Inside the Chaotic World of Kids Trying to Play Video Games on School Laptops


Geometry Spot is a simple-looking website that, on the surface, is exactly what it advertises: a place to learn more about a form of mathematics that haunts many high school students. “Why are compasses needed in geometry?” reads one article. “What is plane geometry?” reads another. But on the fringes of the website, tucked away in the upper right corner, is a link marked “activities.” Clicking on activities reveals Geometry Spot’s secret underbelly: it’s a website where kids can play a mixture of legal and legally dubious video games at school.

Kids have been trying to play video games on school computers for as long as computers have cropped up in schools, but decades ago, they jumped through those hoops in a dedicated computer lab, or secretly downloaded homemade games to their TI-83 calculators while pretending to crunch equations. But these days, computers are deeply intertwined into education, and many school age children have regular access to a computer, usually a Chromebook or iPad, as early as 1st grade, when kids are only six or seven years old.

What exists now is an escalating game of whack-a-mole between students, teachers, and IT departments, as kids hopeful to do anything but school work try to find a way to play games.

“One kid kept opening up game sites” said one high school teacher who asked to stay anonymous, to protect the identities of their students. “I would wait for them to open one, add it to my list of blocked websites, refresh my settings, and then they would get locked out of it. Then they would open a new tab, find a new game site, and the cycle would repeat. This happened over and over over the course of about half an hour. At that point, I watched as they opened a new tab and searched ‘how to get a teacher fired.’ It gave me a good laugh.”

A look at the website Geometry Spot.
A look at the website Geometry Spot. Image by Patrick Klepek

Geometry Spot is run by 17-year-old Jerry Klamm, who attends high school in New York. This is one of many smokescreen websites that Jerry runs, a practice that dates back to middle school. At the time, Jerry had been trying to build up a personal YouTube channel.

“I was at school,” said Jerry during a recent interview with Waypoint, “and someone said, ‘That's a cool website, but why don't you add games to it that we can play in school?’”

He did, and suddenly, a lot of people at Jerry’s school were visiting his site—to play games. A typical cycle would then play out, with Jerry making a website with embedded games for fellow students to play during and between class, before the school caught on and banned it.

Now in high school, Geometry Spot is the latest in that chain, a website that’s done well enough that it now includes ads, and generates what Jerry’s father, Chris Klamm, calls “real money.”

“I'm happy for him,” said Chris, who helped Jerry set up an LLC and start having conversations with advertisers who wanted spots. “He's got a lot of success. We're going through it together, I guess. I'm proud of them. I just want to make sure everything's legit.”

Jerry said his teachers have a good sense of humor about his work, and at one point the vice principal talked to him about was, it seemed, pleasantly surprised about the LLC.

“I was at school, and someone said, ‘That's a cool website, but why don't you add games to it that we can play in school?’”

“I have geometry [class] first period,” he said. “I was in class, and some kid was on my website. I'm like, ‘Oh, are you on Geometry Spot?’ My geometry teacher looked up, and I was like, ‘Oh, I made that one.’ And then my geometry teacher asked me, she was like, "You write stuff about geometry?" I'm like, "No, it's a gaming website,’ and she started laughing.”

The “articles” on the website, Jerry told me, are mostly written using AI tools, and so far, Geometry Spot has not been banned at his high school. That is unlikely to last forever.

“The data shows that the average number of websites blocked per month more than doubled from 2016 to 2017 across grade levels,” reads a 2018 report by GoGuardian, one of the most popular software solutions by schools to filter and block websites on computers used by students. “The average number of sites blocked per month grew 193% for elementary school students, 140% for middle school students, and 173% for high school students.”

GoGuardian did not respond to a request for comment by Waypoint for updated data.

There’s a whole not-so-underground market for getting around software like GoGuardian, like the YouTube channel IrwinTech, where it’s kids explaining to other kids what to do.

“Kids want to bypass stuff on their school laptops because the laptops are given to them to use for school,” said Dylan Irwin, the creator of IrwinTech, in an email. “But sometimes in school they have an opportunity to play games like during lunch, when finished with work, or at home if they don't have a device of their own.”

Irwin started the channel in the midst of early COVID lockdowns, when the vast majority of school children were attending school at home via their computers. Irwin didn’t respond to a request asking how old he is, though it seems from the videos he’s, at best, in middle school.

He also claims he’s “never gotten in trouble” for producing the channel and publishing the workarounds, but noted “a few teachers that found out about it thought it was cool.” His parents also, apparently “know about my channel and are very proud of it and like it.”

As a parent of two children, I can vouch for this sentiment: I would be very proud of it, too.

According to the GoGuardian report, the five most blocked websites were Cool Math Games (games), (typing lessons), Facebook (social network), Crazy Games (again, to play games), and SparkNotes (aka everyone’s favorite way to read without reading).

