My kids love games with level editors or the ability to build vehicles – they spend hours and hours on them! I think it’s cool that they like doing that because it’s training up their little brains as game designers, or maybe engineers.
Here are some of their recent favourites:
Lego Indiana Jones 2 (Xbox 360)
This game has a proper level editor and they have been making all kinds of fantastic creative levels for each other to play (usually full of boulders). Hours and hours of fun. Plus the actual game rocks too.
Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (Xbox 360)
This game has to win the award for the most hours played. They have put an insane amount of time into building all kinds of ground, air and water-based vehicles in the game’s easy-to-use workshop. They’ve made 100s. I totally recommend this game for 5 year-olds upwards.
Conan bought this with his Christmas money. They’ve both been creating wacky creatures and then exploring their galaxies – there are a lot of options. Make sure to patch it if you buy a boxed copy.
Trials HD (Xbox 360)
Apart from the fact that this game is just brilliant, funny and addictive, it also has a level editor. They spent quite a while making fiendish tracks full of exploding barrels and other nutty stuff. You can buy an expansion pack for hardly any MS points and it comes with more things to use in the editor like giant fans.
In this game you clear out a wasteland and make a lovely garden populated with cute little creatures that you have to care for and stop from fighting each other. It’s highly addictive and they really enjoyed it. I’m sure if I let them have a Facebook account they’d also get addicted to Farmville, but I’m not going to let them go on Facebook for a few years yet!
If you can recommend any more great creative games for kids, please let me know!
So what about programming languages for kids? Well we’ve tried out a few recently with varying levels of success:
I began to teach my eldest son, Conan, who is 8, BlitzMax. He understood the basics and was able to fiddle with some simple code to get different things happening, but he never really carried it on. Perhaps I need to encourage him more, or perhaps it’s just that games these days are way more fun and appealing (and readily available) than when I was a kid and took up programming, and so BlitzMax may feel a bit techy and boring by comparison.
Game Maker (PC)
We went through the tutorial game together and again Conan understood it easily. I was impressed by the application and the variety of options that it offered – it’s very flexible. It’s probably a lot easier to get into than BlitMax. However, once again, Conan hasn’t really carried on with it, possibly for the same reasons as mentioned above.
Kodu (Xbox 360)
At first we tried this on the PC but the interface seemed awkward. It was originally released on the Indie channel of XBLA so we downloaded it and tried it out. It was much better on Xbox, the controls made sense and everything seemed smoother. There are loads of pre-made levels you can fiddle with plus built-in media. Both my boys had great fun with it. My youngest son, Callum, who has just turned 6, was able to use it easily and make quite advanced levels using the mainly visual interface. I recommend that you at least check out the demo. They “played” this on their own without any encouragement from me so it was the most successful of the three languages.
Please let me know your experiences with teaching your children how to program. Thanks!