100 resources for kids who want to be game designers and programmers

What kid today doesn’t want to play video games for a living? Being a game designer or programmer is not quite as glorious and carefree as most kids imagine. However, an interest in games and programming can lead to learning many useful skills no matter what they end up doing later in life.

Learning to design, build, and program games teaches:

  • math and logic concepts
  • computer, technology, and software proficiency
  • elements of philosophy, sociology, game theory, and artistic design
  • graphics, animation, video, audio, and presentation

This list has something for everyone – no matter what experience they have with games and computer programming.

This post contains affiliate links. I have looked over each of these links for content, but I can not read every web page or see every advertisement. Please preview these resources and determine if they are a fit for your family. It would also be a good idea to talk to your kids about being aware and making smart decisions online. To get started, read why we should teach kids to be their own internet filters. A great place to start exploring with your kids is Commonsense Media’s Digital Literacy & Citizenship Classroom Curriculum.

Software and Game Design Tools

These tools will get your kids started creating games, game elements, and coming up with design ideas.

1. Gamestar Mechanic – first quest, community, and design tools are free, option to pay for more features.

Gamestar Mechanic offers not only a fun way to learn how to create games, it has a community where you can share, collaborate, and get feedback.

gamestar mechanic

 

2. Scratch

Completely free software for kids ages 8-18 that you can use to program your own interactive stories and games.

3. Alice

Another free software, this one creates 3D animations.

4. Code Academy

A very simple, interactive way to learn how to code – for free!

5. Code Monkey – access to all challenges for 12 months is $29

You can play the basic games on the site for free. Kids help monkeys catch bananas, and learn how to code along the way.

6. Programming for Kids – How to make coding fun $9

This is a short course designed to introduce kids and educators to computer programming.

From the site:

In this jam-packed 1 hour course, we focus on the tools, techniques and ideas you can use to inspire fun and creativity in programming. 

7. Gamemaker: Studio

A free software that streamlines game design and programming. I haven’t played around with this one but it looks pretty cool.

8. Game Salad

Create games for iOS, Android, and HTML5 without coding! This program offers drag and drop features which kids could use to play around with game design. Free basic software.

9. Unity

Unity is a fancy game engine that allows users to create 2D and 3D game elements and games. Free basic software.

10. Adventure Game Studio

Another free game creation software!

11. RPG Maker VX Ace Lite

Create your own role-playing games complete with maps, characters, and more. Free basic software.

12. Flixel

An open-source library to make simple flash games.

13. Kids Ruby

This site teaches kids how to install and work with the Ruby programming language. Screencasts walk kids through programming a simple computer game.

14. Aris

 ARIS is a user-friendly, open-source platform for creating and playing mobile games, 
tours and interactive stories. 

15. Code.org

Interactive tutorials for people of all ages. Learn code alongside famous characters (Disney’s Frozen, Angry Birds, etc.). Free!

code.org angry birds

16. Adventure Maker

Create point and click games for mobile devices.

17. Quest Text Adventures

This site is a little different. It allows you to make text-based games and interactive fiction. No graphics, just text. This would be a great way to introduce game design and narrative to kids.

18. Movie Sandbox

Very interesting open-source program that allows users to simply sketch something onto the screen and create a 3D animation from that sketch.

19. Stencyl

Very cool drag and drop game creator. Uses Scratch-based coding so being familiar with it would be helpful.

20. Blender

Free software for creating 3D models, animations, and much more.

21. Corona SDK Free

Free basic 2D game developer software.

22. AgentSheets

Another drag and drop game creator, this one allows you to build scientific simulations as well!

23. Construct 2

Free basic software – create 2D games in HTML5 with little coding!

24. Gamefroot

Another free game maker – this one is browser-based so you don’t have to download anything! Site does require you to register a login.

25. Adrift

Another text-based game creator. Make interactive fiction and text adventures.

Games in ADRIFT are created by adding locations, objects, characters and tasks. These can be organised into folders, allowing you to group things together in a logical manner.

26. Craft Studio

Collaborate with others to make cool games!

27. Flowlab

Create simple games right in your browser. No downloads required!

28. Ren’Py

Create visual novels. Great for beginners and more advanced programmers can use Python for in-depth game design.

29. Tiny Game Design Tool

This is a pdf file that goes through the steps of coming up with a design for a game. Make a mini-book for each game idea your kids have!

30. Lightbot

Solve puzzles using programming logic – great for beginners!

31. Kodable

Learn to code before you can read! Free ipod app that teaches kids coding logic through a fun game.

32. Code Combat

An adventure style game that teaches you to code during play.

