Ambassador Spotlight: Jean Turney and Amy Hoffman


Jean Turney and Amy Hoffman are a special pair of teachers. The 3rd grade educators share a room for their classes at the Biome School STEAM School in St. Louis. The Biome is a small, K-4 STEAM school with a heavy focus on educator agility, student success, and project-based-learning. It is here that Jean and Amy wrangle their 38 students into one room and teach them 21st century skills. The classroom isn’t small, but that many kids will make any space feel like a closet. The tables are lined with supplies, arranged in groups. The walls are covered in writing prompts and login credentials for class tools. It feels like a makerspace, like a tech incubator, but for much smaller entrepreneurs. Character seeps from every corner.

The Biome is 4 years old. The small STEAM charter school is built upon creating “a balanced learning ecosystem in which teachers work together with students to cultivate a growth mindset as they discover their unique gifts, talents and interests.” You feel this as soon as you cross the threshold into the building. Jean and Amy’s room is the first classroom accessible as you enter.

I recently sat down with this duo and asked them about being in a shared space, Bloxels EDU, and why they do what they do. Then I got a chance to talk to their students about using Bloxels EDU.

So tell me about yourselves. What did you do before you came to the Biome?

AH: I taught in Jennings. 4th grade.

JT: Well I spent five years as the Education Coordinator for Forest Park Forever. There I trained teachers to use the park as an extension of their classroom. So I did a lot of teacher training and then working with different groups. But I was in the classroom for 20 years before that.

Jean Turney

Jean Turney


And what made you come to Biome?

JT: I actually came here for a workshop. Amy and I were both with similar groups of this experiential educators exchange (EEE), a kind of collaborative group of teachers who use more experiential based stuff. And we held an event here and I was super impressed with the school. I met Myles (another teacher at the Biome) in one of the workshops and he explained his project with the zoo and it was very much in the same vein of projects I had been trying to get teachers to do. Not making these places one-time field trips but more extended tools. I loved making bigger community based projects but I missed the direct connection of being in the class so I began to think that maybe there was something more. And then Trump happened and I needed a place to use the energy of the emotions I felt, and I felt that being a teacher on the frontlines was where I needed to be.

I went home from that event and looked up the school and saw the way they emphasized the kids and community over scores and saw they had openings and it kinda went from there.

Did you guys start at the same time?

AH: I have been here three years. So, a year longer than Jean. I was one of the people working to get the EEE stuff here. I came initially because of the project based learning focus and the autonomy. You know, established districts are so bogged down in red tape it’s hard to make anything happen, or adapt with the changing landscape. That really began to frustrate me. Here, I love that we can choose, it affords us a kind of agility that I didn’t have before.

How does Bloxels EDU work into your classroom?

JT: So we have been doing a Science piece about the medicinal properties of plants in the Missouri Prairies. So their stories start with something like, “Oh, I have head lice,” and then somehow they learn that Big Bluestem will help. So as their character collects that and cures it, they move on to the next thing like stomach aches, making them have to find another plant. I can guide them through doing their storyboards and getting their ideas out. Once they start making the games in the app and on the boards with blocks they really take over themselves.

AH: The kids pick up the app and its functions so fast. Most of the time it is the keeping up with them that is hard.

JT: Exactly. I work it into my Reading and Writing block, having the kids work on things like character building and world building as well, in an ongoing project. Really the kids teach us how to use the app, and they teach each other the tricks that they have learned.

Amy Hoffman

Amy Hoffman


How does all of this work with you guys sharing a single space?

AH: It is a bit of a challenge. It’s great that we like each other, because if we weren’t lucky enough to have that dynamic that would make this really difficult. But it has been excellent in that we can learn from each other and play off of each other. It’s hard for the kids sometimes because it is incredibly difficult to get small group time, there just isn’t enough space for that.

JT: Their own space to be able to spread out. And, you know, as a school we are really committed to project-based-learning and so, we still do them, but with more space it would be easier for them to organize their stuff and have a place to go to and grab their things.

It’s almost like you guys have to build theater sets in between lessons, with all the parts that have to be put away and then other things brought out.