“We know that we're often blocked in schools from emails that we get and from a report by GoGuardian,” said Raf Mertens, co-founder of Crazy Games. “We don't have any specific knowledge of kids getting around IT departments, but I assume that some of them try to use a VPN [virtual private network, a way to skirt restrictions]. We don't have a way of checking how many of our users are on a VPN. I'm on a VPN myself actually, since the co-working space I'm in belongs to a corporation, and the corporate network blocks games sites.”

That’s more than a little ironic.

Mertens told Waypoint he grew up playing Flash games in high school, which eventually led to him playing around and making Flash games himself. (Flash used to be the predominant tool for building web games, before it was essentially wiped from the modern internet.) He claims Crazy Games “hasn’t been contacted by schools or teachers at all,” and described the website’s primary demographics as “very wide-ranging” and from “teenagers to retired.”

Websites like Crazy Games, while aesthetically overwhelming to browse, are largely legitimate enterprises, featuring original web games, ports authorized by the original developers, or tools for companies to demand copyrighted content be removed. It’s far wilder on places like Geometry Spot, which purports to feature ways to play Minecraft, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and a game called “GTA 2023” that ultimately wouldn’t even load in my browser.

It’s also common to see shady versions of popular indie games like Getting Over It, which designer Bennet Foddy told Waypoint he didn’t know about but, interestingly, encouraged it.

“I wasn't aware this was happening with Getting Over It 'adaptations' like this,” said Foddy, “but I was aware that it happens with my web games. I think it's hilarious! I'm glad the next generation of kids is getting a version of the experience I had—being that ingenuity and resourcefulness are required to even just get to play games, and they are bringing it.”

Jerry, the kid behind Geometry Spot, told me it was common for students to come up to him and ask for new games to be added. One of the recent requests was for a game called Drift Hunters, which the website describes as “a completely free online drifting game where you have a chance to meet various supercars and proudly glide through them.”

A screen shot from the video game 'Drift Hunters'
A screen shot from the video game 'Drift Hunters' Image by Patrick Klepek

It’s true that Drift Hunters is a “free online drifting game,” but its designer, Ilya Kaminetsky, has nothing to do with, or the many other websites that have copied and pasted their game and spread it around the web.

“I noticed that the game began to be copied just a few months after the release on,” said Kaminetsky during a recent interview. “I did not see this as a problem, since initially I made a game for mobile platforms with ad-based monetization. I released the web version as an experiment and to gain some popularity for the mobile version of the game. As a result, the sites that copied the game helped to build a user base for the mobile version.”

Some time back, Kaminetsky was searching YouTube for videos of people playing Drift Hunters, and noticed students were playing it when they were very clearly attending school. Like the designer behind Getting Over It, Kaminetsky was inspired by these kids’ actions.

“I don't think we should ban games or other things that might distract students,” said Kaminetsky, who grew up and lived in Kyiv, Ukraine until just before the recent war. “Rather, the problem is that the educational process is organized with the expectation of the same perception by students, but it's not effective for everyone. I don’t know how much the educational program for these children differs from the one I studied. But during all the years that I was in school, my classmates and I were quite often distracted from the learning process during the lessons. It seems to me a very natural redistribution of attention.”

Some teachers who’ve grappled with the increasingly shiny distractions computers and phones provide in the classroom have fallen on Kaminetsky’s side: lean into the distraction.

“I don't think we should ban games or other things that might distract students. Rather, the problem is that the educational process is organized with the expectation of the same perception by students, but it's not effective for everyone.”

“If I am trying to instill good work habits in students, and one day, they will become adults that will have access to these devices in the workplace, they need to learn how to practice moderation and restraint now,” said one teacher, who asked to be anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly. “This goes hand-in-hand with how I usually give students plenty of time to get their work done during class. So if that means they choose to spend that time playing stupid browser games instead of getting their work done, then they’re giving themselves homework and hopefully they learn from it for next time.”

Kaminetsky said school was difficult whenever it didn’t feel “valuable,” which is what led to distractions like learning how to program video games. That “distraction” turned Kaminetsky into a video game developer all the way back in high school, centered around an attraction to racing—drifting in particular. In college, Kaminetsky would often find themselves leaving lectures to hang out in the library, where they’d work on their game and show it to people.

“I could meet people, show what I'm working on, get their opinions and get advice,” said Kaminetsky. “I believe that the social aspect of this process has given me more than lectures, the content of which I can get in the best quality at any time on the internet.”

Released on iOS, Android, and on the web with ads, Drift Hunters started providing Kaminetsky with an income equivalent to a “middle-level programmer” in Ukraine. Copycats played by bored American kids in school and elsewhere have funneled people back to the original game, full of improvements after six years of work. It now makes Kaminetsky “more money than if I worked as a senior-level developer in the top IT companies in the world.”

Websites like Geometry Spot have, if only by accident, proven a boon for developers like Kaminetsky by acting as an accidental form of marketing. What’s rarer is a website like Geometry Spot directly working hand-in-hand with one of the games featured. But that’s exactly the case for Shell Shockers, a first-person-shooter where players fire cartoonish guns at other players, who happen to look like eggs, which has proven huge among kids.

