Toy maker Technology Will Save Us has announced the latest project on its mission to make coding fun. Arcade Coder, launching today on Kickstarter, differs from the existing TWSU range in that it’s for all the family – a digital twist on the traditional board game where players can design and program their own games on the Games Studio iOS app, then play it on the Arcade Coder console. It even looks like a board game with a durable 12×12 inch chunky case, which is adorned with 144 multi-coloured LED buttons that light up at the games designer’s will.
As a total beginner, users can learn how to code Pong via tutorials on the app – using simple block coding that is now part of standard Key Stage 1 or 2 academic curriculums – then play it on the Arcade Coder console. More experienced coders can go to sandbox mode, and invent any games their imagination hands to them. Chris Catton, head of product for Tech Will Save Us, says it empowers kids and their parents to become confident games designers.
“From research we knew that gaming as a theme was appealing to children of all ages, and an amazing way to introduce valuable learning outcomes that would be essential in the 21st century. While it’s evident video games are rising in popularity, our aim was to create an experience that would unleash creativity and teach kids the design process behind the game rather than continue to fuel the trend for passively consuming it.”
Looking to create a more tactile digital experience than what is offered by an iPad screen, and encourage family time, the Arcade Coder brings together elements learned from previous Tech Will Save Us products in a way that is inclusive of all ages. Pong, Snake, Lights Out and Maze are all familiar games formats everyone can play, irrespective of their coding ability. The idea is that kids can learn to code a game then show their parents what they’ve learned, without realising along the way they’ve learned creativity, critical thinking and coding.
Not only are they learning digital skills, Chris explains, but the essence of a good game. “Dice mode teaches how chance is involved in gaming, whereas other tutorials show how skill can come into it. They really have to think about what makes a fun game.”
In the Games Studio app, players learn from the virtual team – a designer, coder and artist – about the different aspects of being a games designer, and earn badges for their achievements.
Chris says it’s “the perfect iteration of physical and digital,” and “the most advanced play and learning experience we’ve ever produced. It’s a revolutionary new way to play and invent games that ignites everyone’s imagination and can totally transform family game night forever. It makes its players the agents, not just the consumers, of their games.”