AH: Yup.

JT: Exactly. So literally, when we do our own reading groups, we put up these little barrier walls to create a sense of separate spaces.

AH: Still, even then, there is always someone moving. Always someone talking. Especially with 38 kids in a single room. But this prompts the kids to coexist more, collaborate more. It really gets them to socialize and learn to work together.

JT: The kids have just gotten to the stage where they are working with each other on their games in Bloxels EDU and teaching each other things and then playing each others games. Really in the end it’s about flexibility, it’s about communication and working together. And that’s really what Bloxels EDU is about: Giving kids those opportunities to solve problems and figure things out together.


I wrapped up with Jean and Amy and then their classes came in to ask me questions. The kids had dozens of suggestions for features and possible updates, they had kept track of the issues they had run into and gave me little bug reports, Most importantly, they were excited about what they were creating, and they couldn’t wait to share with me.


We want to thank Jean Turney and Amy Hoffman for taking time out of their day to talk to us. We certainly had a blast and we can’t wait to see what they do with Bloxels EDU in their unique classroom and with their peers.

New Ambassador Spotlight: Lisa Fox

A New Ambassador Intent on Bringing 21st Century Teaching Tools to the Front


Lisa Fox, the Technology Integration Specialist at Forestdale School in Massachusetts, is an instructor on a mission. Raised in Massachusetts, the University of Maryland graduate is shaping her method of instruction around today’s tools. 

A new Bloxels Ambassador, Lisa worked primarily with children from Kindergarten to Second Grade on STEM skills and now works with educators to help them implement different STEM tools into their classrooms. She introduced Bloxels to her class a little over a year ago and saw her students hooked by the idea of creating their own games. “It was a new tool, I found it on a 'Best Ed Tech Tools’ list,” Lisa said, “and it had a physical element that really helped the younger kids have something tangible to grab on to.”

Dedicated to learning her tools herself, Lisa took the time to familiarize herself with Bloxels on her own time. “It only took me a day to get a good understanding of what Bloxels could do.” Lisa said. “I thought, if it’s something I can learn how to use in a day then it is definitely something that my kids can pick up.” That ease of access was key for Lisa, who got her 600 students familiar and comfortable with the app within three weeks.


Since introducing it to her classes, Lisa has taken it upon her self to advocate for the use of Bloxels, and similar tools, in STEM classrooms both with her peers and at conferences. We met her at MassCue where she was giving a talk about the transformation of Bloxels Builder into Bloxels EDU and the benefits of using a creative tool like Bloxels EDU in a classroom. “It is really a great transformation from the original Bloxels Builder. It has been simplified, there are fewer distractions. It was easy to get distracted before and those distractions have been cleaned up. It has been made so compatible for what teachers need.”

So what motivated you to teach?

Really I love learning myself. I am in the process of getting my doctorate in Education Leadership with a focus in STEM. I just think that learning needs to move into the 21st century with these kids. There are so many tools out there and so many of them are good. It’s just a matter of getting them in front of these students so they can learn with them.

What would you say your biggest roadblock is?

Definitely the mindset surrounding games and education. So many people see games as just a recreational tool. And with the news recently being so focused on, “he learned from, or he was desensitized by games.” There is a lot in the news about violence in games, no to mention the amount of screen time kids have. It’s really just a struggle of convincing the more traditional teachers and parents that there is a real learning potential with these tools. It’s not just games.


Have you had any luck in that endeavor?

I would say yes. It’s hard to say with the more technologically traditional parents, mostly because they don’t really talk to me. But I have had teachers see what I do and then ask me to run their labs and things like that. I sometimes have to remind people that STEM isn’t just Math and Science, its also Technology and Engineering. 

Are you an ambassador (or similar) with any other tools?

Yeah, so I am a Certified Trainer with Brainpop, a Certified Teacher with Project Lead the Way, and a Second Level Google Certified Educator.

What is your favorite part about being involved with programs like this?

Definitely the opportunity to collaborate with other educators. I love being able to bounce ideas off of other people in the field of education and talk best practices. 

