Make your own games!

Make your own games!

24 years ago, I spent a summer in front of my brand-new Atari XE (Dad was convinced the NES wouldn't be successful), playing Rescue on Fractalus!, an early LucasArts 8-bit game that made me scream so often that my mother asked me to stop playing it (it was really scary when I was 11). Games have been a part of my life ever since, and I'd always dreamed of making my own.

Luckily, the tools to actually make your own games become readily available to everyday Janes and Joes (or Janes and Joes Who Don't Want to Learn How to Code, at least). If you (or maybe someone you know who loves games, is home for the summer, and is just dying​ of boredom) are interested in making your own video games, there are lots of (FREE!) ways you can get started. These first options are great for lower-res, 2D games like platformers and puzzles, and are great options if you're just getting started:

  • A great program to start out with is Scratch, which was created by the MIT Media Lab to teach young people the basics of programming logic. Through just dragging and dropping premade programming blocks, you can make stories, animations, and, of course, games. You can upload your project to share with the world, or download other people's projects to see how they made something.
  • If Scratch seems to "kiddy" or you're quickly running into its limits, you could try GameMaker, which is how I've been spending my spare summer hours. They have a free "lite" version, and there are tons of tutorials and sample games to help you get started. Again, you don't have to know how to code - though you can, if you're interested - most of the programming is done through arranging premade blocks of code.
  • Another good option is The Games Factory - I've been using the free version that lets you publish games to - and also includes a tutorial and sample games.
  • I've also been experimenting with Stencyl, which appears to be built on Scratch, but has a more sophisticated interface and allows you to publish games to your desktop and the Chrome store. You can also buy a pro version which publishes to Flash & iOS, and will soon publish to Android and HTML5.

More interested in 3D gaming? Have more time to devote to learning a new program?

  • Try Unity or the Unreal Development Kit, 3D game engines which are free for non-commercial use.
  • Of course, you'll want to make 3D models for your games, so you should learn how to use Blender, a free, open source 3D modeler.

If you're an adult interested in DIY game culture or want to get pumped up to make your games, I highly recommend to read Rise of the Videogame Zinesters by Anna Anthropy (fair warning: it is not really a kid appropriate book). She gives a stirring argument for why everyone should be making games, gives some history of the game industry, and great tips on how to get started. Happy gaming!


Thanks for all the great info. I love where Indie Gaming is going. I am going to try out some of the programs you suggested when I get a chance.

This sounds so cool -- I wish I had time spend doing it - we need a blizzard......

Thanks for the comments - I highly recommend visiting Anna Anthropy's website as well as playing her game dys4ia, which is about her experience transitioning from male to female. Amazing stuff!

Anna Anthropy is a fascinating person. Her twitter handle is auntiepixelante and makes for great reading and new discoveries.

Great article Nate-it's never too late to get your game on!

Great article Nate-it's never too late to get your game on!

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