Kickstarting Codemancer, a game to teach programming to kids (especially girls)


Programming already IS a game for kids. It’s you versus the evil SYNTAX ERROR.

is SYNTAX ERROR his second form?

And ERROR MACRO is his third.

Odd, I was just reading the other day about Code Hero, another Kickstarted project aimed at teaching programming that failed spectacularly.

Of course, that might have just been a management failure and says nothing about the feasibility of similar projects. And yet, if it was feasible to make a computer game that was really that effective at teaching programming to kids, surely it would have happened by now?

Let’s also take a minute to appreciate the maligned genius of C-Jump.

This is bad reasoning. For most of their history, “edutainment” type games were both bad games and bad education, because they weren’t designed well. There is still a lot we don’t know about designing learning experiences. Look at how far cognitive tutor type programs have come in just the past few years.


Hmmm… The mechanic looks very much like the Robot Turtles programming boardgame – made back into a software game. Oh the irony.

Players will position magical runes which represent commands. Some are direct commands, like ‘move forward.’ Others are what’s called “flow control” which determines how the spells execute. Arranging the runes in the correct order allows the player to move in any desired pattern and respond to unforeseen events.

You want a puzzle game that teaches you programming? Try SpaceChem.

It doesn’t look like it, but what you’re doing is essentially building co-routines on a geometric grid. It doesn’t teach you a specific language or specific coding skills, what it does is that it teaches you to think and solve problems like a programmer. You’ll learn way more from it than any of these edutainment, “control this creature with turtle programming” style of games.

Or just put the kid in front of a Unix terminal and say “you figure this shit out!”. That’s how I learned.

Ahh, I’d nearly forgotten about SpaceChem. Very reminiscent of LabVIEW in some ways.

It seems some people also reminisce fondly about Robot Odyssey, though it is relatively obscure.

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