Shell Shockers did not start out as a ploy to make a game popular amongst school kids.

“A couple of years ago, one of the developers that I work with said "I was playing around this thing, I think I can make a 3D shooter that plays in a web browser,” said Blue Wizard Digital CEO Jason Kapalka, who co-founded Plants vs Zombies developer PopCap Games and was the original designer of the highly influential tile-matching puzzle game Bejeweled.

Blue Wizard Digital was founded as a way to try things more experimental than what was possible at PopCap, which is how you end up with a developer making Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle and something like Shell Shockers. (Nothing to do with this story, but please check out Blue Wizard Digital’s excellent website, a throwback to the late 90s era of websites.)

When it was first published online, Shell Shockers was not a hit, and merely “puttered along and got mediocre traffic.” It’s incredibly hard to gain traction with a web game because the audience isn’t looking at reviews on IGN, and a place like IGN probably isn’t going to review the game, anyway. But again, it was just an experiment. Then, the team rolled out engine optimizations to kickstart the frame rate and, out of nowhere, the game found an audience.

A screen shot from the web game 'Shell Shockers.'
A screen shot from the web game 'Shell Shockers.' Image by Patrick Klepek

“Honestly, we didn't even know who they were,” said Kapalka. “At first, we were like, ‘Who's playing? I don't know.’ And then it took a while before it dawned on us: "Oh, they're all in ChromeOS. What's that?'“

ChromeOS is the operating system for Chromebooks, which due to their durability and low cost, have become the de facto computer for schools to hand out to children. According to the market research firm Futuresource, it’s estimated that in 2018, 60 percent of computers being used by kids in grades K-12 were Chromebooks.

Chromebooks also famously run like crap. They’re plastic monitors with the ability to run a web browser. And very specifically, that means they aren’t really meant to play video games.

This wasn’t the only hint to Kapalka that something was up.

“Other stuff started becoming clearer once we started looking [closer],” he said. “Huh, strange that the hours all seem to coincide with school hours. That's kind of strange.”

Everything clicked into place the increasingly confused developer when a kid wrote in asking a simple but pointed question: “My school blocked your game, what can you do about it?”

Initial versions were more realistic. The game always featured players as eggs, but the guns the eggs were carrying around were toned down, once it became clear the majority of people playing the game were kids—in school, no less. The sound effects were changed a bit, too.

“Once we were aware that was the audience, we did our best to make it reasonably safe,” said Kapalka. “Teachers don't necessarily like it, but I think if there are kids in class who are going to be playing some sort of violent shooter, I think they'd prefer it to be eggs, than people blowing the heads off of realistic humans or whatnot.”

Knowing the Shell Shockers audience was school children, Kapalka had to decide what it would do about the fact that school administrators would very much like their students to not play it. Would Blue Wizard Digital side with the students or the faculty? It was easy.

“I don't feel too bad,” said Kapalka. “It feels like continuing the long tradition of kids goofing off when they can on school devices.”

To be fair, the developers of Shell Shockers are doing a little more than just catering. They regularly register new proxy websites where kids can play, until they’re inevitably banned. The proxies are listed on the Shell Shockers website, and currently include real bangers like and The game has a rollicing Discord with more than 150,000 members, which is where the new proxies are often distributed first and then spread.

“We get a few [teachers] that are charming in their naivete, I guess,” he said. “‘My kids are playing the game when they're supposed to be studying, can you please give me a list of all your proxies so I can block them?’ Well, that was a very straightforward request. But no.”

Sometimes, though, a teacher will write in and mention the game as an reward to students who get their work done, and the team will send them merch, like Shell Shockers t-shirts.

Shell Shockers doesn’t make a ton of money—Kapalka pegged its quarterly profits in the “low seven figures”—but it is profitable. The web stuff is weird, he noted, because it’s almost entirely reliant on ads. School children rarely have a credit card attached to their account, which tosses in-app purchases out the window. Beyond the fact that they’re often playing in secret, their playing habits are entirely driven by the hours they’re locked away in school.

“The other thing with the web games is that they have a certain natural life cycle that we've seen, which exactly corresponds to the school year,” said Kapalka. “So spring break, usually kids aren't at school, it [traffic] goes down. Summer break, similarly. Then, they come back and so on. It's a very different pattern than you would see for normal video games.”

Christmas, the time of year when other kinds of video games are huge? A dead zone.

But Shell Shockers has proven interesting enough to push Blue Wizard Digital to make more web games, including the simple but increasingly popular basketball game Basket Bros. 

Can you guess a website that lists Basket Bros. as a game you can play Geometry Spot, of course, which currently describes Basket Bros. as “a geometry math activity where students can learn more about two-column proofs, triangles, and more.”

What teacher could argue with that?

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).

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