By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science and Technology
The early years of pixel art and video games ignited the imaginations of children. As childhood friends, Robin Rath and Josh Stevens talked about wanting to make their own.
“In addition to playing these games, we started to get the idea of wanting to make those games,” said Rath, co-founder of Pixel Press.
Rath and Stevens are co-founders of St. Louis-based Pixel Press. Pixel Press is the creator of Bloxels, a new video game experience for children. Bloxels offers a game board and online app for anyone to build a video game. At home or school, Bloxels is a simple way for children to create characters, art, and stories to share with the world. Using colored blocks, Bloxels’ physical and online game board sets the stage for technology to bring creations into the online world of video games. Rob Bennet is co-founder and CEO who is taking steps to advance the company’s video game creation technology.
“We created the Arcade for kids and people of all ages to be able to build games and share them,” said Bennet.
It’s all done with their video game creation platform, Bloxels Builder, that takes game creation to a new level. It allows children to build their own characters, game features and gaming experience.
“It takes colored blocks and each of those blocks has a meaning. Once they assembled them on a game board, they are actually using the camera on their tablet or on their phone to take a picture of what they’ve built,” explained Rath. “Our technology recognizes the colors using optical character recognition to recognize what those shapes and colors are and ultimately turns that into data that’s imported into our video game creation engine.”
In 2018, Pixel Press launched Bloxels EDU. The company said Bloxels EDU is now used in about 25,000 classrooms in the U.S. and is approaching 45,000 classrooms globally.
“Whatever story you want to tell, you can tell. And when you get in a room full of kids today, a week from now, a month from now, every kid has a different story to tell,” said Stevens.
Students’ work can be shared on a Bloxels EDU classroom wall or a public wall.
With the pandemic, there were problems getting game boards into hands of students who are not in the classroom for distance learning. This created a company shift. In addition to the physical board and blocks, Pixel Press is marketing the latest version of Bloxels, which is now digital.
“You can actually use the app itself,” said Bennet. “So if you open the app, go into the game builder or character builder, there will be a digital representation of that board. You can select a color and draw with that color. It has all the EDU features as well as all the personal edition features.”
Another pandemic pivot is focused on engaging all users, individual gamers and classrooms, through their YouTube virtual video series, called Featured Friday.