The Game Builder Garage allows users to construct their own personally designed games, from racing games to 3D action adventures and shooter games, all using the platform’s native visual programming interface. The code-free tool represents simple programmatic functions of game input, output, and logic with cute, concept-bucketed “creatures” called Nodons. Players build their games by adding Nodons together and making different connections between the various nodes of each Nodon interface to create in-game actions and rules of varying complexity, and eventually design entire levels. Nearly all features of the Switch and Joy-Con are available to interface as Nodon characters, including the infrared sensors and motion controls, giving players a depth of command over the variety of game features and controls possible to create. For example, connecting the “Stick” Nodon to the “Person” Nodon will let the analog joystick control a character’s movement on screen.
Step-by-step lessons take players through several intensive game-building tutorials before they are able to go off on and create their own. The tutorials are inherently gamified, and cover seven different styles of gameplay, complete with quizzes at the end of each level. The Game Builder Garage is a closed experience, meaning players only have access to the materials and building blocks it provides. This makes the gameplay safe for children and families, and forces other players to use their imagination as they try to ramp up their gaming design within the set structure. Players won’t learn how to code using general programming languages from playing the game, but the experience provides the appropriate framework for how to begin to understand game design, as well as how the logic behind certain programming languages and approaches to coding function conceptually.
The mini-games players make on the Game Builder Garage platform can be shared with other platform developers via a unique code, adding a social element to the creative exercise. And already, talented players are having fun with the Game Builder Garage by recreating versions of classic Nintendo titles within the platform, such as Mario Kart, F-Zero, Pac-Man, and other nostalgic hits, and sharing them online with communities of passionate gaming fans. Fans of the game have even been creating their own platforms to share games on; the most popular being MyGarage Games.
The no-code solution powering Nintendo’s unique programming game is part of a larger trend PSFK researchers have been following around the mainstreaming and increased sophistication of low-and-no-code programming, as organizations and brands use simplified interfaces to enable their employees and customers to create powerful, customized experiences. There is often a social element at play, as seen with the Game Builder Garage community platforms, with marketplaces and forums springing up so that users can peruse or purchase pre-built template designs or “recipes” that can be immediately utilized.
This article originally appeared in PSFK’s research paper, Emerging Interface Experiences.