To bring the conversation back a bit, do you have plans to keep talking at conferences and events like that?

I do plan to keep doing it, but I don’t have anything planned right now. Some of my colleagues had mentioned ISTE but my school may not have the funding for that. In the meantime I am looking to set up some sessions with educators in my area. Just a way to work closely with more teachers on incorporating these 21st century tools into their classrooms. 


Ok, last couple questions: What is the most memorable moment you have had using Bloxels in your classes?

Honestly, it’s the student engagement. Watching these kids jump right into the blocks and then learn their way around the app is special. The pick it up so fast, many times without any prompting. 

Yeah kids are so quick at picking up technology, and they are only getting faster.

They really are. It will be interesting to see how that develops in the coming years.

Last Question, one just for fun: What is your favorite block in Bloxels?

Definitely the Green Block. The one that you walk around on in the game? It can be anything. Kids can turn it into iron or grass or rocks or space dust. It just speaks to Bloxels EDU’s open format, allowing kids to create their own worlds. It is a blank slate that you can turn into anything.


We want to thank Lisa Fox for taking time out of her day to talk to us. We certainly had a blast and we can’t wait to see what she does with Bloxels EDU in her classroom and with her peers. Be sure to follow Mrs. Fox’s blog Teachable Moments and follow her on Instagram @techablemoments

ISTE is Only a Week Away!

ISTE is Only a Week Away!

ONE 👏 MORE 👏 WEEK 👏 O 👏 M 👏 G 👏 ISTE is only 7 days away and we’re so excited can’t sit still! Literally! We’ve been all over the place making sure all of our blocks are in order and ready for the epic expo hall and events we have lined up. App building, booth planning, magnet creating, and tons more awesome stuff are being created to make sure this ISTE is the best ISTE yet!

Big Muddy Monster Game Jam

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On December 16th, 2017 Pixel Press hosted our 2nd Big Muddy Monster Game Jam in Murphysboro, Illinois at the General John. A. Logan Attendance Center. The event is special to us because Murphysboro is home of three of our employees.

It was an action packed day, with over 80 kids ages 6 through 14 making games from 9a to 3p. Each participant received a Big Muddy Monster T-Shirt to commemorate the event, thanks to donations from Murphysboro School District 186 Education Foundation and State Farm agent Stan Graeff.


In the morning sessions participants learned the basics of making games using our Brainstorming Kit, where they learned the elements of a video game and mapped them out first with paper and markers and then on their Bloxels gameboards. Students learned how to create game environments and art and were soon combining them together in the Bloxels Builder app using tablet devices provided by the school or their personal devices from home.


After a pizza lunch, sponsored by Whiffle Boys Pizza, the students moved on to learning more advanced tools and started to round out the specifics of their game, including the storyline, game progression and game objectives. 

At the end of the day students presented their games on the big screen and were able to see other players experience the games they created.

Other activites throughout the day included a visit from the Big Muddy Monster himself, as well as game building on the Bloxels Big Gameboard.

Thank you to our sponsors and volunteers, including Steven Bost (the Monster!), Galen Rath (photographer), and Steve Carrington (on-site organizer).


Want to host a Bloxels Game Jam in your school or community?

Click on any photo to expand.

Introducing Bloxels Star Wars



Fans Can Embrace the Force and Learn the Basics of Programming and Coding by Creating Their Very Own Video Games Using the Bloxels Blocks Beginning Today

LOS ANGELES, CA—November 15, 2017—Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT) and Pixel Press today, in collaboration with Lucasfilm, announced the introduction of Star Wars™ Bloxels®, letting curious-minded and creative young Jedi create their own video games in a galaxy far, far away with their favorite characters and stories. Bloxels provides kids with a highly-accessible video game creation platform where they get to act as the game designer, artist, storyteller, publisher and player, giving them a fun introduction to the world of video game development. Already used as a fun tool in classrooms to help kids understand the basics of coding, and brought into homes by parents who want to help prepare their young ones for the tech-focused careers of tomorrow, the new line of Bloxels is going to make technology and programming even more fun and accessible than ever. Star Wars Bloxels is available today here and at retailers nationwide for $49.99.