The History of Video Games and Game Theory

To create good games, it is important to know the basics of game theory and history. Know where video and computer games got their start, the major players in the industry, and what has affected the video game market over the years. You also need to understand what a video game is – in terms of how scientists and sociologists view them.

33-36. Understanding Games Episode 1

These are lessons disguised as games – each episode is a separate platform. Go through them all to understand how games are designed and built.

37. History of Video Games (YouTube)

38. The Video Game Revolution

A history of video games from PBS.

39. Timeline of the Online World

An interesting timeline of how science fiction, fantasy, games, and the internet came together over the years.

40. Raph Koster’s website

Lots of advice, tips, and resources from a game developer.

If you want to design games, you should start designing games. You can design games with a deck of cards. With index cards. And a pen, don’t forget a pen. You can do it with some poker chips, with some Lego bricks, with an old chess board. Your first lesson is “games are not their graphics.” Or their framerate. They are their rules. You can start making games with whatever you have to hand.

Learning programming is just going to give you a nicer set of index cards and blocks and chips and boards. It will let you use virtual stuff instead of real stuff. But the lessons you learn will work either way.  –Raph Koster

41. Video Game Crash of 1983

42. The Game Console

Learn about every video game console ever made!

43. The Video Game Museum

Browse the games of yesteryear. Learn about their design, and get some ideas for your own games.

44. The Big List of Video Game Documentaries

Want to watch some documentaries about various video games? This is your list! Organized by games, systems, historical timeframe, and more!

45. GET LAMP: The Text Adventure Documentary

The story of a story. Why were text-based games so popular? What did they lead to? This is a fun documentary about a part of game history most forget!

46. Minecraft: The Story of Mojang

My kids have been begging to watch this! The official Minecraft documentary – learn how a simple game from an indie developer became the greatest hit of our time – and perhaps of all time. $8 for the regular, family-friendly version.

In 2009, independent video game designer Markus “Notch” Persson released a work in progress that would go on to break every industry rule for achieving success. Part exploratory adventure, part creative building tool, Minecraft evolved from a cult classic into an unprecedented hit, raking daily sales in by the thousands.

Courses, Lectures, and Tutorials

47. Game Maker Resources

Tutorials on how to use GameMaker (see link above) from a developer and educator. Great free resource!

48. Tynker courses

Self-paced online courses for kids. Each course is $50 and kids create a lot of great content through interactive play and puzzles.

49. Khan Academy Computer Programming

Mostly Javascript, HTML, and CSS lessons but useful for an introduction to computer languages.

50-51. Freshi Learning Online courses

You can read our review of Freshi here. Very nice video-based courses that teach a number of digital skills. $99 for a year’s access.

52. Homeschool Programming

Java, Windows, Game programming, and more. Courses are done with a manual and optional cd. You can read our review of Homeschool Programming here. Most courses run about $70-85 a semester.

Computer Programming courses for Kids and Teens!

53. Youth Digital courses

We haven’t tried these courses but they look very professional. They have a nice Minecraft Mod Design course. Most courses are $249 and are good for 1 year with support.

Free Coursera Courses

You can’t go wrong with free – and Coursera provides quality material that is delivered through video and text. Most courses are aimed at college level but anyone can join and watch.

58. Walker Boys Studio: Unity Training Tutorials

This is the definitive tutorial site for learning how to program with Unity (see link for software above).

59. Game Development Crash Course with Corona SDK

A free, simple course at Udemy in making your first game in Corona (software link above).

60. Game Making in Scratch

This course at Udemy costs $9 and will walk you through creating a game in Scratch.

61. How to make video games

This website has many articles with advice and resources, all about making video games!

62. Invent with Python – 3 free ebooks to download

Three free ebooks – read online or download pdf files.

Three free ebooks

63. Getting started with Python

A very simple article that explains what the Python computer language is and how you can get started programming with it.

64. Free training courses from 3D Buzz

Tutorials for working with various programming languages and software. Not all of them are free but many are.

65. Free computer programming ebooks

A nice selection of free ebooks on web design and programming languages.

66. The Game Glossary Project

Did you hear a word in your game design course or in a book and didn’t quite understand what it meant? Use this game glossary guide to figure out what it meant and to up your knowledge on game design terms!

67. Fun: Simple to Explain, Hard to Accept

What makes a game fun? Are there elements to every game that make it better to play? Do limits and rules ruin the fun of a game? This short article attempts to shed light on the debate.

68. Intro to HTML5 Game Development

Free course at Udemy. Learn how to make a game with HTML5 and Quintus, as well as how to publish games to the Amazon App store!

69. Introduction to Game Design

This course on edX is currently running. It is free and would be worth checking out future registration dates.

