A day in the life of Kai the Coder: KVGM 2017

Game Box art on display at our booth at GDC.

Game Box art on display at our booth at GDC.

[This is a follow-up article from our KVGM 2017 Winners! blog post on March 13, 2017!]


It's probably safe to say that at some point when each of us were kids and first introduced to the crazy world that is NOW video games, we all dreamed about one day making all these cool video games for a living. Our buddy, Kai, plans on it.

Kai was our grand prize winner for this year's Kids as Video Game Makers contest which culminated last weekend at GDC in San Francisco. Kai's game: Iggy the Coder beat over 2,500 other entries and was showcased amongst some of the top video game designers in the world. Essentially, Kai and the other Top 3 winners were showing off their work right there with the big shots of the gaming industry. And, let me tell you: they shined!


When we were hanging out at the booth after the Top 3 announcement, Wendy – Kai's mom – told me a story about when Kai was 9 years-old and she was driving them around town, and Kai says:

“Mom, I need to learn Japanese.”

A rather unique statement coming from any 9 year-old boy. So she bit:

“Oh yeah? Why's that?”

And Kai simply responded, “Well, Nintendo is based in Japan and if I'm going to work for them, I need to learn how to speak Japanese.”

A pretty simple, “if-then” statement when you think about it. More on that in a bit...

Fast-forward to January 2017, we launch Kids as Video Game Makers 2017 and Kai – who is no stranger to Bloxels – registers to enter. The theme of the contest was “Build Your Future”, and for a kid like Kai who already knows what his future holds, this was a no brainer. And so he got to work. Within a few days “Iggy the Coder” was complete and in front of our panel of judges.

After the proverbial smoke had cleared, and the judges had decided on their grand prize winner, the time came to call Wendy to tell her the good news. When Robin (Rath) – our co-founder & CEO – told her Kai had won, well... let's just say Wendy's eyeballs started sweating! And rightfully so. She had plenty to be proud of (and emotional about). She dropped everything and immediately drove to Kai's school and – after going thru all the proper channels of checking-in thru the office – burst into Kai's tech class to let him know that he had won Kids as Video Game Makers! His entire classroom erupted with cheers and began chanting his name: “Kai! Kai! Kai! Kai!”

GDC is typically only for adults 18 years and older. But, with a few phone calls and some pulled strings by our co-founder & Creative Director Daniel James Wiseman, we got Kai and his sister into GDC – the ultimate video gamer playground!

At 2PM on Wednesday afternoon (March 1st), co-founder and Community Manager, Josh Stevens made the announcement to the general public of the Top 3 Winners for KVGM 2017. We had a special surprise for everyone in attendance: Jared - our very first winner of KVGM was there to help announce Kai as 2017's winner and to essentially pass the proverbial (pixelated) torch! They immediately became 13-Bit Builder bros! (insert pic)

Jared (KVGM16 Grand Prize Winner, left) and Kai (KVGM17 Grand Prize Winner, right) being the 13-Bit Builders they are, with Kai's sister, Mya (middle).

Jared (KVGM16 Grand Prize Winner, left) and Kai (KVGM17 Grand Prize Winner, right) being the 13-Bit Builders they are, with Kai's sister, Mya (middle).

Kai and one of our judges, Kurt Klynen.  

Kai and one of our judges, Kurt Klynen.


We had some of the judges there for the big announcement too! Kai got a chance to meet Kurt Klynen – a teacher, author and presenter from Belgium. You should've seen Kai's face when he found out kids in Belgium were playing Iggy the Coder!

Then Kai met Carol Tang – Executive Director at the Children's Creativity Museum. Carol helped us make KVGM what it is, by working with us to host the very first Kids as Video Game Makers at the Children's Creativity Museum alongside GDC 2016.

Carol Tang – KVGM Judge – of San Francisco's Children's Creativity Museum and our winner, Kai.  

