So, in my Other Life, I am a second grade teacher. Lately there’s been a lot of Talk about STEM in schools, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, which has grown out of the relatively terrible job we (teachers) do of making these fields seem interesting to all but a very narrow set of children. So, considering Talk, and The Direction We Are All Going, and my own Interests, and code.org’s Hour of Code initiative, I thought it was a good year to try to teach my children to make games.
It went well. We used trial versions of Game Maker 8, installed onto district laptops, and we met once a week for about an hour before school. We totally overreached in all possible ways. We didn’t finish anything. Students planned grandiose cosmos-spanning games, and then smashed against syntax errors and limited student file permissions and evidence-that-these-computers-have-been-frequently-used-by-over-700-students and they made flashing squares move across their screens. They drew hundreds of beautiful frames on sticky notes that turned into hundreds of pictures of sticky notes on my phone and then tens of .pngs that were occasionally used to replace the flashing squares. It was a mess; it was wonderful.
Something I frequently promised toward the end of the school year was that I would distribute a list of programs we used and friendly instructions for how to use them. I am putting some links here as the very first step to doing this, eventually, because I am usually a horrid liar and a forgetfulness and I want to be able to hand someone a “don’t worry if you know nothing about computers, here is how to get in there and make something” guide. With pictures! Of me. And my giant triangle nose, so I need to start making a small part of it real, otherwise all my spare moments will go to tweaking the rotation rate on a flying banana and the school year will arrive and Nothing Will Ever Be Made.
:: HENCEFORTH A LIST OF HELPFUL THINGS ::
TWINE TWINE. TWINE. A wonderful way to make a Choose Your Own Adventure sort of game very quickly. Absolutely lovely. Even if you don’t think you want to make a text-based game, just try it, it is so fun.
DEREK YU’S GAME MAKER FOR BEGINNERS SERIES : this was incredibly helpful for me as I started to use Game Maker. It’s written for Game Maker 7, but most of the things (all of the things?) will still work in 8. HERE ARE OLD VERSIONS OF GAME MAKER. They make them kind of hard to find from the main page, because they want you to use STUDIO which I don’t particularly enjoy. Game Maker allows you to Drag and Drop different things onto different objects and those objects will then Do Stuff. It also allows you to write weird code in its weird code language.
USING FLASHPUNK WITH FLASHDEVELOP : I’ve made a few games with FlashPunk and I like it. I’ve gone back to using Game Maker for now just because it allows me to do more with sound and file systems (that was important for FJORDS) and because I am more comfortable in it, but there is an immediacy to a Game In A Browser that is super nice.
MAKE WEIRD STUFF IN UNITY : 3D was super scary to me for a long time, but this is a great tutorial. I’ve only made a few half-finished things in Unity but there’s nothing quite like Plonking A Bunch Of Cubes Into A Scene and then being able to WALK AROUND THEM. You can even make them SPIN without too much effort. SPINNING CUBES. Just try this one.
SCRATCH : I haven’t messed around much with Scratch but I have a few students who have gone on to learn a lot about it and it’s cool how it’s all Right There In Your Browser, and much friendlier to just Dragging Things Around and also Dropping Them than Game Maker. Try this and STENCYL if you want to drag and drop and don’t want to spend a lot of time wondering why the code you wrote is Making Errors (because something somewhere isn’t capitalized consistently??? PROGRAMMING : ((( ).
That’s it for now; I also have a long list of Auxillary Programs that I use to make music, sound, pictures, etc., but I will make another post for those.