70. Introduction to Computer Programming Part 1

This course is archived, but you can still register for free and work through it in a self-paced manner.

71. Introduction to Computer Programming Part 2

The second portion of the course at edX.

72. Programming for kids at Happy Nerds

This site is a collection of resources for educators and parents. Lots of suggestions for software, programming languages to introduce, and books for your gamer/programmer enthusiasts.

Children today are surrounded by software from their game consoles, over their music players to their mobile phones. By teaching them how to program, we can show them how to become an active and defining part of this new world we live in.

73. Game Dev badge at DIY

If you haven’t checked out DIY.org yet, you are missing a great motivator and resource! Kids can join, download the app, and complete challenges to earn skill badges. You can also complete challenges by uploading from a computer browser. Each challenge has examples and links to get kids started, and every challenge is reviewed by a DIY mentor to make sure it meets the requirements. It’s like scouts for the technology age!

The game developer badge has kids making a 2D game, creating a sprite sheet, editing textures, and making a 3D game in Unity.

game developer badge

74. nOOb badge at DIY

The nOOb badge helps kids become familiar with programming logic, languages, and software by remixing games, writing instructions for a robot, and creating simple game mechanics in Scratch.

75. The Young Person’s Guide to Programming in Minecraft

This tutorial walks you through downloading ScriptCraft and editing “mods” in Minecraft. Great way to use a game that kids already enjoy to enhance and enlarge their programming skills!

Clubs, Career Information, and Advice

76. Coder Dojo

Coder Dojo is a programming community for kids. Find a dojo near you, or create your own dojo and plan a meet-up with other kids that share your passions. It’s like a computer club with a relaxed atmosphere and lots of peer mentoring.

77. Programmer 101: Teach yourself how to code

A nice article that gives beginners a frame of reference for getting started in computer programming. It’s not important what language you pick to start on, but programming can be frustrating and lonely so find a buddy to share the journey!

78. Video Game Design career paths

When kids say they want to be a game designer when they grow up, what exactly do they mean? This article can help them narrow down the areas in which they are most interested.

79. Gamasutra

The mother of game design websites. You can find articles, advice, job ads, career guides, and so much more for every aspect of game development, design, and coding.

80. 10 Steps to Designing a Game

Step-by-step guide to how you come up with an idea for a game and see it through to creation, play testing, and feedback.

81. Game Developers Conference

Attending a conference for game developers would be a huge step in learning exactly what the career entails and meeting people working in the business.

82. Sloperama’s Game Biz Advice

A giant site of questions and answers – this game developer takes the time to explain how you can build a portfolio, what different jobs entail, the process of submitting a game, choosing a college, and so much more!

Books about programming and game design on Amazon

83. Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners

hello world

84. Python for Kids

python for kids

85. Super Scratch Programming Adventure!

 

86. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

Highly recommended by several game developers – this is a college-level text so it would be appropriate for older kids.

87. Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design

When you are serious about creating and marketing games.

level up game design

88. Start a Career in Game Design (Lazy Designer series book 1)

This series by veteran game designer Brent Knowles talks about his experience finding a job in game design, some of the struggles he encountered, and advice for those wanting to get into a career.

89. How to Make the Next Game (book 2)

 

90. How to Design Gameplay and Exploration (book 3)

 

91. How to Design Story and Build Worlds (book 4)

 

92. Breaking into the Game Industry: Advice for a Successful Career from Those Who Have Done It

 

93. The Game Maker’s Apprentice: Game Development for Beginners

 

94. The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect

 

95. An Illustrated History of 151 Video Games

 

96. The Ultimate History of Video Games

ultimate history of video games

97. The Beginners Guide to Android Game Development

 

98. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals

 

99. 3D Game Programming for Kids

 

100. Learn to Program with Scratch: A Visual Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math

learn to program scratch

101. Scratch 2.0 Programming for Teens

 

I hope this gives you an idea of all the great content that is out there (most of it free) for kids to get a start on understanding video games, design, development, programming languages, and more!

100-things by iHomeschool Network

The iHomeschool Network bloggers are giving you their best lists of 100 homeschool-related things! Check out all the great posts and find more resources and ideas for your educational journey.

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5 Responses to 100 Learning Resources for Kids Who Want to Be Game Designers and Programmers

  1. Pamela says:

    What would you recommend for a kid (age 14) who has little to no experience with the computer, other than word processing and google searches?

  2. Eva Varga says:

    Love this list! Serendipitously, it posted on the first day of the “Hour of Code” week! :)

  3. bestautumnn says:

    You may also use Allavsoft which can easily and batch Download 3dbuzz videosto MP4, WMV, AVI on Mac and Windows.

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