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I know a very bright little boy who excels in math, but at home he's glued to his Nintendo DS.

When I asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up he said "Make video games!"

I remember a few years ago there was mention of a MIT software called Scratch and I thought maybe this kid can do want he wants to do.

Has anyone used any of the "game development" for kids softwares out there? Can you recommend any?

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11 Answers 11

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Not looked at it myself, but I thought I'd mention Kodu. What works for you will depend a lot on age and how keen they are.

Way back when I was a kid we had the Shoot'Em-Up Construction Kit. :)

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Kodu is a lot of fun! The best thing about Kodu is that it gives you a limited selection of things to use (a few characters with unique characteristics, apples, missiles,...) so you're not overwhelmed by a blank canvas, but you have to be creative in putting the things together and making something neat. It reminds me of game designer exercises - e.g. given a deck of cards and some dice, make a game. Also, programming the game is very easy and visual, so you can do it with the Xbox 360 controller without a problem and it's very easy but also completely powerful. I recommend the Xbox version. –  Ricket Mar 8 '11 at 14:33

I've used Scratch and I'd say it isn't quite so much for teaching game programming as much as teaching kids the concept of programming. It has a drag and drop interface, event-based model, fairly easy to learn (< 1hr for an experienced programmer). If your kid in question wants to make stuff move on screen and do it in a way that is lower level than "select a character to be your avatar", this might be useful.

I think it works well for experimenting as you can make it do a lot of different things with enough tinkering.

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I have used Kodu with nearly 1000 students from age 8 to 17. Great for making simple to more complex games.

Web based game creation tools like Sploder and Atmosphir are also popular with kids.

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I would definitly recommend YoYo GameMaker mentioned above.

I used it 6 year ago (when I was still in high-school) to teach programming concepts for elementary school kids. This experiment worked great! Kids picked it up really fast and loved it from the day one. Many of them are still involved in scripting and hacking, so I think this time was well spent.

Main advantages is would mention:

  • Really easy to get going (we drew simple stick figure in Paint and scanned some pencil background world from paper)
  • No scripting abstraction
  • Explains really well object oriented thinking and shows that to make things work, you really have to define everything (key events, gravity, collisions, action etc.). There is no magic in games, you can describe the world the way you want and everything is changeable.
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Wario Ware D.I.Y. is a game that will let your kid make simple games on his DS. I understand that it is a good gateway to more complex systems like Game Maker.

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WWDIY also forces you to tackle managably-sized projects, –  user744 Mar 8 '11 at 9:19

RPG Maker was great when I was a kid. But they have come a long way since then. They have a lot of features, and even there own scripting language/environment. It is all pretty easy too, and you can have something working really quickly. Also moves a lot of the tricky stuff in game development out the way, so the kids can be more creative.

You are definitely limited to what you can do by the engine, but it is a great place to start learning the concepts.

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Shameless Plug: You're right, RPG Maker's engine really limits you. A few years ago, I got fed up with some of the engine limitations and decided to try and make a better version, one that offers more power while preserving the simple, easy-to-use interface that made RPG Maker popular. I'm a lone developer working on it in my spare time, so it's still not quite finished, but I've got a lot done and a few RPG Maker users with really big, complex projects are interested in converting over once it's stable. You can find the project at turbu-rpg.com if you're interested. –  Mason Wheeler Mar 7 '11 at 23:51

Yoyo Games' Game Maker is a pretty common tool.

If we're talking bright, BRIGHT kids, who have an attention span and would be committed to learning something, you may also want to try Python. This one is definitely a good games-oriented HTML book for Python.

Chances are, Game Maker will be much better suited: You can get an obvious end product.

I also haven't used it or heard about it, but Ruby for Kids - Make Games in Minutes! looks promising.

(I think I may not be a good example, but I started off with Flash aged 11. :P)

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+1 Definitely games maker, I managed to get my old secondary school to take game development seriously and they've started using Game Maker and some of the stuff the kids have come out with (13-14 year olds) are pretty awesome. –  Ray Dey Mar 7 '11 at 20:12

Klik n' Play. Not for sale anymore, but you can find copies online easily.

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I Loved that when I was a kid. They also came out with an improved version a few years later called Click & Create (I don't remember why it was better just that it was). Could make somewhat real games too (produced raw exe's and everything). Having said that, there quite old (Windows 3.1/95 era), so they might not have aged too well. Might be worth checking out some of the newer versions from 2006. –  David C. Bishop Nov 24 '12 at 11:26

I had looked at Scratch. It was a solid product to create animations etc. I am working on something to create and share games (Flash based).

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There's also Alice from Carnegie Mellon. It's centered around teaching programming concepts through a visual interface to create 3d animations and games.

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