Kids Make Video Games

This is an article and tutorial on kids making video games. It gives you some solid information and a good overview on how kids can make video games.

For Parents and Educators: You are already on the track of helping a child learn how to make video games so you are probably aware of the many opportunities and benefits but I will review a little bit for you. There are many substantial benefits to the art and craft of video game making and it isn't just limited to twitchy skills.

What this article is

This article is an in-depth look at helping a child make video games. What I give you here is an overview of the industry of video game making, a look at the wide variety of disciplines and types of work that is done in the industy and finally I give you some solid information on the books, software programs and tools you can use to help a child learn how to make video games. And, wherever possible I point out the free stuff so you don't incur any cost - and there is a lot of free stuff out there.

About the Game Making Industry

According to the Entertainment Software Association the gaming industry was worth $22 billion in 2008. That is a number not to be taken lightly and it isn't all earned by programmers locked up in a room somewhere. Today's video game industry is very mature and still rapidly growing. And making games isn't limited to software programmers huddled up in a cubicle somewhere pounding away at enormous amounts of programming code. The industry as a whole is a very large animal with all kinds of jobs and opportunities ranging from artists to project managers, marketers, artificial intelligence designers, writers, game testers, and well just about every kind of creative pursuit and every kind of normal business pursuit.

And this trend is growing. This is an industry that is still gaining steam.

Creativity and Possibilities

I have an article that talks about the various aspects of creativity in video games and you can read that article here. But let me give you an overview of some of the creative aspects of game making. These are broken down by discipline.

First off you have the visual and graphic arts aspect of video game making. And this aspect is the first thing that people thing of when they think about making video games. Somebody creates and designs the look and feel of the game. This includes the characters and objects. But it also includes the game world itself. And this aspect of designing a game world is a craft all unto itself that has grown substantially over the past few years.

Let me give you an outstanding example of the design of a video game world. The game Assassins Creed 2 takes place in Renaissance Italy. The whole world of the game is meticulously researched and rendered. It takes a real look at what Renaissance Italy was like right down to the weapons, buildings and social structure. I have an article about this here: The World of Assassins Creed 2. This kind of project no doubt involved a lot of research and study. Pretty neat huh?

More Creative Possibilities

But, creating a video game is much more than just making the graphics. There is a lot of other stuff including writing, script writing, story writing, quest design and much more. Today's games are not just shoot em ups! They are complex and rich interactive worlds filled with puzzles, quests and goals. All of these things have to be thought up and created by somebody. And I shouldn't leave out the audio aspects of game design. A lot of time and effort goes into the sound and music of a video game. Well, you kind of get the idea of what I am driving at- opportunity in a very rich array of creative endeavors.

Some Notes From Will

Before I move on to the actual software and tools that are used I want to speak a little bit about a couple of things that are very important.

1. - A game making notebook - Game making and design is a very creative process and you no doubt want to encourage this exploration and creativity. One of the absolute best things you can do is to encourage the child to keep a game development notebook. The child can call it "My game Notes" or anything he or she likes. But the important thing is that it is a repository for ideas! A place where the child can write down story ideas, character ideas and even do sketches of places, things or anything else. It will build a strong continuity and incur a rapid improvement. If he or she sees something in a game that is really neat it should be written into the notebook as an idea!

2. Mitigating expectations - One of the biggest obstacles to be faced is the disappointment of not being able to make a game like the ones the child plays! It takes a development team of professionals years to make a recently released video game. This is an accomplishment and your child won't be able to do the same thing. It doesn't take long for imagination to take over and the child is pleasantly surprised and enthusiastic about games that he made himself regardless of how professional they are. Imagination is a powerful thing!

Here are my recommendations for what software
to try for game design

I have broken these down in two ways. First off I look at different age groups. And secondly I give you two recommendations for each age group. The first recommendation is for some free software. This way the child can try out something without incurring any expense. If this first software is a success and the child continues in a quest to make video games then you can move on to the second recommendation in the age group for software to purchase.


Younger Kids

One of the best ways to start out younger kids is by letting them use online tools for game making. These types of programs and websites take all of the difficulty out of custom making a video game. And they help children understand some of the basics of game making. A good place to start is at

sploderThis is a game making website aimed at younger game makers and game players. You can create 2d games of two different types: Platfrom style games or Shooter style games. This is a fun program and it is all drag and drop. You are given a blank screen and a character and a set of menu items to choose from. You simply drag and drop the various items onto the game screen. In about five minutes you can make a fun little game and play it. And actually it doesn't have to be a small game. It can be pretty large and complex. This is a nice website and because it is all drag and drop it is pretty easy to use and pretty easy to understand. Terrific for younger game makers.

If you want some software that you can load on your computer a company called GameSweet makes a series of game making software called Video Game Tycoon. This might be a bit too much of a challenge for children under the age of nine or ten.


Video game Tycoon

Video Game Tycoon : GOLD EDITION ... Video Game Design ... Create Your Own Video Games! Video Game TYCOON is a fun new video game that lets kids create their own video games and burn them to CD! Kids can build racing games, tank games, alien games, platform games, paintball games, and more! This is the perfect game for creative kids that like to play video games. The provided tutorials and control-help make it simple for even the youngest kids to enjoy.