Carol Tang – KVGM Judge – of San Francisco's Children's Creativity Museum and our winner, Kai.


Virtual Kai!!!

Virtual Kai!!!

After getting lost in a sea of VR headsets, crazy tech gadgets and a plethora of 32-bit heroes, Kai and his family returned to the North Hall of Moscone Center to check out some of the Independent Game Developer booths. There, I got a chance to talk to Wendy about Kai's goals to work for Nintendo some day. This is where opportunity presented itself.

Two aisles from the Bloxels/KVGM booth was the Nintendo recruitment booth. Literally, behind the two workers, were rows of tiny makeshift offices for interviewing potential hires. I let Wendy know about it and how I was going to take Kai over to meet them. She lit up. Then proceeded to explain how “he would never go with [her]” and that she would love if he could meet them.

So, after Kai was done with yet another tour in virtual reality, I went up to him and said I needed to show him something. He followed along as I guided him to the big red booth with a jumping, fist-pumping, mustached plumber and the word Nintendo plastered on the side.

I introduced myself, explained to “Jonathan” (to be quite honest, I don't really remember his name, so we'll just go with that) about KVGM and how Kai beat over 2,500 other kids to win our Grand Prize and that the only thing Kai wants to do is work for Nintendo. I asked “Jonathan” if he had any advice he could give Kai to help make that happen, and then Jonathan being the sport that he is, went on for nearly 20 minutes on what it would take to work for Nintendo, what paths Kai could take and even dove into what classes and programs Kai would need to learn the various roles in video game design and development.

Kai was ALL EARS! I don't think he blinked once while “Jonathan” was telling him about the ins and outs of becoming a Nintendo game designer.

The way we see it: Kids deserve to be empowered. They deserve to not only be told that they are capable of doing anything they put their hearts into, but also shown & proven that they can do it.

Kids as Video Game Makers isn't some contest Bloxels & Pixel Press put together to promote ourselves and drive sales of the product. It was created to be a platform that allows kids to bring their imaginations & ideas to life thru video game creation and digital storytelling.

We hope it serves as a catalyst to prove to kids just like Kai & all the others that entered KVGM17 that they're on the right track to reaching their goals and living out their dreams every single day of their life.

KVGM 2017 Winners!

Kids as Video Game Makers 2017 had over 2,500 entries from all over the United States (and actually the world!) These kids were given the challenge to build a video game around how they envisioned the future; either for themselves or the future in general.

The "Build Your Future" theme was stretched to the max as submissions began rolling in during the month of February! Some games took place light-years into the future, while others were only a few years down the road. Whichever game you played, you immediately found yourself in a new world with a new story to follow. Needless to say, the kids who helped make KVGM what it is have imaginations that are second-to-none!

In this post, we're highlighting what our judges panel agreed on as the Top 3 games of KVGM 2017! A special thank again to the judges who spent hours (and hours) of their limited free time to play these games and score them appropriately for our 2017 contest. And a thank you to the talented kids that exceeded all our expectations!

Read our blog post recapping our Grand Prize Winner's trip & tour of GDC 2017!

So, without any further ado, here are your 2017 Kids as Video Game Makers Top 3 Winners!


Infinity Wall: (786, 777)
Play on the Web


by Hannah F. (Flewcrew)

Learn the ins and outs of the different facets of computer programming like C++, Python and Scratch as you trek your way thru this new-age approach to Computer Sci (aka: CompSci)! The backgrounds and art in this game are INCREDIBLE! Fight off hackers and computer viruses as you collect batteries to charge your computer & have enough juice to make it through to the very end... if you can!



Infinity Wall: (-98, 8912)
Play on the Web

What is your move? 

by Ethan B. (Me1234)
Age: 12

This maze of a game is insanely tough to find your way thru! At the beginning, make your way thru school and avoid the bullies. Then use your shrink potion to find your way thru a maze! Watch your step every where you go. And be sure you check out every possible hint you get to make your way to the end. And these enemies have some SERRRRIOUS brains on them so beware!



