Introducing youngsters to the wonders of design used to be simple: child meet Lego, Lego meet child. But with kids facing more elaborate distractions than ever, the creative bricks are facing some serious competition.
Here's where Pixel Press, an ambitious American startup hopes to fill the gap between our childhoods of making plastic castles and that of today's children.
Bloxels wants to get kids making things by reducing game design to its most basic elements. When we say basic, we mean basic. The whole system contains two parts: a phsyical board and an app. The physical board allows the user to assemble a game level by arranging coloured blocks which represent map elements like walls and enemies. The app then uses a photo of the board to assemble those elements into a fullly functional game level. In short, you just place, snap, and then play.
The idea of such an elementary system is to remove intial hurdles to creativity, such as programming, and allow kids to get excited about design. Pixel Press probably has a point here - sit your nine year old down with a book on C++ and we doubt that career in game making they were talking about yesterday will still be a dream today. Getting children on the road toward STEM careers should probably begin somewhere less intimidating.
The board might look small but the system is hugely scaleable. Multiple pictures can be taken of multiple boards to create a level as large as the user desires.
At the moment the team has only created one conversion app, called B.R.A.V.E. Squad, which turns the board into a dungeon environment, but if all goes well, they intend to make many more, allowing the same kit to produce huge number of different games.
The product is technically ready to fly from the offices Pixel Press into the creative embrace of your spawn, but is missing a vital element - cash. The startup needs funding to bring its project to life so has launched a Kickstarter project, starting today. Pledges begin at $40 which secures you a Bloxels box set, and go all the way up to $1000 which promises the donor input into the creation of a boss within a future game conversion app.
We think it's a pretty clever idea, and suspect that many of our readers will be tinkering with it themselves when their young ones aren't looking.