There are an incredible number of types of computer programs that can be made. But some are more appealing to kids than others – no student of Breakout Mentors is going to want to make their own version of Turbo Tax! We usually make games with our students because they are fun and provide a great introduction to programming logic.
iPhone games serve as an excellent inspiration for many of the games Breakout Mentors students want to make. These games are simpler than most desktop computer or XBOX games. Compare iPhone games Doodle Jump and Temple Run to the computer game Civilization 5 and XBOX game Halo 3. Which one do you think is a better starting place for a beginning programmer?
An important part of creating a program is to break it down to its basic elements – player controls, gameplay, how to win/lose. It is fairly obvious in Doodle Jump to identify the rule “you lose when you hit the bottom of the screen”. This is also not too difficult to implement. For a Civilization-type game it gets a trickier – an example rule is “you need 50 gold, 30 wood, and 10 ore to build a tank”. And this is just one of hundreds of different actions that the user could take. Beginning programming students need practice breaking down simple games into their components before taking on larger projects.
Mobile games are also usually 2-D and place less importance on graphics than most desktop computer or XBOX games. While it is important for students to polish their games visually, Breakout Mentors wants the primary focus of our time with each student spent on programming logic. This is where the majority of the learning takes place and the student can tweak the graphics in between sessions. iPhone games and Minecraft have shown kids that fun games don’t necessarily require complex graphics.
So if your student is interested in learning how to program, let her play some games on your phone (iOS or Android). It will provide an excellent inspiration for the types of games that are within reach for beginning programmers and provide a step toward more complex programs.