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Ask Slashdot: Resources For Kids Who Want To Make Games? 121

Mr. Jones writes: My 11-year-old son is fascinated by games — game mechanics in particular. He has been playing everything from Magic to WarFrame since he was 5 years old. He seems mostly interested in creating the lore and associated mechanics of the games (i.e. how a game works). If it was only programming I could help him, but I am lost when it comes to helping him learn more formal ways of developing and defining gameplay. I really see a talent for this in him and I want to support it any way I can. Can you suggest any conferences, programs, books, websites, etc. that would help him learn?
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Ask Slashdot: Resources For Kids Who Want To Make Games?

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  • Actually... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Empiric ( 675968 ) on Friday December 19, 2014 @06:37PM (#48638391)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hide nothing from him for game development.
      He can't have total focus on any particular aspect and be able to ship anything.
      Buy this kid a new gaming-class computer every 2 years.
      This investment could save you $100,000 in college tuition fees.

      This may be advanced, but worth a shot: Game Theory [gametheory.net]

      As far as gameplay goes, follow the mantra of Dwarf Fortress and FTL, "Losing is Fun!".
      Occasionally place players in impossible situations so they can experience failure while trying their best.
      A game that's too easy or

    • If I was the parent, I'd encourage the kid to create games out of cardboard and paper, and possibly out of other physical materials. And of course, I'd play with him at those games. Also, if creating a game from scratch sounds like it's too hard, I'd ask him to take existing games, modify them little by little, and test how fun they are, among family and friends, after each time he makes a change.

      Of course, this doesn't mean I'm opposed to video games. I just felt I needed to add my two cents regarding no

  • Modding (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@nOspAm.world3.net> on Friday December 19, 2014 @06:38PM (#48638397) Homepage Journal

    Maybe you could look at modding existing games as a start. Take what is already there and change it, learning how it works and how things like game logic are implemented. Modern games have some pretty powerful tools that allow the designers to do what you son wants to.

  • Extra Credits (Score:4, Insightful)

    by charronia ( 3780579 ) on Friday December 19, 2014 @06:38PM (#48638403)
    It's my go-to show for talk about game mechanics. They post new videos on Youtube every week, consisting of 5-10 minute lectures on a topic.
    • by bosef1 ( 208943 )

      I second Extra Credits. They provide a lot of good analysis and breakdowns of why some games work well, and how others could be made to work better. Here's a link to the YouTube site:
      https://www.youtube.com/user/ExtraCreditz [youtube.com]

      I also liked "Shut Up & Sit Down", who seem to do very good play reviews. They might be a little "mature" for an 11-year-old, so I would check the sit out first and make your own call.
      http://www.shutupandsitdown.com/ [shutupandsitdown.com]

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        There is also table top simulator http://www.berserk-games.com/t... [berserk-games.com]. Be hearing a lot about it lately and it might just be the go to let loose the child's imagination in creating new games or altering and testing existing ones.

      • I second Extra Credits. They provide a lot of good analysis and breakdowns of why some games work well, and how others could be made to work better.

        Sounds like Lum the Mad, except in annoying video format.

        A shame that site is gone... Turns out Lum can't design very well himself, but he's a good analyst and critic.

  • I think much of game design boils down to balancing actions within the system rules. Teaching spreadsheets would be a good start. Take a look at the wiki on game balancing [wikipedia.org] Lots of references for literature.
  • by Fwipp ( 1473271 ) on Friday December 19, 2014 @06:40PM (#48638419)

    Rather than asking the armchair gamers on Slashdot (myself included), read what some successful game designers say.

    Here's Mark Rosewater, head designer for Magic: The Gathering, on game design 101: http://archive.wizards.com/Mag... [wizards.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Jesus christ, man, he's 11. Get him RPG Maker and let him figure out how to make a game with his own made-up story behind it.