Pre-teens and early teens

At this age group the child can start making ventures into 3-d games.

(free) 2D Game making: GameMaker 8 by YoYo Games - This is a free game making program and it has a fair amount of power and flexibility. It can be used to make quite a variety of better looking games like side scrollers, maze games, and even first person shooters. The software is well developed and works well. With this the child can get some games up and running quickly.

(free) 3D Game Making - Platinum Arts Sandbox - This is a free game making program that I really like. It is very easy to create 3d worlds with this game. I really like the look and feel of this software and it is amazing how realistic the games come out. Nice choice here and you can't go wrong pointing an early teen at this.

(Purchase) Games Factory 2:

Games Factory 2

The Games Factory 2 - Have you ever thought about creating video games but were bored by the learning curve required by the traditional programming languages? Now with Multimedia Fusion 2 from Clickteam you can make your ideas come alive. Multimedia Fusion 2 is a very powerful all visual programming environment. All visual is perfect for the developer who likes to concentrate on the important parts of the creations: the design and game play. You won't get bogged down by the things that should be simple -- Like coding for hours to move a sprite on the screen.


Mid and older teens

This is where we can get a real good look at how professional video games are made and this is where we can really get into some software that will enable a young person to make some terrific stuff. I also recommend some books.

(free) The Reality Factory - This is some software that has been around for a while now and it gives a good look at how video games are made. I have a complete series of tutorials on how to use this software to make video games. My tutorials start here: Reality Factory


(Purchase) FPS Creator is good for making first person shooter games. Good Graphics and easy design and layout. You can have games made in no time. The focus here is on level design and look of the games.

FPS Creator FPS Creator ( Windows ) With FPS Creator you can create your own shooter game with pixel-perfect precision. Create your game instantly with the intuitive 3D editor -- drag and drop walls, lights, doors, enemies, ammo, weapons and more. When you've got things placed where you want them you can drop in weapons, enemies, objectives, trigger zones, customise the loading screens, create your own AI scripts and everything else that makes a great shooter game. Once you're done, you can play your game with a click!



Dark basic

DarkBASIC 3D Games Creator - This is an actual programming language that is specifically geared toward game making. This is for young persons who are into programming. Great for future software engineers.




Dark Basic Programming

DarkBASIC Programming for the Absolute Beginner (No Experience Required (Course Technology))





Computer Gaming Tech Careers TechCareers: Gaming Programmers & Artists From Pong to the newest iPhone application, the gaming industry re-creates itself daily. This book provides the information to stay current on the advancements in the field. TechCareers: Computer Gaming provides readers a thorough overview of graphics and programming, personal testament from experienced gamers and knowledge for success in the workforce. This TSTC Tech Careers Series book includes employment outlook, salary ranges, career paths, job duties, work schedules, sample degree plans, lists of employers and technicians and skills required. The book also lists gaming programs throughout the nation.


Get in the Game: Careers in the Game Industry Have you dreamed of obtaining a game industry job? Get in the Game will help you achieve this! This friendly guide shows you step-by-step how to prepare yourself for a game industry career. With insights from over a dozen industry experts, it's the only guide you will need for training yourself then finding a game industry job.


Computer Game Designer

Computer Game Designer (Virtual Apprentice) Discover what it's like to bring games to life!"Virtual Apprentice: Computer Game Designer" is a perfect hands-on career guide for kids who love computer games.Profiles of working professionals, "Reality Check" sidebars, QctAs between real-life kids and pros, and a "Count Me In" journal feature help readers get a you-are-there feel for this exciting job. Loaded with full-color and black-and-white photographs and written in a lively tone, this entertaining guide allows kids to test-drive their dream career as a computer game designer.Chapters include: Get Ready for Action; Game Designer on the Job; The High-Speed Evolution of Electronic Games; Game Designer in Training; The "Players" Who Bring Games to Life; Kids Ask, Game Designers Answer; and, Game Designer for a Day.


The Game Maker's Apprentice: Game Development for Beginners

The Game Maker's Apprentice shows you how to create nine exciting games using the wildly popular Game Maker game creation tool. This book covers a range of genres, including action, adventure, and puzzle games&emdash;complete with professional quality sound effects and visuals. It discusses game design theory and features practical examples of how this can be applied to making games that are more fun to play.


Getting Started with Game Maker - Getting Started with Game Maker shows aspiring game developers how to create their very own, professional-quality computer games, no programming knowledge required. Using Game Maker's simple, drag-and-drop environment and following along with the step-by-step instructions, you'll learn how to create arcade-style 2D and 3D games complete with graphics, sound effects, and music. Game Maker provides everything you need to create, test, debug, and run your games in a Windows environment. Even if you're brand new to game development, you'll be able to make a working game that you can play and share others. And not having to worry about the programming the game allows you to focus on the design and how to make the game more fun and challenging. Along the way you'll learn the basic principles of game development. And if you want to create more complex games you can take advantage of Game Maker's built-in Game maker Language that allows you to develop highly advanced games and applications. So let's get started!



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