[portland] learn to program / robots game?

jason kirtland jek at discorporate.us
Fri Sep 7 00:18:30 CEST 2007

Hi all,

A 10 year old friend wants to learn about programming.  He's on the 
other side of the country, and I don't have all that much time 
available to tutor remotely.  So I've been thinking about a way to 
get him a focused introduction that isn't overwhelming or boring.

Way back when, there was a great programming game called RobotWar 
that I remember very fondly.  In it you wrote programs that control 
robot tanks on a battlefield, and the basic skills of programming 
with functions, variables, etc. come pretty naturally as the player 
tinkers with their robot for increased longevity and/or lethality.

That game is long gone (it's been 25 years?  yow.), but I still 
think that or something like it is a great introduction, especially 
for an isolated but interested student.  I've made a cursory 
inspection of current variants and I didn't turn up any actively 
maintained descendants that appealed to me.  The big modern one is 
Java, and I've got misgivings about the accessibility of that one 
for programming beginners.

Does anyone have any suggestions or experience with 
beginner-friendly programming games?  I'd kind of prefer one with a 
restricted language (to encourage innovation with limited 
resources), but maybe I'm just being old and crusty.  And probably 
not Internet-based, at least in any socially interactive way.

I'm thinking maybe an intro to Python as a second step, probably 
with pygame.  (He wants to write games, of course...)


More information about the Portland mailing list