    • Re:Good god (Score:4, Informative)

      by Pikoro ( 844299 ) <init AT init DOT sh> on Friday December 19, 2014 @07:03PM (#48638589) Homepage Journal

      I was going to post RPGMaker as well. It has some good tools for character and story development. Picked this up for my kid a year or so ago. She loves it.

    • Jesus christ, man, he's 11. Get him RPG Maker and let him figure out how to make a game with his own made-up story behind it.

      Huh?

      I don't think I'm exceptional by the standards of kids who learned to program. I started programming at age 11 because I wanted to write games. I managed to get a simple space invaders type game written myself from scratch in BASIC.

      I the kid wants to learn to program games, 11 is an OK age to start.

  • Scratch (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday December 19, 2014 @06:41PM (#48638429) Homepage Journal
  • The good news is that there's an actual university degree for his interest - greating games and game mechanics, as opposed to just playing them. Games design deals with creating game mechanics (among other things, probably of some interest to him). I used to live with some game designers and both have been employed for the last 5 year so I guess they've had success with the career so far.

    Is there possibly any open course-ware for Games Design floating around?

  • I'm not sure if I'm understanding your question, but it seems to me he'd be interested in stories and story telling.

    The key here is to help him explore what stories are powerful to the human mind. As a parent, Jung is your go-to guy for the reasons why stories have been retold for generations and should give you plenty of structure and direction for good material for your son to work with.

    More simply, there are child friendly versions of Shakespeare, the stories told in Operas, and be careful gettin

    • This and "Just do it" (esp. by sharing the results with school-friends doing the same thing) are the best answers thus far. I'll add a third idea:

      No-one has yet mentioned the importance of thinking about the nature of challenges, and so, what games fundamentally are, why they're enjoyable, why there are fundamental limits to that enjoyment in any one game, and how to push them. This book, A Theory of Fun, was extraordinary on those subjects. Might be worth leaving it lying around:

      http://www.amazon.com/The

  • Cardboard, paper, scissors, felt-tip pens, friends to experiment with. You don't need a computer to develop and experiment game mechanics. ;)

  • by Escogido ( 884359 ) on Friday December 19, 2014 @06:50PM (#48638495)

    it's good enough for the purpose because you can make little changes in lua and immediately see them in action, which keeps a child motivated.

    11yo may be a bit too early, but some kids could be up to the task.

    • Garry's Mod (GMOD) is fantastic for messing around, I highly suggest trying the "WireMod" addon which allows you to setup ingame triggers and communication systems. You can even build systems out virtual "integrated circuits" to perform math and use logic gates.
  • Code.org (Score:3, Informative)

    by Warhaven ( 718215 ) on Friday December 19, 2014 @06:53PM (#48638523)
    We just did the Hour of Code [code.org] at my workplace for the kids. Lots of tutorials for beginners on there. MichaelSmith above me also mentioned Scratch [mit.edu], and that's an excellent visual approach to learning procedural programming.
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday December 19, 2014 @07:03PM (#48638585)

    Game construction kits:

    Stuart Smith's Adventure Construction Set
    Racing Destruction Set
    Pinball Construction Set
    Arcade Game Construction Kit
    Shoot'Em-Up Construction Kit
    Garry Kitchen's GameMaker

    Run them on a real Commodore 64, or run them in an emulator. Images are available online for all these software titles.

    See also: http://www.lemon64.com/?game_i... [lemon64.com]

  • http://www.generalcoffee.com/h... [generalcoffee.com]

    This seems as a good a place to start looking as any. It allows you to make text-based games but expand into graphical adventure games. There's a free PDF book on there as well.

  • by werepants ( 1912634 ) on Friday December 19, 2014 @07:13PM (#48638647)

    If you want a really pure and direct interaction with the mechanics that govern gameplay, D&D and related game systems are hard to beat. Humans are literally interpreting and implementing the rules of gameplay, and anybody who is literate can impose structure on an imaginary universe by understanding (and eventually writing their own) rulesets.

