LittleBigPlanet is Gemma McLean’s favorite game.

The UK game designer says she’s drawn to the game because of the unique power it places in the hands of its players to create their own levels.

“Everything that you play, you could physically create yourself,” McLean recently told Spotlight.

“Some of the things you can create are quite powerful. But you don’t need to use any sort of code,” she said. “It’s just like, literally, mechanics. So if you want to make a door swing, you don’t need to program it to make the door open and close like you would in ordinary game creation. You literally just attach a piece of elastic to it and a nut or a bolt and make it swing. It’s so intuitive to learn. That’s why it’s so popular as a learning tool.”

McLean created A Day in the Life of a Computer, a new “LittleBigPlanet” level that introduces middle school and high school students to key concepts of computer science.

Players must navigate the inner workings of a computer, solving puzzles and learning key computing principles along the way. The problems get increasingly harder—from simple binary code to more complex programming concepts—as players progress.

The level recently won a Game Changers Award for a new and creative game play experience that leverages principles of science, technology, engineering and math as part of the 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition.
McLean says that game play and game design in particular teach important teamwork and programming skills. Games, she notes, can be the bridge between the learning students are doing on their own time and the learning they are doing in school.

“Gaming is the common ground between them really, because you can use it for learning, and you can use it for entertainment,” McLean says. “There’s no reason whatsoever why you can’t have both.”

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