I just finished the Epic Games online course, Teaching with Fortnite Creative. I really enjoyed the course, although it should be noted that I found it to be more of a primer on how to get around in Fortnite Creative as opposed to how to use Fortnite Creative to teach students (more on that below). That’s fine by me, as I’ve only played a handful of Fortnite matches and had never used its Creative game mode. It was a great learning experience.
The author of the course, Steve Isaacs, teaches an internationally recognized middle and high school game development program. If you are intrigued by the concept but don’t want to take the full 2-hour class, I recommend reviewing the Introduction sections which include two videos from Mr. Isaacs. He makes a great case for bringing gaming to the classroom, while also giving nods to some of the games that pioneered using gaming in public education (such as Oregon Trail). What better way to teach students the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) curriculum than using things they already know and love like Fortnite, Minecraft, Legos, etc.?
If you’ve never played Fortnite Creative (which, like the core game, is free), the general concept is fairly similar to titles like Minecraft, Lego Worlds, GTA Online Content Creator, Disney Infinity, and Garry’s Mod (and in an abstract sense, Epic’s Unreal Engine). You choose from a number of varied island terrains to start with, and then drag in everything from models, props, and vehicles to more advanced components (called Devices) that can spawn items and enemies. Some Devices also provide the ability to construct simple game logic and AI. With time and patience, you could build a fully playable “game” within Fortnite Creative, and not just a battle royale game.
There are a number of things in Fortnite Creative that reminded me quite a bit of other, more sophisticated tools used in 3D spaces, such as Unreal Engine, Unity, Blender, and Maya. You can learn a lot in a short period of time in Fortnite Creative about object orientation in a 3D world, axis rotation, scale, spacing, copying and pasting 3D objects, and grid snapping just to name a few. These are all fundamental skills of designing in 3D space.
Games are a great starting point for getting comfortable in an immersive 3D environment and Fortnite Creative can be a powerful tool to use in the classroom. Playing games can be a pathway to becoming a creator and exploring the skills required to enter emerging careers in interactive 3D.
from “Teaching with Fortnite Creative”
I also liked that each map has a memory limit. I don’t know if this was the intent, but it forces the creator to be smart (and sometimes clever) about design choices. Building games, or any software really, is all about getting the most out of the limited resources you have to work with, whether that be computing power, network bandwidth, memory, or disk space (and often, it is all of those).
Value For Students Interested in Game Design and Content Creation
Every game designer and content creator I’ve ever known started as a gamer first. Some gamers then become enthralled with the idea of building content (mods) for their favorite games, and many then go on to create their own unique games.
This is a path I’ve always recommended to young folks looking to get into the design part of the industry. Garry’s Mod, mentioned above, started out as a Half-Life mod before becoming a standalone, paid title that has sold over 10 million copies (developer Garry Newman used the revenue to found a development studio that went on to create the popular open-world survivor game, Rust).
General Education Application
Fortnite Creative (and other titles I’ve mentioned) is a great gateway into learning about the world of game design. But it can also be an invaluable educational tool, not just for future game designers, but for other students as well.
Circling back to “Teaching with Fortnite Creative,” I mentioned that the course is more about setting up Fortnite Creative and demonstrating how to use it as opposed to specific applications in the classroom. However, the final segment of the course does link to a number of helpful resources and actual lesson plans that show how Fortnite Creative can be used to drill down to specific academic areas such as economics, physics, social skills, and many others.
Lastly, I also wanted to mention Epic Games will frequently run contests that award cash prizes to high school educators who present the best lesson plan(s) using Fortnite Creative (or Unreal Engine and Twinmotion). They have also provided a lesson plan template, and I have linked some completed sample lesson plans below.