Here you can learn about video game programming and about programming video games–that is, about making games, about playing games that feature programming as their main mechanic or story thread, or both.

Programming, in short, is a verb and an adjective here. There is probably a fancy rhetorical term for that productive ambiguity, but for once let’s leave literary pretensions to one side and highlight some of the other things video games can teach us: not just coding and design but math, history, and Japanese, not to mention the lost art of typing…

Have a suggestion? Join the discussion on the academy discord. You can hear some of these talked about after our AI: Somnium Files disputation.

Programming

Prof Ben says: There are positively mountains of video games that simulate programming and build similar skill sets. Zachtronics is the clear gold standard but our friend Kyle Gabler’s recent entries, Human Resource Department and 7 Billion Humans, are also solid. I’ve heard good things about while True: Learn(), and there are some really interesting spatial reasoning/machine coding simulators like Factorio and shapez.io that work on similar kinds of logic.

Researching for my Zelda class, I also turned up a coding tutorial and Khan Academy’s course. Then there’s the triple-A folks, though they’re less like proper programming: Little Big Planet, Mario Maker, Dragon Quest Builders, Minecraft and Roblox, RPG Maker…

And keep an eye out for Humble Bundle to feature coding goodies.

As for game design more broadly, The Art of Game Design has a wealth of information.

Typing

The Typing of the Dead: Overkill lets you practice qwerty while also getting your survival-horror fix.

Talk about overkill…

Nitro Type purrs along into pay-for-play territory, but you can still compete for free.

Math(s)

I know there were a bunch back in the day, but I must have missed out… this list at least uses the plural maths, so it seems like a good place to start. Steph recommends Zoombinis.

History

I’m stocking up on books to review, but there’s also a ton of youtube videos and even a polished documentary series out there.

And let’s not forget: Mario’s Time Machine

Japanese

A rough curriculum on the advice of Clyde Mandelin: use tofugu to get your katakana and hiragana going, and as soon as possible start in on a kanji system. For grammar, resources abound, but the best practice might be disciplined, voluntary immersion in Japanese games and media.

Science

From the prospectus for a new course under development–

Students will have the opportunity to learn about the scientific and mathematical concepts at play in their favorite video games. From basic electrical engineering and computer science that undergird game hardware and software, to the neural and psychological principles driving player behavior, we will introduce students to the many strands of theoretical and practical knowledge which come together in the world of video game development and appreciation. Case studies from particular games, such as Portal and Stardew Valley, will accompany readings, discussions, projects, and presentations chosen and designed by students to pursue their passion and demonstrate their learning. 

1. Intro – favorite games, brainstorming questions/interests for the course

Dev kit – a notebook they would keep adding to

Basic vocabulary for hardware and software, shared language

2. Electricity

Basic circuits. 

Minecraft calculator?

3. Optics

Visual pathways, light, camera/point of view

Zelda, Dragon Quest/FF, and VR

4. Neuroscience

Memory, problem solving. 

Computer as model for the brain/ analogy for thought

5. Kinesthetics, hand-eye coordination, reflex

Leonardo’s hands, Escher’s hands

6. Origins

The mechanical Turk, Lovelace, Turing

7. Computer Science

Logic, binary, probability, permutations, combinations

8. Psychology

Jamie Manigan 

9. Physics

Trig, parabolas in Portal, Mario

10. Game Theory

Prisoner’s dilemma? VLR

11. Artificial Intelligence

Machine vs human learning

12. Environmental Ethics

Stardew Valley

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