Teaching Game Has Players Code The Levels As They Play Them

Beta is a code-teaching game about making a game where players are in the game at the same time.

If you love the world-building possibilities of games like Minecraft, then you’re probably a creative gamer. And as a creative gamer, you probably have felt an urge now and then to take a peek under the hood of your favorites. A new gaming experience by Hidden Level Games, a New York-based group of programmers, hopes to educate precisely this audience, offering a game that you can play as you build using an object-oriented language that bears a strong resemblance to JavaScript.

“We were hanging out one late night coding and [chief architect Chris Moody] was like, ‘Hey man, what if we just made a game about making a game and we could be in the game at the same time!?” said creative director Errol King.

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The language the inventors decided to use is called codePOP, and the programmers boast of its conciseness and ease of use, calling it “tweet-sized.” The interface of the game allows codePOP to give players instant feedback on their use of the language without needing to interrupt the action for compiling. “The instant-gratification model was really kind of the key,” said King. “Today’s gamers, it’s all about [being] in the moment, in the now. And sometimes the patience to learn how to code a lot of lines and kind of just get this small result [can be hard to come by]. How do you get that positive feedback where they can play and code and have instant feedback all at the same time?”

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The game takes on the basic form of a side-scrolling platformer with various objects, including platforms, powerups, and ‘bullets’ that can be placed using an elegant 2D cartesian coordinate system.

Unsurprisingly for a game that so skillfully blends play, education and creation, Beta, which is designed for ages 10 and up, has been brought to many classrooms for collaborative play. Hidden Level Games has worked with societies like National Society of Black Engineers, NYC Lab School (a well-regarded public middle and high school in Chelsea), Reboot Stories (which is invested in “cross-generational learning and social good”), and Black Girls Code, at whose New York launch they were present.

With a special focus on getting more girls and students of color into tech, games like Beta could inspire many a young student and change the demographics and sensibilities of the tech world in just a few years.

Beta the Game

[h/t] The Spawn Point Blog

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