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A Class of Ten Year Olds Create Games

Yes that’s right, year five (Scotland, Year 6 England) class of ten year olds create ten games available for free download!

For those following my blog will know I’m a big advocate of today’s generation being creators and designers for STEM and not just consumers. I’m also a fan of older technology, the machines of the 80s where the world was less complicated and you could write programs with ease without knowing about huge libraries of code that needs to be imported and compiled. There’s something about seeing the immediate results of what you write operate in real-time on screen.

Dougie McG Is well known on the Retro Gaming scene, and as their teacher, he has encouraged and inspired a group of Ten year old children at his school to create ten games to be played on the ZX Spectrum 48KB.

What makes this an achievement is the children learnt to use Jonathan Cauldwells Arcade Game Designer engine which can be found here: https://jonathan-cauldwell.itch.io/arcade-game-designer

It’s a tool we would have loved in the early days of creating games back in the day.

The children created their own sprites, sound effects, game design and scripting using AGD and a ZX Spectrum Emulator. Recently Dougie shared the results with various Retro groups for feedback.

I have to say, I’m blown away by the logical thought, ingenuity, creativity and effort this class has achieved by learning a new computing skill. Looking at the quality of what’s been produced I have to remind myself that these creations are made with Year Five pupils and not seasoned game makers. I see a very bright future for these children and hope they continue to inspire, create and see IT as a future for various solutions.

If you want to download and play on your ZX Spectrum or favourite ZX Spectrum Emulator you can find them here: https://dougie9mcg.itch.io/bearsden-primary-p6a-2021-zx-spectrum-games

So what have these amazingly talented ten years olds managed to create? Well, let’s take a look.

Working in Alphabetical Order…


Chubby Bunny – Author Unknown

Absolutely Loved this game, it has all the hallmarks of a traditional 80’s game, with some well thought out puzzles, addictive game play, cute graphics and at times the right level of frustration and “Just one more go“. Starting with nine lives, believe me you’re going to need them all! Search for the golden marshmallow before the evil slug murders you, avoiding various meanies, nasties, lava and traps that you need to navigate to reach the end. I loved the use of particle effects on our Hero (made me think of Stink Bunny!) and creative use of sound too!

I could easily have seen this sell in the shops during 80’s and worth adding to your collection!


Defeat the Devil – By Ruairidh Hammersley

Lovely little platformer, with an animated hero that rolls around on a ball whilst flapping their arms for balance, there’s definitely some charm with our hero. I would love to see our hero’s face change to point in the direction they’re rolling. In addition to some well thought out levels the addictive qualities are clearly present too.

I felt a bit more polish was needed for a few levels, due to some of the tiles reacting differently depending on which level you’re on (Though it could be a design decision?). For example the chequered blocks will sometimes make you sink, and other times they’re solid. This also allowed me to exit a level prematurely and land inside a block.

Unfortunately I was unable to progress further in the game since it was impossible to reach the mid point of a platform no matter how the jump was timed. This game has potential and can see a bright future for the game designer.


Get the Vaccine – By Ethan, Kaiwei and Matthew J

Given what’s happening in the world, I wasn’t expecting this! Our Hero has been bitten by a crocodile with poisonous venom and you must reach the vaccine.

This game is a work in progress, and I love the animation of our main hero, the way they trundle and bounce along the ground gives a real world feel.

There’s plenty of ways to lose a life too, from spikes on the ground to killer robots hindering your progress. There’s no sound yet, and upon reaching the fourth level I couldn’t progress further, though watch out for the tricky pixel at the bottom of level 3, caught me out a few times that!

The team behind it are making some awesome progress and I would love to play the completed game when they’ve finished it.


Jet Pac John – Author Unknown

This has everything, sounds, interesting choice of hero, puzzles, enemies, particle effects and more! Some great level design choices made this another addictive platformer!

Watch out for the fall height, caught me out a few times, and admittedly got stuck on level 5.

Lovely graphics design, well implemented, a few tweaks needed to allow dropping down platforms needed again another winner!


Journey to the Unknown – Author unknown

The story here is familiar, find and destroy the evil alien overlord and save Earth! What could be easier?

All I can say is, nine lives is just not enough! be prepared to die, and die again, with this fast paced platformer, lovely graphics and use of colour for the level design. Great sprites for our Hero and aliens. I’m ashamed to admit at my age I couldn’t easily get past level 3.

Another star in the making here.


Robotic City – Author Unknown

Here we find ourselves in a leisurely paced platformer in a bid to escape the robot city. Our hero maintains a Hugh friendly smile throughout their journey, and we can plainly see those trying to stop progress aren’t very happy or friendly for that matter.

There’s enough here to keep you entertained, with interesting level designs.

The game is surprisingly fun, and sometimes you have to remind yourself these are written by children who were younger than you when you first had a commercial release.

This class is producing some solid talent and I’m sure the author(s) will be very proud of their achievement.


Side Face Man – Lindsey

Loved this game, it has the right level of addition with the infuriating “One more Go” to try and get further through the levels as you try and recover a relic and save mankind! What’s not to love. The sprites work well with the theme, our Hero flaps their arms when jumping, along with sound effects. It’s clear some effort and thought has gone into making this game, and can’t wait to see a sequel… Maybe the “Further Adventures of SideFaceMan” Well done Lindsey!


Stick Man – Author Unknown

Very addictive with again some great level designs, in the spirit of 80’s gaming, the coder also includes moving platforms in addition to sound effects, a myriad of enemies trying to stop you reaching the end and prevent the computer from exploding.


Eight Level Game – Author Unknown

Simply titled, the Eight Level Game, no plot, no back story, just complete all eight levels! Sounds easy enough doesn’t it?

We have sound, moving platforms, thankfully no bad guys but enough dangerous platforms that will seemingly electrocute you. This means timing your jumps is key to each level. Some levels may seem difficult on first glance, but once you’ve found the route through to the other side, it’s a question of skill, timing and reflexes to land on the right point or you’ll lose one of your 7 lives.

This is addictive and I have to know what happens when I reach level 8. It may be simple in design but will take time master!


Turtle Tales – Hannah and Maria

Love the theme for this game, you have to help your turtle get back to his natural habitat and to the sea, whilst picking up plastic that’s been left by naughty humans.

We have in-game help messages, particles, sound, some clever level design and matching graphics.

In this version the collision detection was a bit ropey, but I suspect this will be easily fixed. The levels are just superb, and you’ll need everyone of your five lives to make any progress in this game.


Conclusion

The games I’ve played from this Year 5 class have all been addictive, great quality and could easily see them being sold on shelves in 1980’s video stores and newsagents where we bought many of our games back then. It’s hard to pick a favourite because let’s face it, they’re all fantastic games with addictiveness and replay appeal.

Dougie McG is a teacher pupils and parents should be proud of, it’s not easy to inspire and encourage a group of 10 year olds to learn an older technology, let alone actually design, create and make working games with classic level designs in the spirit of the 80’s Eight Bit era. Yet, he’s achieved what certainly would have seemed impossible (except for a few geeks in the 80s) forty years later when we’re surrounded by the latest tablets, phones and gaming consoles.

The children involved with this, should be very proud of their accomplishment, whilst playing these games it’s so easy to forget these haven’t been written by an 18year old+ They have understood great game design, imagined their game, undertook a steep learning curve and just did it. I see a very bright futures for all involved, especially as we need more children getting involved with IT and not just becoming consumers of IT.

Very well done, and I know for one, would love to see what you manage to create the more you hone your skills and design.

But… What Do You Think?

What do you think? have you given these games a go? why not leave your feedback below?

Jason

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