT7K as a part of your teaching curriculum, definitely reach out. We're only working with a couple of schools right now, and we would like to expand our reach. GT7K is in an interesting position right now: It's new. And it's changing very rapidly. If you have a school with certain needs, we can sit down with you and figure out how to work what you need into GT7K. GT7K has been growing in response to real needs, and we know that the more people who talk to us about what they want in a tool like this, the better it will be. It could also be a good chance for your program or class to have access to an in-development project with developers ready and willing to listen to exactly what you need.

Also: Money. To put it bluntly. Nobody's getting rich off of GT7K and I doubt anyone ever will. We're trying to keep this as free as possible, though — but we're beginning to incur costs. And if the project continues to grow, we will soon need to think about how to bring on a few full-time people. We would love to get a full-time developer dedicated to GT7K on staff. And, after that, we'd love to get a full-time user experience designer to help us polish up the site and an in-house community manager to help us respond to our growing network of users.

We're not doing active fundraising at the moment, but if you are someone interested in helping push GT7K to the next level (or if you know someone who is), please reach out. I'd love to tell you all about myself, GT7K, and give you even more details about what's going on, here.


Thanks for checking out GT7K! If you havent already, go check out our "How it Works" page and get your fingers a little dirty...

— Josh Knowles