    There are lots of different systems out there. Just getting him thinking about the rules of Risk vs Settlers of Catan (both arguably about conquest of a region, military or economic, respectively) would be a good way to start. D&D is obviously a standard (and 5th edition, which just came out, is excellent), but there are free and open source games out there (D&D 3.5 edition has all the rules available on the web, open-source style, and there are interesting derivatives like Legend from Rule of Cool) and they expose how games really work, and would help establish the kind of thinking that would be invaluable to someone looking to program game mechanics.

    If you want something simple in that vein to start with, Settlers of Catan (as previously mentioned) is a great study for RTS-type game mechanics, and Mouse Guard is supposedly a simplified, kid-focused tabletop RPG.

    • As a followup, playing tabletop games will get any sufficiently motivated youth to start designing tabletop games. There are very few barriers to entry here - using existing boards, figures, dice, cards, etc can make it very quick and easy to play around with some inventive game concepts.

  • Just make sure he doesn't believe that copyrighting his game designs will yield money in the future.

  • You could have him look at Inform 7 [inform7.com] and its associated examples for interactive fiction. It uses a subset of English to express the game setting and logic, and exercises programming and small-to-large-scale writing skills. The (IMO) very nice UI also assists in organizing and testing the game structure and execution as well.

  • They may decide they want to develop video games for a living and end up working for EA. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.
  • Check out this tutorial:
    http://www.abc.net.au/abc3/goo... [abc.net.au]

    Good Game Spawn Point is a TV show aimed at younger gamers (like the OP's kid) and the tutorial in question takes you step by step through the production of a simple game.

    And once they have done this, they can start playing around with the Scratch! toolkit (a free game design tool produced by the fine folks at the MIT Media Lab aimed at getting kids into game development and coding) and producing their own games.

  • Normally, I'd recommend Scratch, but in this case, I recommend: MMF2 [clickteam.com], by François Lionet [wikipedia.org] and Yves Lamoureux. They really get it, and your son will learn a ton about programming, without deviating from working on games themselves.

  • Gamasutra.com and all affiliates; Gamedev.net; roguebasin.com; Conferences: GDC and all sister conferences. Gamasutra.com is the best starting point.
  • Look and seeif there's a CoderDojo near you, they do free weekly sessions for teaching kids technology, often involving game making: https://coderdojo.com/ [coderdojo.com] For quickly getting kids making games, they tend to use the program Scratch: http://scratch.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]
  • Look at the source code of open-source games.

    Fun way to learn.

    nethack
    quake
    doom

    etc

  • Shamus Young (a columnist for the Escapist) recently wrote a small 2D game (almost completely) by himself called Good Robot and chronicled its development in a 30-part blog series:

    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twe... [shamusyoung.com]
    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twe... [shamusyoung.com]

    Those are the first and last entries; they're all numbered and contain links to the next one in the series. He didn't finish the game (and doesn't know if he will), but he did produce a complete playable alpha. I don't know if it's exactly what you're looki
  • I know exactly where this kid is coming from! In high school, I filled notebooks with pseudocode for how I wanted some of my game ideas to work. Getting into Dungeons and Dragons was a helpful experience as well, especially in the Dungeon Master role. If you want to deal with lore or game balancing, there's the perfect opportunity! I know from experience that finding resources on game DESIGN, as opposed to game PROGRAMMING, can be difficult. I spent a semester at university minoring in their brand-new Game
    • Doug Kaufman has been designing games for years - mainly computer games - and has never written a line of code. He DESIGNS THE GAME, Brian Reynolds and others write the code.
  • Around the time I could read & write I started running & modding these games. All text based so you can focus solely on game mechanics.

    http://www.atariarchives.org/b... [atariarchives.org]
    http://www.atariarchives.org/m... [atariarchives.org]

    Graphics programming can come later.

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Friday December 19, 2014 @09:56PM (#48639335) Homepage Journal

    Forget programming. Sit down with him and make a few board and card games.

