Tektoma is a techie kid's dream! Making the most of modern technology, Tektoma, a membership based website founded in 2009 by Tom and Matilda O'Connor, offers "24 hour access to engaging video game tutorials that teach children game programming". The O'Connor's have taught technology to children through camp experiences since 2003, and now offer the world access to their established program at their website, www.Tektoma.com. Once members of the site students access a free download of Gamemaker Lite software, step-by-step video tutorials using Gamemaker and private and secure discussion forums to answer student questions and problems during the creation process. Membership to Tektoma's website is $14.95 a month or $140.00 a year, but anyone can test drive the program with a free 14 day trial. Tektoma gave our family a free three month membership to their site in exchange for this review.
Gamemaker allows kids to create video games similar to "old school" games made famous by Atari. Students can choose between a Racing Game, Arcade Game, Platform Game, and Fantasy Adventure Game. When I first looked at the site I was intrigued, but admittedly a bit overwhelmed by the need to download software and understand what tools I needed to get started.
Fortunately, the downloads went smoothly and efficiently since my computer had just been upgraded to Windows XP. According to Tektoma, their program will currently only work with Windows XP or VISTA users. Mac techies will need to wait as a MacIntosh version is under development. With GameMaker software downloaded I called my 12 year old daughter Micah to the computer to set her lose in making a video game.
I thought I had followed the necessary steps to help my "7-17 year old" make their own video game, as stated on the Tektoma website, but as Micah began working through the first tutorial she hit a major road block. She was unable to find the necessary "Sprite" file even though the tutorial explained it simply and directly. After my unsuccessful attempt to solve her problem we asked my professional computer consultant husband for advice. He determined, after about an hour of research, that we needed to switch the Gamemaker to "advanced mode" from its setting of "basic mode" to operate it correctly.
"We knew where the Sprite was because we downloaded the game resources pack. I thought it was on "advanced mode", but for some reason it turned off. Dad found out that we needed to switch it back. It was kind of frustrating for me", said Micah.
Thinking we had solved all of our problems Micah attacked the video game creation process again, only to get stuck within a few minutes. "After I made the game race track and I did what the tutorial told me to do with it I opened it and the race car wasn't there like I placed it. I had no idea how to fix that and I just wanted to quit", said Micah.
"I think Tektoma is a good idea because lots of kids like to play video games and its really cool to know how they are created. I think the tutorial should explain things a little bit more detailed like showing how to solve different problems when you come across them. If I could solve the problem I would try to get through creating the whole game because it was actually kind of fun.", she added.
I would love to recommend Tektoma, but unfortunately we were never able to successfully use this unique product. In all my years of homeschooling I have never seen a similar product designed to help kids make use of technology in a format they love. I love the idea of using educational play in the learning process and creating a video game is just that. However, as a homeschool Mom I always need a user-friendly product when teaching subjects I desperately lack expertise for. Tektoma needs to work a bit to become more user-friendly for the less techie minded in my opinion.
If you are intrigued by Tektoma I highly recommend taking advantage of their FREE 14 Day trial. With Christmas break on the horizon it just might be the perfect inside project to keep kids amused; especially if you have a techie kid dreaming of creating their own video game.