Infinity Wall: (495, 504)
Play on the Web

Iggy the Coder

by Kai P. (Kai13bitbuilder)
Age: 11

Iggy wakes up late for work and has to maneuver his way thru the streets as he fights off wacky fire hydrants and angry dogs. His adventure takes you thru the clouds to go up against angry rain clouds as you detour road construction. Once you find yourself at the office, you have to help your coworkers fight a computer virus by collecting the antivirus and defeating red and blue viruses. Talk to everyone. And don't forget your shrinking potion with this one!


Bloxels up for "Game of the Year!"


We're excited to find Bloxels on this year's Toy Industry Associations Best Toys of the Year award list in the "Game of the Year" category. You can read more about it over on Kotaku here

This news is especially exciting for us as Bloxels was debuted as a prototype at Toy Fair New York 2015 and was launched officially less than one year ago at Toy Fair New York 2016. 


Be sure to vote for us here.

The winners will be announced at Toy Fair New York on February 17th, 2017.

Update v1.4.4



Players with a Bloxels account now have the ability to sync games and assets to the cloud. The cloud sync happens automatically given the player is logged in and connected to the internet. Players can now access their creations across multiple devices!


Capture works faster and new color detection accounts better for room lighting. New Capture controls, plus/minus buttons to compensate for lights being too bright (lots o’ white blocks) or lighting being too yellowish (i.e. pink coming in as red, yellow as orange, etc...).

Various bug and performance fixes.

For questions or additional help please visit our help desk at help.bloxelsbuilder.com or email us at support@bloxelsbuilder.com

Bloxels Holiday Launch Party


Thank you to everyone who made it out for our Bloxels Holiday Launch party in November! We celebrated the retail release of Bloxels this holiday season, toasted to a great year, and gave a shout out to two of our earliest Bloxels builders, Nikko and Mateo, who we also credit with coining the "Bloxels" name for the very first time.


Click on the arrows left and right to browse.
Thank you to Galen Rath for taking and sharing these photos.


Click on any image below to expand. 
Thank you to Fish Eye Fun for hosting our photo booth.


Update v1.4.3



Ability to Move and Delete Rooms

Players can now move and delete rooms by dragging and dropping rooms on the game map or to the trash can.

New Expanded Featured Games Section

The newly expanded Featured Games section includes Newest Games, Most Played Games, Featured Creators, Most Liked, and Big Games.


New Home Screen Game

The new home screen game allows players to capture gameboards while playing the game, a great area for brand new Bloxels players before they dive into the full game editor. This new  area includes Customizable Characters, Room Layout, adding a Brainboard to an Enemy and more.


We’ve addressed a few more “loading screen” bugs in this version, if you are still seeing the loading screen bug after installing this update please contact us at support@bloxelsbuilder.com

For questions or additional help please visit our help desk at help.bloxelsbuilder.com or email us at support@bloxelsbuilder.com


Bloxels Looking to the Future


It's been an exciting few weeks here at Pixel Press! Last week we announced our new partnership with Mattel, creators of many of the world's best known toys. This is an amazing opportunity for Pixel Press to work side-by-side with a world leader in toys to continue expanding on the innovation of the Bloxels creation platform.

Through this partnership, our team in St. Louis will continue to develop every aspect of the Bloxels software experience and future product line, while working directly with the team at Mattel to handle the manufacturing, marketing and distribution logistics of bringing Bloxels to consumers worldwide.

Mattel supports our continued dedication to education. Our team will continue building the end-to-end educational components for Bloxels in the classroom.  We're looking forward to bringing many new tools and features to our educators in 2017 to continue to improve the Bloxels experience.

The new Bloxels packaging design.

The new Bloxels packaging design.


You can read more about our partnership with Mattel in the press here and here, and also we invite you to watch the first four episodes of Bloxels new weekly Web Series, "Block Party" released this week.