    Too many game designers these days look at the technology and the graphics and the monetarization and all the other crap and forget that first and foremost, there needs to be a game.

    When you limit yourself to the bare essentials, you see the game for what it is, and learn to make games by focussing on what makes a game.

  • Before I posted this, I read through the roughly 60 posts that were here. If your child is interested in the lore and mechanics of gaming, I think the prime focus should be on creativity and writing. I don't think you can necessarily "teach" creativity, but I think you can encourage it. I would probably suggest a lot of reading of fiction from as great an expansive base of styles and genres as you can. Through exposure to a variety of material, they may find something they like and build/expand upon somet

  • I made this video few years ago for some students who were interested in game mechanics. Specifically, how to make a character jump, with acceleration, or gravity. I use the language Scratch to explain it, however it could be applied to other languages too I suppose. Scratch is a great visual drag and drop language for beginners. It helps students to learn the power of what computer programming can do without having to memorize code. I find Scratch (scratch.mit.edu) and game mechanics are a great hook for g
  • If you happen to live in central Texas, Game Worlds runs Summer Camps in Austin that teach kids how to make games: http://gameworldscamp.com/ [gameworldscamp.com]

    The kids mostly use Construct2 ( https://www.scirra.com/ [scirra.com] ), though we also introduce them to Stencyl and Unity.

    Full Disclosure: my wife is the owner and director of Game Worlds, and I've developed and taught a lot of the programming curriculum

  • Most people want to write software, or play the guitar, or build a house.

    That is, until they see it requires years of learning and practice to do it well.

    • Most people want to write software, or play the guitar, or build a house.

      That is, until they see it requires years of learning and practice to do it well.

      That's only half of the story.
      Creative or energetic or curious people try lots of things and stick with what turns them on.
      Most of the people who take up guitar or any other hobby whatsoever don't stick with it. So what?
      Try it and stick with the one(s) that keep your interest over time.

      For the OP, the posts on game design with cardboard and rules are accurate but if the kid ain't into them, then they are useless. I'd suggest it along with one of the game dev packages (Unity3d is my pref) and see what

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All he needs can be got very, very cheaply - if he doesn't have most of them already.

    Pencils, erasers, paper, a ruler, maybe some dice, and some friends to play test, plus some games to sit down and analyse - you're not going to learn much about game design if you don't analyse other people's games and see what works, what doesn't, and why it doesn't.

    Game engines are for much, much later in the process. You don't design a game by implementing it, you work out much of the mechanics before you even touch a k

  • It's interesting, the asker asks for information about making games and the posters almost universally reply with information about making code. You guys do know these are two completely different activities? (And that computer games are only a small slice of the total gaming universe?)

    • A lamentable state of affairs that I mentioned in my Score:1 (yes, it was an ugly wall... but still!) reply, with the anecdote that even universities don't distinguish between these. Fortunately, a number of others did give some very good advice. I think perhaps people responded to the OP by misinterpreting the statement, "If it was only programming I could help him."
    • It's interesting, the asker asks for information about making games and the posters almost universally reply with information about making code. You guys do know these are two completely different activities? (And that computer games are only a small slice of the total gaming universe?)

      He asked about game-making on a computer-oriented site. Sorry if we offended you by focusing on the computer aspect only (did you actually read any of the posts about design with cardboard and the usefulness of Dungeons and Dragons?).

  • Buy him a copy of minecraft and help him learn how to make Redstone circuits [gamepedia.com] and Command blocks [gamepedia.com]
  • Just show him the South Park episode "Freemium isn't free" and he'll learn all about modern game mechanics, along with a few lessons in economics and marketing. Before you know it he will be pushing his game in the school yard like a pro.

  • Show him how to use google to figure out where to get the information he needs.
  • Here is a resource I came across a few years back, Invent Your Own Computer Games With Python [inventwithpython.com]. When I reviewed it back then it looked pretty good as a first starting point, but I don't have first hand experience. Might want to check it out.

