Help me find a gift for my techie nephew!
May 30, 2010 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Are there any computer games that teach programming to teenagers? My nephew just turned 13, and he's a budding techie/robotics whiz. I'd like to get him interested in programming, but he'll probably be interested only if there is some game involved. Any ideas?
posted by adverb to Technology (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Robozzle might be a good start. Not directly programming, but it tricks you into learning recursion and stuff.
posted by brainmouse at 7:17 PM on May 30, 2010

Best answer: You might check out Lego Mindstorms. The basic premise of it is that you get some lego that comes with some lego-based motors and sensors. You hook it all up, Lego-style into some sort of robot/vehicle/whatever and then you get to program what it does using a pretty straightforward programming language. It's a pretty neat toy in my opinion, although there's a bit of up front investment to get the proper legos.
posted by Diplodocus at 7:21 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not a game as such, and sharing some traits with Robozzle, rur-ple might be worth having a look at.
posted by aroberge at 7:26 PM on May 30, 2010

There was this game on the MeFi front page a few days ago.
posted by fleacircus at 7:30 PM on May 30, 2010

The game is "when you learn how to program, you can make computers do anything you want".
posted by Meatbomb at 7:31 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was going to say the same thing that Meatbomb said.

Learning to program IS the game.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:00 PM on May 30, 2010

To add to what Meatbomb and ArgentCorvid have said, a number of my friends got into programming through either writing games for their TI graphing calculators, or writing macros and levels for the games they were interested in. I'm not a gamer myself, but I gather WoW has a reasonably extensive API that players have used to write extensions and tools to make them awesomer WoW players. Your nephew may also want to look into learning to write games for smartphones.
posted by little light-giver at 8:16 PM on May 30, 2010

I haven't looked at it in detail, but I immediately thought of pygame. Worth a look-over, at least.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:29 PM on May 30, 2010

The Lego Mindstorms series of toys...
Not a game, but has other features.
Can be used to learn a number of languages.
#include stddisclm.h
posted by Drasher at 8:50 PM on May 30, 2010

If you want to make interesting games with visual feedback, processing might be good.
posted by delmoi at 9:15 PM on May 30, 2010

Warcraft 3 mapping and Starcraft 2 mapping when it comes out on July 27. War3 has a cool scripting language that would a nice place to start because it gives you instant results. Starcraft 2 is a bit more OO, complicated and lacking in programming documentation but the same deal really.
posted by Submiqent at 3:48 AM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: I would suggest Alice but if he wants to get dirty, get Quake and start him running his own code in QuakeC.
posted by plinth at 4:14 AM on May 31, 2010

Yeah, I agree with Meatbomb and the others who recommend getting him to learn to write games himself. I started learning BASIC when I was about 8 because I wanted to write my own games. Then I taught myself C a few years later.

Maybe the modern-day equivalent would be starting off with something like Game Maker, which (I've heard) has an easy-to-learn point and click interface for basic games but lets you do all kinds of things with scripting. I've never used it myself, but it could be the perfect gateway drug.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:40 AM on May 31, 2010

Recommending Robocode where can build a Java tank robot and play it against other people's.

Also, Scratch might be a good start, but is aimed for younger kids.

Kodu is similar to Scratch, but from Microsoft, and in beta.

If you're looking for something gifty, you can purchase Roborally as a board game which is alot of fun and teaches logic, procedures, and basically program tracing.
posted by miasma at 5:33 AM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: If he likes robots, look into the Roboni-i. You program a real physical robot that comes with a "game" setup you can play with anyone else who has one of these kits, or you can upload your code to a virtual robot avatar and play it in an MMO. (Of course, this a more expensive solution than just plain old coding)
posted by olinerd at 5:59 AM on May 31, 2010

If you haven't already tried this, introduce him to Etoys. Its a simple to learn programming environment, very child friendly, you can make games, whatever you want in it.
posted by Rax at 5:22 PM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids (and Other Beginners) includes several simple games as examples. For a followup, there's Beginning Game Development with Python and Pygame: From Novice to Professional
posted by PueExMachina at 10:54 PM on May 31, 2010

Lightbot: "Control a robot by giving it commands. Use programmer-style logic for more complex levels that include functions to re-use.
The Codex of Alchemical Engineering: "As an Alchemical Engineer, you must build machines out of mechanical arms and magical glyphs that transform and combine atoms in order to create the compounds required for each level."
posted by hayvac at 10:37 AM on June 1, 2010

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