Our team at our office in St. Louis.

Our team at our office in St. Louis.


This partnership has been a long time in the making and we want to thank the hard working team at Mattel for their dedication – and thank you for your ongoing support in our effort to bring digital storytelling through video games to life for children everywhere.


The Pixel Press Team

iTunesU Course: Engaging Writers with Bloxels


by Coby Reynolds
Teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator

The Big idea

One of the great thing about Bloxels as an educator is the limitless learning opportunities it provides for students. The depth of creativity is only limited to the user's imagination, which means it can be used to engage students in all areas of learning. The first thing that comes to most people's mind is the computer science element of the game, however, I believe it is much more, which is why I have developed an iTunes U course to showcase some of these possibilities. As an educator I am always looking for new ways to engage students in a range of tasks so they have a more authentic learning experience, and therefore, develop a deeper level of understanding of the topic. The iTunes U course incorporates elements of real-life learning and gameplay to engage students in varied forms of writing styles. The course is broken up into four main sections; Designing and Planning; Creating; Evaluating the Audience and Advertising.

Designing and Planning

The idea came about to place the student at the center of the learning by beginning with a letter from a gaming company to the student as the game designer. This outlines the design brief, which requires the students to pitch their idea in a persuasive letter. From there the students explore the elements of what makes games enjoyable and all of the features of Bloxels itself. This section is particularly important as this is the key to the engagement level of the rest of the course. This is where they are able to develop the fun element of the gameplay and begin to let their imagination run wild. In this section students also begin to create a design portfolio that is an ongoing task throughout the unit which can be used for assessment purposes.


Students then go through a process of designing a character and theme for their game, which they can describe in a range of writing types as well as a narrative style backstory, where students can be super creative with their imagination. This section provides multiple opportunities to engage students in the a range of writing genres through the gameplay of the app. This part of the course is only limited to how long you want to spend on this. It could be done across a week as a summative assessment of the writing genres or over a whole term, covering all explicit teaching of the different genres along the way - it’s entirely up to you. 


Evaluating the Audience

Once students have completed their game they then move onto the refining and feedback from peers. They need to record classmates observations and constructive feedback and make any changes if necessary. You may notice that they will not change anything, so I will have them justify why they do not agree with the suggested changes - some interesting justifications have come from this. This section can also be integrated into mathematics to collect and graph data on peer responses to their game as well.  


The fun continues as students now become the advertisers for their game. This can come in a range of modes from written, video or poster form. This engages students in being able to write persuasively to convince the audience to play/purchase their game. Students are encouraged to create an iMovie trailer which includes persuasive devices, video gameplay and some small acting (kids love acting). There is also the ability to create a print advertisement, which students can use to link their iMovie trailer using a QR code to make a great display of interactive posters around your learning area.

Throughout the course students are encouraged to document their progress and reflections using Book Creator as a design portfolio. This is a great way for teachers to collect formative assessment along the whole design process as students are required to document their learning in written, verbal or photo/video form. Each element of the writing process can be assessed as individual pieces of work and can be stand alone assessments in their own right. The completed Book Creator project can be used as a summative assessment type for teachers purpose, however can also be easily shared to peers and parents for feedback on the whole project.


Get the iTunesU Course


Be sure to check out the course here (click on this link in Safari on your Apple device, with iTunes installed first) and remember this is just one element of the many ways I have integrated Bloxels into my classroom, your imagination is endless.

Follow Coby on Twitter at @coby_mr


Introducing Block Party! Our new weekly Web Series

We're excited to have recently released the first 4 episodes of our brand new YouTube video series, 'Block Party'!

This brand new, weekly variety show hosted by Danny, Joey and Jon features great content from the Bloxels Infinity Wall, tips, tricks, random challenges between the hosts, special guest and more! Tune in each week starting late September 2016.

Click here to start watching on YouTube!

