Video Games That Teach Kids How to Code

By Vince Matthews

Learning computer programming is not unlike discovering any new language: After learning a few words, you try to use what you’ve learned in a sentence – and then in a conversation. And anyone that’s tried to learn a new language will tell you, the best way to learn it is to practice it and have fun with it. A few new video games are embracing this same philosophy to teach computer science and coding to kids.

Codespells

Codespells puts players in the role of a wizard who crafts magic spells to interact with the world. To create the spells, gamers use a drag-and-drop interface and a Javascript-based language…and without realizing it, gamers are actually creating lines of code.

The “spells” are only limited by the players’ imagination: Players can create force fields, or build mountains or a rock creature to battle other enemies or help navigate the world.

Chocolate-Covered Broccoli
Codespells is the brainchild of Sarah Esper and Stephen Foster. They developed the game as part of their Ph.D work in Computer Science at UC San Diego.

Esper believes her game is more immersive and ultimately a better learning tool than those other “chocolate-covered broccoli games.”

Codespells gives players the ultimate tool to craft spells – and that’s code.

– Stephen Foster, Co-creator, Codespells

“The big difference between a chocolate-covered broccoli game and a real immersive educational video game is that you shouldn’t have to stop playing to go do the learning, and then stop learning to go do the playing,” said Esper, whose passion is teaching programming.

For Codespells, players use their “spellbook” – and with a drag-and-drop interface and Javascript-based language create spells all within the game.

Codespells gives players the ultimate tool to craft spells – and that’s code,” says Stephen Foster, one of the creators of Codespells. He believes the game will help players “express their individuality through their magic.”

Codespells started as a Kickstarter campaign but will soon be available for download for about $20.

The Foos

The Foos by CodeSpark teaches “the ABCs of computer science” to kids as young as 5 years old. The game curriculum is based on MIT research, but made kid-friendly and fun – and a great way to introduce kids to computer programming.

The Foos is free to download for Android, Apple and Kindle devices.

Coding at Camp
Teaching kids coding with video games isn’t new. In fact, Digital Media Academy campers have been learning Java programming with Minecraft for a few summers.

Other tools like Alice and Scratch also make it easy to teach young kids programming before they advance to learning C# or Python programming. DMA also believes that the best way to learn technology, like a new programming language, is to practice with it as much as you play with it. And like The Foos and Codespell, make sure the learning experience is fun.