Much to many parents' dismay, kids love playing games. Studies have shown that a moderate amount of gaming helps improve students’ cognitive skills. Games like Minecraft, also allow students to be very creative while building together with friends. Many successful entrepreneurs and engineers started their careers in technology because they enjoyed playing games and wanted to build their own.
Creating games is also one of the most common reasons for students to start learning coding as well. So why learn game building; what kind of career opportunities exist in game-related industries; and what are some of the best ways to learn coding via game development? Here we'll reveal the answers to all your burning questions about how to learn coding for video games (and why!).
Learn Coding for Games: Game Industry & Career Opportunities
With games like Minecraft and Roblox becoming the favorite pastime for so many kids, the first things that come to people’s mind in terms of the game industry are companies that create games. The opportunity for students in this area actually goes far beyond that. By the end of 2022, the game market size has already exceeded $200 billion dollars per year and is expected to be more than $600 billion by 2030. Here we are showing some of the key segments in the game industry with some representative players. There are many companies in each of the segments.
Key Technologies and Career Opportunities For Creating Games
Building successful games goes well beyond creating the game components that you can see. Successful games employ a very broad scope of computer science technologies. In fact, the game industry is often among the very first to adopt cutting-edge technologies in order to offer the best gaming experiences.
Game Development with Game Engines: Game Engines such as Unity and Unreal make it a lot easier to develop games. For instance, they include features like physics engines that simulate physics such as collision detection, gravity, and movement.
Cloud Computing: Almost all popular games are cloud-based. What this means, even though you are playing the game on your phone, computer, or tablet, the game also has some of its components run on the Internet. This can be something as simple as keeping scores for the leaderboard to multiplayer games like Roblox, Minecraft, or League of Legends, where states of players in the same game are constantly updated in other players’ games as well.
Digital Art and Design: Whether it is the giants or flying dragons in Clash of Clan, Zombies in Minecraft, or Pokemons in PokemonGo, all the games you play have a team of artists to design the characters, their movements, and the game environments.
Data science: Every single detail of successful games is meticulously designed to create the best player experience. Much of those decisions are based on data, in fact, a lot of data. Data science is increasingly being used in the gaming industry to analyze player behavior and preferences, the results of which are used to create personalized game experiences and future game design.
Artificial Intelligence: AI is being increasingly used in games to create intelligent and responsive game characters and NPCs (non-player characters). For instance, in a soccer game, AI not only controls the strategies used by NPCs, but also the body movements to make them more realistic.
AR (Augmented Reality) & VR (Virtual Reality): AR & VR technologies are increasingly being used in game development to provide more immersive 3D gaming experiences. Some game engines, such as Unity, support VR programming as well.
Why Learn Coding Games for Kids?
Learning game development is very beneficial to students for several important reasons.
Learn coding and other technologies: Building games is often the most effective way, and by far the most common way, for kids to start learning coding and computer science technologies. As highlighted above, developing great games requires a wide range of technical skills such as programming, cloud computing and AI that would be very useful for many other industries as well.
Accessible: Many tools and resources have been developed to help students learn coding easily by developing games. All students need is a computer. Some of the best tools are available for free, or at a very low cost, such as Scratch, Minecraft Education, Unity, Roblox Studio, and more. There are also tons of tutorials and YouTube videos available online. To help students get started, Create & Learn offers a wide range of classes on many game coding topics.
Motivating, fun, and engaging: Kids are a lot more motivated to learn if they are excited about the topic. With game development, they can also enjoy the results of their efforts more quickly than coding other kinds of apps, so it is a great way to start learning and build interests.
Creativity and problem solving: There are a diverse set of ways that kids can apply their creativity when building games. For example, they can design game mechanics, create levels, draw characters, design game settings, and a lot more. Whether your child enjoys technology, art/design, or storytelling, they will find interesting places to apply their creativity. In addition, as they figure out how to implement their ideas, they will be practicing a lot of problem solving along the way.
How to Learn Game Development and Coding for Video Games for Kids
Professional game development spans a broad set of technologies such as general programing skills, cloud computing, AI, and more. We will focus here on the foundational skills that are specific for coding games. The appropriate path to learn depends on both students' age as well as their experiences. The following are what we recommend.
There are several dimensions we consider when evaluating what to teach students:
- Ability to create fun, diverse projects based on students interests
- Enable learning of coding knowledge in age appropriate ways and at the same time build computational thinking skills that are in line with what’s used in the industry
- General quality of the tool e.g, performance ease of use, feature richness
- How well students will resonate with it
- Accessibility of the tool, free and well built tools are the best
Learn Coding for Games Pathways for Different Age Groups
To help parents of children of different ages, we have also listed pathways for each age group. Explore your child's recommended pathway here:
- Classes for grades K-2
- Classes for grades 2-4
- Classes for grades 4-6
- Classes for grades 6-9
- Classes for grades 9-12
FAQ Regarding Learning Game Coding
Here are a few commonly asked questions parents and teachers have when it comes to how students can learn game coding.
Q: What’s the difference between Scratch and Scratch Junior?
The two share the same cat mascot, but other than that, they are very different. Scratch Junior is specifically designed for younger students with bigger blocks and functionality that maps younger students’ development stage. Scratch, created by MIT, has a lot more advanced functionality, and covers a much broader set of essential coding concepts.
Q: My kid is in 3rd grade, should he/she start from Scratch or Minecraft coding? Or My kid is 5th grade, where should we start?
Unless your child has had quite extensive Scratch experiences before, Scratch coding is what we recommend doing first for most elementary and middle school students. This is because Scratch is well designed and provides a clean focused way to learn general coding fundamentals.
Our other classes are all designed assuming that students have had pretty strong foundational knowledge about coding with Scratch, so we go through the basics very fast.
Extensive Scratch coding experience means roughly having learned at least half a year of Scratch at school, or completeion of two week-long Scratch camps. If your child has done some Scratch, but not a lot, he/she can start from Part 2 or 3. Join our free intro class to talk to the teacher and get a sense of the best place to start.
Q: Does my kid need to take all of these classes to learn game development?
Except for Scratch coding, which we recommend everyone as the starting point, you can pick and choose what you enjoy from the list of the classes. The classes all cover very different content and we do recommend taking most of them, which you could do over the span of several years, to learn different skills related to game development.
Additional Resources for Learning to Code Games for Kids
Explore these helpful tutorials, guides, and project collections as your student begins their game development adventure.
Explore video game history: Video games did not start becoming popular until computer chips became more accessible in the 1970s and 1980s. How have video games evolved from the very first experimental games to today? Read more to find out all about the history of video games!
Easy games to code: Creating cool games is a great way to challenge yourself to apply your coding skills. Here we share some easy games to code for beginners. From the fun Pacman arcade game to the traditional Tic Tac Toe, find a game you'll love, and take on a new challenge!
Free coding games for kids: Explore some handy free apps and websites that provide fun, challenging games for kids from elementary school through high school to learn coding.
Python games for kids: Creating a game is a fun way to learn how to code, and you can share the game you create with your friends and family to play. Check out some of these fun Python games for kids that you can create while learning Python!
Scratch games for kids: The limitless number of projects that you can code on Scratch can be daunting. Here are some of the best Scratch games to design and create for all levels of scratch users.