List of links, I’ll add detail if/when I’ve checked them out. Comments & additions welcome.
Learning to program computers
These are logic puzzles, games and similar activities that may be appropriate as a way of learning the mindset of a programmer, or actual programming. Particular useful for inspiring children to think logically, consider algorithmic approaches and generate code-like solutions.
Light-Bot 2.0 – armorgames.com – a great enhancement to turtle games; here you control a cute little humanoid bot as he makes his way around various courses. Introduces looping and functions at least. [in the Gamasutra article (link below)]
“The character wakes up in a strange place populated by gnome-like creatures. She has been sent here to learn the ways of magic. The gnomes are in need of her help, they know a little magic, but don’t have enough to accomplish simple tasks. They need her help, and she needs theirs.” (from the sites.google.com link)
The game is played by designing nano-scale machines to assemble various chemical compounds. The design feels like a “best of” collection of elements from earlier Zachtronics games: the factory and grabbers of Manufactoid, the chemistry and rotation of Codex of Alchemical Engineering, and the layered circuit drawing of KOHCTPYKTOP. Of course it is much more as well: more mechanisms, and loads more polish. As much as I’d enjoyed the previous games, they had some major interface issues, and almost all of these seem to be resolved.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Trak – real life programmable 6 wheel truck; an original toy from the 1980’s. Like a Turtle with a limit of 20 moves (IIRC). Reviews suggest it doesn’t go well on carpet. See also – Amazon.com
“I did have to Google for ruby tutorials to figure out things like instance variables and I’m sure somebody who has no prior programming experience would really struggle with this. Having said that, this could easily be modified into a proper tutorial and even now its a fun thing game to try out what you learn in some other tutorial.”
Primarily these links were suggested in a thread on Ycombinators “Hacker News”. That was started in response to a list on Gamasutra of games that inspire(d), teach or taught programmers (top of the list is Turtle which I first used in about 1984 I think). There’s a wealth of suggestions in the Gamasutra comments.
No one mentioned MineCraft – perhaps it’s no directly programming in the vanilla versions but it’s definitely been used to program with!
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