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Today I sent my child a link to a report about a boy, who has created a commercially viable videogame. My son replied that he may intend to do something similar.

I asked him about the bottleneck of this project - what prevents him from making progress, but he didn't have an answer.

Judging from his behavior (the amount of time he devotes to playing Minecraft, making videos about it, trying to program in Minecraft using command blocks), he actually may have an inclination in this direction (game development).

What are the best ways I can employ to help him find out, whether this field is actually his destiny?

Note: I believe that the only way to find out one's passion is to do something, i. e. in this case - develop a game. In other words: You can only find out empirically (by doing), whether some activity is your passion or not.

I'm a software developer myself and I've tried to teach him, how to program plugins for Minecraft (using "real", state of the art technology), but until now he didn't want to learn it. I decided not to pressure him.

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    Use code.org. Many schools use this for the Hour of Code, in December of every year. There's even a minecraft tutorial! – OldBunny2800 May 9 '16 at 20:42
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    Personally if I wanted to teach someone how to program I might go with the languages I know. In my case I might try a really simple html5 game using cocos2d, or a java game using libgdx and robovm for ios and android deployment. Code can be intimidating, but I don't feel a real game can come from a simple utility. You kind of have to get into it and understand conditions, game states, etc. It also helps if you can make graphics yourself. But if that's not the case, is your goal just to make a game, or make a commercially viable one? – Kai Qing May 10 '16 at 0:40
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    Right then for sure I'd go down the 2 options I listed personally. They both include pretty easy guides for starter games and slow introduction to general game structure. I'd advise not to make the game of your dreams first cause you'll never finish it. Start by making something goofy. 1 screen. Here's a quick goofy game I made for a christmas card in cocos2d brink.com/holidays - wasn't expected to be too professional so it might only work in chrome – Kai Qing May 10 '16 at 22:00
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    I can't find the name right now, but there is a RPG generator that is quite well made and that you can find on steam. I'll put the detail in an answer later if no one didi. – MakorDal May 11 '16 at 7:42
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    @MakorDal you mean RPGmaker? – Erik May 11 '16 at 15:14
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"Scratch" will allow you to create a simple videogame and get some experience with basic programming concepts. After that there are some good resources for starting Python here.

  • If scratch is too hard, try kodu, but since he can do command blocks, make him move towards something more useful like JavaScript of Unity3D, but those are better at 13 year old. – Bradman175 Jun 9 '16 at 16:06
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Adding another option, GameMaker is also a fairly easy to get into program that is often used as a stepping stone for aspiring game developers.

The base version is also free.

  • It does tend to teach some bad habits if eventual migration to OO-style programming is desired. – Weckar E. Aug 10 '17 at 11:05
  • @WeckarE. at that age it doesn't matter I think. Being able to get results easily and quickly is more important than building properly designed code. – Erik Aug 10 '17 at 12:00
  • being an alumnus of this program (and its community, before its unfortunate wipe of everything), while it was useful to learn some basics - in the end I feel I lost more time to re-learning things it taught me wrong. I used it about from ages 7 to 16. – Weckar E. Aug 10 '17 at 12:02
  • @WeckarE. I've started with DIV studio, but ultimately I think the time spent relearning bad habits pales compared to the fact that it's what helped me actually DO games development for years as a child. That's hard to do with the more "proper" tools imho, as they are built for experienced/professional developers. – Erik Aug 10 '17 at 12:11
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That is a tricky one, as I think it boils down to, "How do I motivate my child to actually do something he is interested in." You mentioned you have already tried, but he didn't follow through.

I think it is all about motivation. I know personally, what motivated me to go to school and get into the Software Engineering field was working a crap job for a few years for minimum wage. Your child probably doesn't have that option :)

Also, games are a tricky de-motivator. They seriously suck us in and that is all we want to do. I am projecting a little bit as I know I struggled for a long time to actual be an adult while playing games because I would be thinking of the next thing I wanted to do, and I would only halfheartedly perform my responsibilities.

He may also be too intimidated by the thought of actually writing something like that.

I would say first (if you have not already), sit down with him and describe all of the plugins he may want to do in the Minecraft world. Next would be to sit down with him and you do the actual writing of the plugin with him next to you. Show him how you research the concepts you do not know. Show him how to put it all together. Constantly engage him and ask him questions about what he wants so he does not get board sitting next to you. Do not get his brain bogged down in the syntax he doesn't know, but in concepts of what he wants the plugin to do. He will feel the excitement of making something from nothing. Show him how to make the plugin available to other people, and if others like it, he will then feel the excitement of being socially appreciated in a world that is important to him.

I believe that may hook him into the concept of programming, and then it will be easier to then teach him how to program.

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Khan Academy has some very basic courses leading up to building simple games within an HTML5 canvas. It may be a place to start if he feels intimidated by the other options.

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Apart from Scratch, there is another, more advanced system for teaching kids the basics of game development: KODU. Main benefit in comparison to Scratch: Ability to create 3D games (Minecraft-style).

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Video games (and any successful application) are a team effort. The day that a programmer working alone could pull together a killer app and make rich are long over.

Get him involved with a community of young programming aficionados. Once you get three or four kids with a common interest together, the synergy will form and things will start to happen.

I have been programming for 4 decades, and I can tell you that no matter how exciting the end product may be, the work quickly gets tedious if you don't have anyone to share it with. A small group makes all the difference even in industry.

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