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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tektoma Review

I have to admit, I'd never heard of Tektoma before the TOS Crew was asked to take a look at their site. Tektoma is a subscription based website that teaches kids how to program their own video games using a FREE version of GameMaker (software that you can download for free to make video games).

Tektoma takes a fairly complicated game designing program and breaks it down into a series of step by step tutorials geared toward children ages 7-17. Each step is laid out in detail for the children to be able to follow along, and there are currently tutorials to design five different kinds of games: racing, arcade, memory, platform, and fantasy. In addition, there are shortcuts available to make it easier (quicker) for children to program and play their games.

The pros: If you have a child who is interested in video games like mine is, then this is a treasure trove of information and may allow them to parlay their passion into a future occupation. The information is very detailed, but broken into small enough steps that my 12 year old could follow them. And I was AMAZED that the tutorials held his attention, as they are quite long (over an hour for most of them). I also appreciated that the initial tutorial specifically has no guns or shooting, nor does the racing game (obviously) so kids can still pursue their interest without feeding into the cultural norm of shooting and killing things for fun. I also have to give Tektoma serious bonus points for being something my eldest could do ON HIS OWN, since I break computers just by walking into the room with them, and you certainly wouldn't want me PROGRAMMING one!

The cons: (all these specs come from their site) Currently, the tutorials are for computers running Windows XP or Vista only. Macintosh versions coming in the future. You need a Broadband internet connection-this would be excruciating on dial-up. Any browser should work, but make sure it is a current version.
For GameMaker tutorials, you need a copy of GameMaker installed and the GameMaker resources folder.Instructions for downloading these files can be found on the GameMaker Tutorials page.GameMaker requires 128mb of RAM, DirectX 8 with at least 32mb of video memory, and a screen resolution of at least 800×600.

Also, the tutorials are VERY long...for some children they may be too long (between one and two hours each). And you may need to pause the tutorial at each step to go and DO in GameMaker what it is teaching you in the tutorial, which many younger student may need help with.

So what's the bottom line? This is a cool idea, and very unique in that it makes a field traditionally thought of as being for adults (or at least teen age computer nerds) and brings it down to a level that any interested child can learn. The cost ($14.95/month or $140 a year) is a little steep to maintain indefinitely unless your child really is likely to make this their occupation (or at least become a millionaire int heir teens with their first video game), but they do add new content monthly so there is always something new to learn. And you can try it free for 14 days by going HERE. And site members get access to shared files AND a moderated board where they can ask questions and have them answered.

To check out Tektoma, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a FREE 3 month membership to Tektoma to allow me to review their site. That membership is the only form of payment I have received for this review.

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