Interested in learning more? Check out The Story Behind the Creation of Boxels Star Wars



Whether keeping the dark side at bay, playing as Darth Vader, or navigating Luke Skywalker through the galaxy, Star Wars Bloxels helps kids bring the stories they imagine to life through a build-and-play platform that uses brightly colored building blocks to create and share games. Aspiring game developers and designers can use the Death Star themed gameboard and colored blocks to customize and build their stages and watch their game world come alive in cool retro arcade style with the Star Wars Bloxels app. Once the preliminary design is uploaded, kids can customize the game’s graphics into a Star Wars galaxy by choosing from different environments such as Hoth, Jabba’s Palace, Mos Eisley, the Ewok Village or the Death Star. The game builder app is available only with purchase of the Star Wars Bloxels kit.

Since their launch in 2015, Bloxels has been recognized by both parents and educators alike as a great entry point for students to get familiar with coding, programming, and game development and truly hone their technology skills. Bloxels offers an exciting and unintimidating way for kids to develop their abilities so that they are thoroughly prepared for the science and technology focused careers of tomorrow. Over the past few years, school programs have incorporated Bloxels into their curriculum as a platform for teaching the basic building blocks of programming, as well as helping students hone both analytic and storytelling skills.

Sven Gerjets, Chief Technology Officer at Mattel, said, “Through our collaboration with Pixel Press, as well as Disney and Lucasfilm to bring Star Wars Bloxels to store shelves, we are continuing our tradition of creating products that enable learning and development through play. Star Wars Bloxels not only gives kids the opportunity to enjoy the iconic characters and stories of this iconic franchise in a unique way, but also provides a great entry point for learning coding, programming and game design.”

After players have created their video game, it’s time to keep the stormtroopers at bay and save the day! Fans can publish their video games to a community of Star Wars Bloxels players where kids can play and explore each other’s gaming worlds. Players can also unlock Star Wars content through Story Mode games. Story mode highlights the unique ability of each Star Wars character and setting. 

Mattel’s collaboration with Pixel Press on Bloxels is part of the company’s effort to evolve play by developing connected technology platforms. Bloxels was the brainchild of the founders of Pixel Press, who grew up playing video games and dreaming of one day creating their own. Now as parents, they focus on exploring ways to enable their children to be the next generation of creators by starting that process when they are at their most creative developmental stage. Bloxels is recommended for ages 8 and up.

Rob Bennet, Co-Founder & CTO at Pixel Press said, “Working with both Mattel, the experts in play, and the Star Wars team, who are master storytellers, has ensured that Star Wars Bloxels will be the kind of experience that will not only introduce kids to important skills, but also will be a total thrill for them to play with. We can’t wait for little fans to get gaming with their favorite characters.” 

Star Wars Bloxels comes with a Star Wars themed game board, 320 blocks, a quick start guide and works directly with the Bloxels Star Wars app available on Apple, Google and Amazon phones and tablets.


To Purchase Bloxels Star Wars, visit our online store here.


The Story Behind the Creation of Bloxels Star Wars

By Rob Bennet, Pixel Press CTO & Co-Founder

A behind the scenes look at Bloxels Star Wars™, video games that YOU create!

It is with great pleasure that Pixel Press announces our latest installment in the Bloxels ecosystem, Bloxels Star Wars. In partnership with Disney, LucasFilm Ltd. and Mattel we have taken the simplistic game-building power of Bloxels and melded it with the most beloved and recognizable fictional universe, Star Wars!

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To Purchase Bloxels Star Wars, visit our online store here.


Through the mass adoption of Bloxels Builder in 2016, we grew close to our fans and players and kept our ears and eyes glued to the feedback, listening and watching as players and builders made out-of-this world creations we had never thought possible. Whether from teachers in the classroom or kids at home, we learned what people loved and what people wanted to push the platform forward.