Murmuration Festival


The Pixel Press team was excited to show off Bloxels at the first ever Murmuration Festival in St. Louis this past weekend.  It was a great day of creating, playing, and sharing for all that came by the booth.

A special thanks to the Biome School for teaming up with us and also to all that stopped by and got to see the power of Bloxels!   

Also Thanks to RJ Hartbeck for the great photos.

Bloxels now Available at Gamestop


The Pixel Press team had the chance to attend the 2016 Gamestop "Building Our Future" event in Anaheim, California in September. Check out a few of the photos from the event below, and a huge thanks to the Gamestop store managers and fans who came by the booth.

You'll find Bloxels in many Gamestop stores this holiday season. Click here for a store directory and be sure to call ahead to make sure Bloxels is available!


Update v1.4.1

This update fixes the loading screen issue that was causing some players apps to get stuck at the loading screen and also includes other minor bug fixes.


- Activating your Bloxels Gameboard will now unlock the entire game map in addition to 250 gems to use in other areas. 
- Removed the Gem spending from the color palette and reverted back to previous layout.

If you had previously unlocked rooms on the map you should find the entire map now unlocked. All gems spent on colors will be back in your gem bank. Please contact us at support@bloxelsbuilder.com if you experience any issues.


Brain Board settings have been tweaked slightly, visit bloxelsbuilder.com/brains (or click the help button in the app) to see the latest settings.


If you are an educator and would like help with creating accounts with new new parent validation system or information on unlocking features in the app on ALL of your devices please visit bloxelsbuilder.com/eduapp or email us at education@bloxelsbuilder.com

Update v1.4 is Live & much more!


This is a big update! Update now to check out all the new features!

  • Brain Boards - add “Brains” to your game's enemies and watch them take on new behaviors! Learn more
  • Gems! Earn gems for completing featured games and more to unlock game creation features. Learn more
  • Big Interface overhaul, mucho snazy!
  • A new, easier to use Gameboard Capture interface.
  • New Gestures! pinch to zoom the Game Map, pinch to enable “Infinity View” on the Infinity Wall, swipe to open the Library
  • Lots of interface optimization for a better handheld device experience, including pinch to zoom to edit the Gameboard.
  • New kid-friendly account signup and advanced moderation to ensure players are kept safe! 
  • Bug Fixes, Crash, and Loading Screen Optimizations

If you are experiencing issues please email us or visit our new help desk at support.bloxelsbuilder.com. We're here to help!


There is so much new to share we can barely fit it all here!

Click through to explore more.


Now you can play games right in your web browser! Click through to play this week's featured games and enter the coordinates for your games play and share! Our new web player is part of the brand new Bloxels Kids site!


Introducing our soon to be released weekly web series, "Block Party"! This brand new, weekly variety show will feature great content from the Bloxels Infinity Wall, tips, tricks, random challenges between the hosts, special guest and more! 

Tune in each week starting late September 2016! 


We've launched a brand new Help Desk with a growing list of articles to help you with Bloxels experience. The Help Desk also includes a Community Portal where you can start your own topics and share your ideas and creations!



You're going BACK TO SCHOOL, educators! We've got a lot in store with some great news - keep reading for the latest and greatest from Bloxels!



Bloxels EDU Facebook Community

Please join the new Bloxels EDU Facebook Community this school year. This is an open group - designed for educators to share Bloxels lesson ideas, feedback, and all the great things that they do in their classrooms to empower students with video games.

For those considering Bloxels in their classrooms and schools, this group of innovative educators can help illustrate that Bloxels is the ultimate STEAM education tool - with amazing digital storytelling and collaborative features.

Once you're logged into your Facebook account, go to www.facebook.com/bloxelsedu to join!


Bloxels EDU Lesson Plans & Activities

The Pixel Press educator in residence, Robert Kalman, has been hard at work this summer curating content area-specific lesson plans that teachers can utilize in their classrooms with Bloxels. Several Bloxels EDU Ambassadors, including Jill Badalamenti, Karie Huttner, and Richard Campbell made contributions as well!

