Designing creative and engaging video games

The Australian STEM Video Game Challenge is an annual competition that aims to help prepare students for the future by fostering their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and knowledge. It also seeks to address the disparity between the representation of male and female students in STEM-related fields.

Registrations for the 2021 challenge are now open. Students in Years 5-12 work in teams (of one to four members) with a nominated adult mentor, such as a teacher. They are tasked with building, testing and creating an original video game incorporating the chosen theme. This year’s theme is ‘scale’.

The annual challenge is managed in Australia by the ACER Foundation, a charitable organisation underwritten by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).

ACER Foundation Director Lisa Norris says she’s looking forward to seeing the imaginative ways that different groups approach this year’s theme.

‘Some schools will approach the theme in a very literal and direct way. Others will be highly conceptual. We are constantly amazed at the creative, engaging, and fun ways that students respond to the theme each year,’ she says.

Scale is used as common feature in many games popular games. ‘Some games, particularly strategy and role playing games, use scale to help users navigate their worlds,’ Norris says.

‘Another common way scale is used is by allowing players to zoom in and out, to access more or less detail as needed. The great thing about this challenge is that students can decide in their groups how they’d like to incorporate the theme into their game. It really leaves so much to the imagination.’

The challenge is aligned with the Australian Curriculum in every state and territory, which enables teachers to implement a fun and practical project in the classroom. There are also resources available for teachers, which include links to free game development platforms – including a new addition for 2021, MicroStudio.

Registrations for the Australian STEM Video Game Challenge 2021 are open now and close on 22 July, game submissions are due on 5 August, and the winners will be announced on 21 September.

The 2020 challenge was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some students had begun creating their projects using the same theme, ‘scale’, so those students are encouraged to keep going and finish what they started. This includes the Year 12 class of 2020 who are eligible to enter into the 2021 competition.

The challenge organisers are looking for volunteers to judge the competition in 2021. If you love games and would like to be involved, please register your interest by emailing

For more information about the Australian STEM Video Game Challenge and to download student, teacher and parent resources visit