Something we saw a lot of right away was our players reimagining their favorite games and heroes within the platform. Some amazing custom characters and games were being created, re-telling stories from fictional universes we all love and adore. Thanks to our partnership with Mattel back in 2016, we were able to attract the attention of our personal favorite universe, Star Wars, thus forming an alliance that would make for some great game-building experiences. 

The game box art for one of our early inspirations, Super Star Wars for SNES

The game box art for one of our early inspirations, Super Star Wars for SNES

After some team sessions of sifting through a ton of Star Wars books and watching Super Star Wars play-throughs on YouTube, we began formulating how we could bring the Star Wars universe into the Bloxels ecosystem in a smart and engaging way.

How cool would it be if kids could reimagine classic Star Wars characters and planets into their own storylines?

A large part of this journey was not only coming up with cool and unique ways to incorporate the Star Wars stories, but also push the Bloxels Builder platform forward with new tools and experiences.


Using Our Own Tools

Something we decided early on with this product was the concept of a campaign, something we had not done in previous versions of Bloxels. 

Selecting between the light and dark  Story Mode in Bloxels Star Wars.

Selecting between the light and dark  Story Mode in Bloxels Star Wars.


With a campaign mode or “missions” we were able to show off the various character attributes, themes and block configurations in a progressive way. Another important part of the Bloxels Star Wars Mission Mode is the fact that we used the Bloxels Builder system to build all of the assets and worlds. With only a few variants, all of the content is based on the same 13x13 configuration, which gives this pixel art platformer that Bloxels feeling. All backgrounds are made with the 2197x2197 pixel dimensions of the Background mode in Bloxels Builder. Terrain, Coins, Water, Hazards, Enemies, Story Blocks, Power-ups and Action Blocks are all made in the familiar 13x13 pixel art style.

A look at the design process behind the Jabba's Palace story level.

A look at the design process behind the Jabba's Palace story level.


By using our own tools and self-imposed constraints, we were able to fully realize where Bloxels Builder and the Bloxels ecosystem needs to expand to in the future. For example, with the Bloxels Star Wars project we needed to expand our color palette from the current NES-based 64 color palette to a custom 256 color palette to accommodate all of the great Star Wars pixel art our team created. This also lead us to not hindering creativity through the 8-block color register and have the ability to have each 13x13 board take full advantage of the 256 color palette, something a lot of our players have asked of us for future updates and products!


Around the Office

Building Bloxels Star Wars was a lot of fun, and a lot of long nights. Below are a few photos taken during the production process.


Click on any image above to view it larger.


Sound and Music

All art, mechanics, technology and gameplay were created and programmed right here in St. Louis, MO and in keeping it “in the family” we worked with local music composers, Fat Bard, to bring the Bloxels Star Wars sound to life. We are particularly proud of the theme song variation they came up with and can’t wait for everyone to hear it! We wanted to keep it lo-fi in the vein of SNES. Not quite as simplistic and hardware based as the NES, but chiptune in nature and bit-crushed to bring those familiar songs and sounds into the Bloxels ecosystem.  We put a heavy emphasis on music and sound in this game and plan to keep that moving forward into new and exciting experiences coming in the future.


New and Improved

The story editor in Bloxels Star Wars

The story editor in Bloxels Star Wars

We took a lot of feedback to heart over the past year and brought a lot of it to light in the new Bloxels Star Wars game. You might have noticed I mentioned Action Blocks previously and if you are familiar with Bloxels Builder, you would know these as orange blocks. Previously just a destructible block, orange has been reinvented as Action Blocks. You can now assign multiple configurations to orange blocks, including Destructible, Exploding, Doors and Air Jets! Air Jets work similar to spring launchers and allow you, the creator, to make machines in your game. You could have an advanced configuration of Air Jets that bounce the character all over the world. Another big introduction this time around are Keys and Doors. Using orange blocks as doors and placing a pink block as a Key power-up, players can now create puzzles and storytelling elements not previously available in the Bloxels ecosystem.

Early concept gameplay screenshot from Bloxels Star Wars.

Early concept gameplay screenshot from Bloxels Star Wars.


