Photographer Jeremy Lloyd / Stylist Sheryl FetrickI know what you’re thinking. “My 8-year-old plays enough video games.” Now that may be true, but how many does he or she make?

Bloxels, from Mattel, is an app-based video game that lets aspiring programmers ages 8 and up design, story-tell, publish, and ultimately play video games that they make themselves. Using tiny cubes to spawn play spaces, characters, enemies, and obstacles, the only real limit here is imagination.

The Bloxels Video Game Builder Starter Kit includes everything kids need to start building their own video games, including 320 blocks of various colors, a game board, a challenge poster, and a guidebook. The Bloxels Builder app can be downloaded for free by going here.

bloxelsblocksThe heart of this video game maker rests within 320 tiny blocks that, based on color, each represent a different game element. Green blocks, for example, are terrain blocks. Kids can use these to construct land. Blue blocks, as you may have guessed, allow young ones to add water. Other game elements include hazards (red), coins (yellow), enemies (purple), explosions (orange), stories (white), and power ups (pink).

bloxels_2016_hires-2444Kids begin designing their personal video game universe one room at a time. In this case, each room is built on a 13×13 grid, or game board. Once kids have used their blocks to design a room, they can capture it using their smart devices’ camera and watch it load into the Bloxels editor. There is no Bluetooth, WiFi, or wires involved in this process. The app can support up to 169 rooms, which allows kids to create a long lasting experience that is truly all their own.

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image3Designing and implementing my first room was a breeze. Using the colored blocks, I created two landmasses with a pool of water between them. I then added a hovering chunk of land to bridge the gap, and a few coins for my character to collect along the way. Once young designers are satisfied with their layout, they can take a photo and add it to the app within seconds. And if they discover something isn’t quite right after a test run, they can just readjust their blocks and recapture their game board. The process is simple and nothing is ever set in stone, which lets kids experiment and create without fear or hesitation.

image1The best part about Bloxels is how much creativity it inspires. Did I mention I designed my character like Iron Man? Once kids capture their game board, they can spice up their art and uniquely decorate each game element using the 64-color palette studio. They can design the way coins look, land looks, and more. And in addition to the layout of their virtual world, 13-bit programmers can add action by defining power ups, deciding how enemies should behave, incorporating story elements, and placing background music. They can even build and work together with friends, making it a more collaborative experience.

There’s also an in-game gem system, which allows kids to earn gems that help them unlock cool features like map rooms, block colors, power ups, enemy types, animation frames, and brain save slots.

Bloxels encourages exploration, experimentation, and hands-on learning. Kids will have a blast every step of the way, as they use their imaginations to create rooms and levels that are as unique as their imaginations are. With Bloxels, kids can design, story-tell, publish, and play.