Please join the Bloxels EDU Facebook Community, and follow us @bloxelsbuilder on Twitter to get these lesson plans as soon as they're complete.


Bloxels at the Apple Distinguished
Educator Summit in Berlin

Bloxels was all the rage at the 2016 ADE Summit in Berlin. Several BloxelsEDU Ambassadors and advocates presented about Bloxels, including Mark Anderson, Steve Bambury, Michael Lang and Coby Reynolds. These awesome educators love Bloxels, and wanted all of their ADE peeps to know how amazing Bloxels is too. Check out a few highlights of the #ADE2016 Twitter action below.


Bloxels #BackToSchool
Team Builder 5-Pack Contest

We're running a special #BackToSchool Contest on Twitter so that one lucky educator and classroom can begin using Bloxels with his/her students during the 2016-17 school year ASAP! To enter, please follow the instructions below:



Are you on the map?

Check out the BloxelsEDU Map, search your city and if you are not on the map let us know by completing the submission form on the map page!


Stay tuned here for more great content and offers, and be sure to follow along on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Also, remember to rate and review Bloxels Builder on the Google, Apple and Kindle app stores. Your feedback is important to us!

Please email us at support@bloxelsbuilder.com if you have any questions about your order, using Bloxels, or just to drop us a note. We're here to help.

- The Pixel Press Team

10 Tips to be a Better Bloxels Builder!

The designer of the latest "Poultry Panic" game in the upcoming Bloxels v1.4 release, Connor Brown, has put together 10 Tips for our aspiring Bloxels designers. See a preview of his game below and check out his 10 tip!


A screenshot of the "Poultry Panic" map!



1.     Think about making objects that requires more than one board of space to complete. This will help give objects, platforms, and terrain in your levels greater depth and detail.

Comparing a single board table to a multi-board table

Comparing a single board table to a multi-board table

2.     Think about your color palette in your level. Does it have a cool or warm theme? Having a preset color palette will help give your level flow and overall design strength.

3.     Incorporate animations into your level design. Having a combination of stationary boards and animations can help break up your level with interesting things to look at.

4.     Avoid having an area with repetitive boards. In other words, avoid filling an area with the same board. Incorporating various different boards with the same theme. This will help get rid of those eye sore areas.

5.     Even though its fun to have simple hallways and paths, avoid the classic one block tunnels that use the same board for everything. Think about more intricate paths with various height levels.

6.     Think about form with your art boards. Adding shading can always help whatever you are creating pop out more or add to the level of detail.

7.     Adding secrets can always make a level even more successful. This gives the player an incentive to go back and replay your level or spend more time searching around. This gives a higher appreciation to what your level shows rather than someone running right past an object you may have spent hours creating.

8.     Create a story that draws the player in. Mystery, drama, and action are always a go to when it comes to story telling. Having story blocks can help develop a thicker love for your level as players will become more engaged with what your level has to offer.


9.     Make a level difficult, but not impossible. (Unless that’s what you’re going for of course!) Try to avoid those easy straight-line levels you can complete in seconds. Add some jumps, and maybe a path that isn’t so obvious but can be found with a little bit of searching.

10. Plan out your level before you jumping in to create it. Having a base idea and layout for your game helps you have a good workflow.


A big thanks to Connor for putting together these tips! Share your comments below if you have additional tips.


Bloxels Visits Earth Explorer Toys

This past weekend Bloxels visited Earth Explorer Toys in Zionsville, Indiana (30 minutes outside of Indianapolis). Store owner Terri Brackens invited us to visit their store and invited 10 children (ages 6-11) to come and build games with Bloxels.

The children spent the first hour building their own games with Bloxels, and the last 30 minutes working together to build a super game together.

See below for images of their game and Pixel Press co-founder Robin Rath playing the game they built. 


Click on an image to expand.