We have also included a more immersive story block UI where you can assign text to blocks, as well as configure checkpoints and end flags. Not to mention a custom Builder interface just for Bloxels Star Wars! Map view, zooming, decorating, configuration and test iteration have never been easier!

A screenshot of the title sequence in Bloxels Star Wars.

A screenshot of the title sequence in Bloxels Star Wars.


We've always loved the iconic characters and settings from the classic trilogy, and have labored to bring them to life in this "13-bit" world. Players can build and play with themes like Hoth, Tatooine, Endor, and the Death Star. The characters are unique and play differently, whether it be Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker with their lightsabers, Emperor Palpatine's Force Lightning, Chewbacca with his Bowcaster, Leia, Han Solo and Greedo with their speed and agility, or Boba Fett with his Jetpack. There is a ton to explore in the Bloxels Star Wars characters.

Early and final Darth Vader art concepts.

Early and final Darth Vader art concepts.


The STEM Connection

Something we were truly excited about was bringing Bloxels Star Wars to students and early and often. We wanted kids’ feedback and reactions to the experience, characters, story and to help us find the fun


Over the last 2 years we have found enormous adoption by teachers and students in the classroom, something we didn’t quite anticipate at first, but fully embraced once we saw the energy and excitement. Bloxels Builder has grown into a fully functional STEM tool for educators and we love that. Empowering kids to be video game creators is something that we are very passionate about. The tangible play that Bloxels Builder embraces through the board and blocks inspired a lot of educators to use Bloxels in the classroom and other educational environments such as libraries, maker spaces and after-school programs. Educators are using the tools in a plethora of ways whether it be through enriched story-telling, art and design, code paradigms through configurable blocks or collaboration in character building and story-arcs.

We decided quickly that we wanted to take Bloxels Star Wars to the classroom and see what these 13 bit builders could come up with. We were amazed at not only the excitement they displayed but also the awesome critical feedback they gave us to help make the product what it is today. 

Through our partnership with Mattel, we’ve been able to reach a wide audience in the commercial consumer space. This has allowed our internal team in St. Louis to focus on product development as well as the development of our relationships with educational institutions, teachers, librarians, maker space coordinators and more.

Students testing Bloxels Star Wars.

Students testing Bloxels Star Wars.

We not only get to collect feedback and experiential data from the commercial consumer side of the industry but also from the educational side and this two-pronged approach has allowed us to bring our products to a larger audience. Educators are smart and thus the maker movement and STE[A]M movements have gained a ton of momentum in recent years. If a player is excited about a product in the classroom as well as at home and it happens to be educational, this is glorious marriage that few products have been fortunate enough to take advantage of. We at Pixel Press feel extremely fortunate that we had the relationships built in the educational space to host Beta Testing sessions with these kids at these schools. 

The educational products are actually consumer products and this has allowed for educators to trust other consumer products like Bloxels Star Wars to come into the educational space, which gets kids excited about STE[A]M and ultimately learning. 

A big thanks to The Wilson School in St. Louis and Orchard Farm Elementary in St. Charles, MO for being such a big part of our product testing process.


What’s Next?

So what’s next for Bloxels? We have a huge release on the horizon with Bloxels Star Wars and we cannot wait to support and gather feedback for our next line of products. We have a lot in the hopper and our 2018 product roadmap is rich in supporting materials. Recently we released our Challenge Card and Story Card decks.

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We have also recently unveiled our Educator Hub (EDU Hub), an online portal for educators to login and manage student accounts, gain access to materials and resources and follow our Bloxels Ambassadors. 

With Bloxels Builder still in full swing and Bloxels Star Wars now live, we have a lot to be excited about but that doesn’t mean we’re slowing down any time soon. In the coming months look to see deeper storytelling tools and coding tools in the form of supporting materials (work books, card decks, etc…) as well as all new software where we’ve taken all of your feedback and our learning to create what we believe will be a whole new chapter in the Bloxels story.

To Purchase Bloxels Star Wars, visit our online store here.

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


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

Game Box art on display at our booth at GDC.

Game Box art on display at our booth at GDC.

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.

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.