I could never develop video games. I’m not the most patient person when it comes to learning and if you’ve ever spent time with me, know that while I have done some coding, it’s something I lack patience for. I know exactly what good coding is capable of and when done right offers some really cool results – video games, automating life, and all our gadgets are powered by efficient coding. Enter Game Builder Garage, the latest educational tool from Nintendo that looks to teach young children the fundamentals of coding.
While I’ve only spent a dozen hours or so with Game Builder Garage, there still work to be done and lessons to be completed. That said, I’m really enjoying my time with the interactive lessons but have only begun dabbling with Free Programing, a mode with all the tools readily available and waiting for you to put them to the test. As it were, the quality of Game Builder Garage is typically Nintendo and what you’re getting is something engaging, challenging, and fun.
A Coding We Will Go
I’m thankful Nintendo always seems to offer niche, off the wall and educational video games. While the Nintendo Labo series never really took off, it was a great way to get kids to use their hobbies to build cardboard models and toys for use with their Nintendo Switch. Seeing Nintendo try another avenue with Game Builder Garage is admirable and elicits excitement if you know anyone who has always wanted to do more than simply play video games. Specifically, younger siblings or relatives that have begun to dabble in the world of gaming. You also have games like Dreams on PlayStation that help streamline the process of creation, giving anyone with the time and patience the ability to start creating whatever they so desire.
I had assumed before I began my review that Game Builder Garage would fall in line with the mechanics of Super Mario Maker. I was wrong, assuming the mechanics would be limited in nature. Out tomorrow, Game Builder Garage offers several lessons to help get you started on your journey into game development. If there is one thing Nintendo excels at, it is turning any concept into a comprehensive tutorial. If you’ve ever assembled any of the Labo pieces, you’ll know how fun it is. This continues here when Bob explains how game development works and what you’re able to do when you’ve finished the lessons.
Game Builder Garage is a great visual experience
Taking coding lessons and turning them into visual representations of the core concepts is a nice touch. This allows children (and adults) a neat way to see what is happening and when the code is executed. You begin with Interactive Lessons, each one ranging from a half-hour before incrementally increasing in difficulty with upwards of an hour lessons padding out this mode. Interactive Lessons are hosted by Bob (not me!), giving you understand of how game development works.
Through seven main games, you learn the essentials and technical know-how to start creating video games by the end of completing the lessons. With Bob guiding you through the lessons, Game Builder Garage offers a surprising amount of depth and that idea alone is exciting since it really comes down to the creativity of the individuals instead of the tools provided. Each game you build becomes increasingly difficult and what I liked about the lessons is they never left me feeling overwhelmed or lost.
As recently as last year I was in a coding glass centred around automating tasks. With the first few lessons I found them to easy enough but the more time I spent in this course and with the teacher I had, I quickly became overwhelmed at the prospect of finishing a coding project without understanding exactly what I was working on. Not so with Game Builder Garage the ramp to more difficult games never put me in that situation.
I’d like to think it had to do with how familiar aspects of coding were represented in Game Builder Garage. What I mean is that each action you can perform in the game is represented as a Nodon. These Nodons are essentially the nodes that represent the codes holding your games together, each with a high-spirited personality. For each node, there is a personality assigned to that component and the better you understand what a node is and what it does, you’ll be able to piece together your very first games.
I think this is the first Nintendo Switch title that supports using a USB mouse but you can connect one to the console’s dock and use a mouse to build your games. If you like touch controls, most of the time you’re drawing lines between nodes and actions. I was entirely surprised about the ability to use a peripheral like a mouse but when you’re trying to advertise a game-building engine on your system, a mouse sounds like the minimum you can offer to consumers.
Nodons, Nodons Everywhere
What I’m really eager to see in the coming months is the type of user-built content Games Builder Garage offers. In Free Programming mode, you’re given the reins to freely create video games using the skills and knowledge acquired from the Interactive Lessons. Whenever you’re satisfied with the results, sharing your homemade games is as easy as sharing a code with your friends and family and online so they play with your creations. I’m going to actively keep an eye out and see if any submitted titles really pull me in.
Game Builder Garage is much more than an introduction to game development, it is a full-fledged engine where anyone can take their first steps into creating a video game Nintendo may have another winner on its hands with expansive, intuitive, and simple ideas centred around introducing younger children to game design. I’m going to continue taking time and understanding the Interactive Lessons Game Builder Garage offers and I’ll report back once I’m more comfortable finalizing a review.
Right now, Game Garage Builder feels like something I’d purchase for a family member. Nintendo’s had some niche software titles over the years but one that actively engages encourages and nourishes a young mind is something I am wholeheartedly on board with.
After spending more time with the Interactive Lesson and beginning my journey into game development, I can say that Game Builder Garage is an excellent toolset for budding developers. It may not be for everyone, but for those with patience and the ability to take the time required to learn the vocabulary and how each Nodon interacts with the others, you’ll be making some fun games in no time.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for these impressions.]