Over the Christmas break while many were munching mince-pies and stuffing in the turkey, my son Finn and I were coding games in Unity
Finn’s 11. He’s currently in his first year of Secondary School. He’s a keen gamer on his Xbox and iPad. Tempting him to try and learn a little code to understand what goes on behind the scenes of the games he plays started as a bit of an experiment. We began by chatting about his favourite games. With the list of favourites including Stick Hero and Flappy Bird it was clear that a game didn’t need to have the level of complexity of huge budget hits such as Fifa, Call of Duty or Clash of Clans to make a lasting impression on an 11 year old boy with a short attention span!
Not only is Unity easy to get up and running with, it’s also a very powerful tool that enables developers to publish to a long list of platforms that includes iOS, Android and Window’s Phone. Around 70% of games in Apple’s App Store are now being developed in Unity. I created Poker Royale and Wordsy natively in Objective-C and iOS but with hindsight Unity would have been a better choice
My method of getting Finn into writing code has been for us to follow this wonderful video course on how to make a 2D Game (Pong) by Asbjørn Thirslund @ Brackeys. I highly recommend the free video courses you can find at Brackeys.com. You build a simple game from scratch following the clear step-by-step bite-size videos.
Finn and I followed the course together on our laptops. It was great to see how quickly he was able to pick up the process of navigating the Unity GUI: how easy it was to import graphic assets into his game and then position and size them on the canvas. Asbjørn moves at a fast pace and with his quirky English accent he keeps things quite amusing. Finn and I joked together throughout the course and I noticed how his competitive instinct kicked in while working alongside dad – he was keen to show me each time he finished writing some code before me or discovered a new short cut to get the job done quicker!
Finn has highlighted the similarities between his experience with Unity so far and learning to code with Scratch at school. I don’t know Scratch that well but my understanding is that it provides a simplistic drag and drop UI to help kids to learn the basics of how an application or game is built. It’s clearly a great foundation for taking coding to the next level.
Finn’s interest in coding seems to increase each time we spend a new Unity session together. With each session his understanding of the power of programming progresses and further opens his imagination to all of the possibilities that being a programmer offers! It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out