An Hour of Code for Ludum Dare
December 4, 2015
Today I’d like to highlight two imminently occurring events. In order, those would be the Hour of Code followed by the upcoming Ludum Dare 34. Although they do it in different ways, both events promote learning to code (i.e. computer programming) within the context of computer games—a topic not unfamiliar to those who have been following my blog series on making your first computer game.
From December 7th through December 13th various Hour of Code events will be held around the world. The Hour of Code is promoted by code.org, a group dedicated to getting more people, especially girls, interested in coding. Computers are everywhere these days and code.org is eager for more people to understand and be able to control their computers.
On the code.org website you can find a large collection of online tutorials that take you through the basics of coding in fun and simple ways. No previous coding experience or exposure is necessary to work through these tutorials, in which you take control of small digital characters from such properties as Disney’s Frozen, Star Wars, Angry Birds, and Mine Craft. Using a simple programming language you can make these characters move, make sounds, collect objects, and score points. In some cases, reading isn’t even necessary as code.org also makes a visual programming language available where you can do such things as use pictures of arrows to move the characters instead.
So where does the Hour of Code come into things? From the 7th to the 13th various “code ins” are being organized in classrooms, libraries, and other public spaces for people of all ages to try out these tutorials. Each tutorial is broken up into multiple “levels”, with each level adding in a couple of new programming tools. In general, it’s possible to get through all the levels in a given tutorial in about an hour. In many cases, the final level of the tutorial will have you make a very simple computer game, which you can then share online with family and friends.
Speaking of computer games, once you’ve moved beyond the basics of what code.org has to offer, you may want to consider the upcoming Ludum Dare 34, which runs December 11th to December 14th—nicely overlapping the end of the Hour of Code events.
Ludum Dare is Latin for “to give a game”. During the Ludum Dare event, participants have 48 to 72 hours to create a computer game from scratch. Various rules and restrictions apply, which you can find on the Ludum Dare site. On the 11th, the theme of the event is revealed and you then have until the end of the 14th to create a game that relates to that theme.
Worried that Ludum Dare is too large a challenge after coming off of the Hour of Code? Well, you shouldn’t be. In Ludum Dare you can team up with others and bring your own creative skills to the table. Don’t have a black belt in crazy game programming kung fu? No worries, lots of programmers are looking for people who can make artwork for their games. Not good with art either? Hey, maybe you can record sound effects or find free ones online.
This will be my second time participating in Ludum Dare. My first time, I wasn’t too sure how the event would play out. Rather than create a game myself I offered my services as an artist on two separate Ludum Dare games. It’s amazing to see what people can achieve in just a couple of days.
Young or old, experienced or not, between the Hour of Code and Ludum Dare I’m certain there’s the right challenge for everyone to start learning how to code or to take their coding (or game development) skills to the next level. So why not try something new? And always remember: have fun!