  • by Dan Askme ( 2895283 ) on Saturday December 20, 2014 @09:43AM (#48641017) Homepage

    Its a really simple, fun, yet powerful visual game creation suite for beginner game creators.
    http://www.3drad.com/ [3drad.com]

    Your son can also expand into coding (angel script, C style) within the program when/if hes ready. Although, its not required as most items (waypoint system, plane, car, ai) are just a click away.

    Heres an example game made in 3Drad:
    http://www.freankexpo.net/533/... [freankexpo.net]

    Although the engine is now abandonware, there is a huge database of community tutorials/samples located here: http://www.3drad.com/forum [3drad.com]
    I'd highly recommend 3Drad as it simplifies everything, but it also gives you the ability to learn coding at your own pace, should you want to expand the game further.

    And proof that the format works:
    I started in 3Drad with only Qbasic programming knowledge from 15 years ago. I used the built in items first in 3Drad. After a time, i wanted to expand the game and started work tinkering with the programming (script object) side of 3Drad. Long story short, after 1-2 years in 3Drad, i learnt enough programming to move onto C++. 1 year later i coded this in c++ http://fuzon.co.uk/phpbb/viewt... [fuzon.co.uk]

    Give 3Drad a try, i'am sure your son will enjoy it.

  • My 9 year son really liked using the gamestarmechanic.com site. It's basically a game level designer disguised as a game.

    Also, modding Minecraft might be something to look into.

  • In a related but definitely separate question, what are some resources for kids who are interested in creating the graphics for games? Are they all horribly complicated or are there some good starter tools that kids can use to bridge the gap between utterly awful and years of profesional experience?

  • My 10-year old son is hooked on Minecraft. We signed up at www.youthdigital.com for their games programming class for kids. Basically, interactive ways to learn Java and make fun modules for Minecraft and more. They have other stuff including some things oriented more at girls. I have three younger girls so we haven't started yet.

    My son and I are just getting started and doing some things on Kahn Academy too that are fun and we get to spend time together. we're also in a Lego league where we get to use t
  • A easy 2D fixed Scene Toolkit allowing nice games.

  • codeCombat (Score:3, Informative)

    by P3r53ph0N3 ( 2960621 ) on Sunday December 21, 2014 @10:13AM (#48646349)
    You should take a look at http://codecombat.com/ [codecombat.com] it is an interactive website where you can learn to code by playing a game. I excuse in advance if someone else already suggested this site, I read a few answers and couldn't find any reference to it. Because I think it's a good resource and the target age is in line with your kid's age I'm taking the risk to annoy with redundancy
  • From what you describe, I would look at Board Game Designers Forum (www.bgdf.com). It has a lot of information on the design process, helpful for both boardgames and computer games. And keeping with practice makes perfect, they have a monthly design competition. Take a look and see what you think.

  • AgentCubes online features an hour of code tutorial that allows you to make a 3D game in a browser. This is the first 3D browser based programming environment and includes making your own 3D shapes. The CS EdWeek / hour of code tutorial is about a 3D Frogger game but you can build a huge spectrum of games ranging from simple 1980 arcade style games to sophisticated AI SIMS-like games: http://sgd.cs.colorado.edu/wik... [colorado.edu] Proof that this is simple to do (Fox New 31 TV Anchorman makes a game with AgentCubes):
  • by the agent man ( 784483 ) on Sunday December 21, 2014 @04:29PM (#48648129)
    Computational Thinking Patterns is a framework to explore and describe game play in ways that is independent from programming language. These patterns are based in phenomenology. These patterns are used in the Scalable Game Design project and mentioned by teachers are one of the most important abstractions that help student to analyze and build games. The same patterns are used to also build STEM simulations. Through theses patterns there is transfer from game design to STEM simulation building: http://sgd.cs.colorado.edu/wik... [colorado.edu]

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