D.I.Y. micro-games with Scratch!

The past two Wednesdays we had a program that I was really excited to finally try out at Sellers Library- making games with the Scratch programming language! Making games on a hobby and indie level has become increasingly popular, and there's more and more free and easy to use tools perfect for starting to try making your own games. For an entry level program, we used Scratch, which makes coding as easy as taking blocks of code and snapping them together.

The first Wednesday we had 11 teens show up. After a brief introduction to the Scratch program, they were each challenged to make a simple game consisting of a maze, a character the player can control and a goal to reach. It should be noted that we had some technical difficulties and some computers were having troubles connecting to the internet, meaning all the graphics had to be drawn with the simple paint program included instead of simply grabbing some graphics from the included library. We pressed on though, and each person made wildly different versions of a maze game! I'm including a lot of them below, and they are as-is, so some have problems with collision detection or movement, but one of the fun aspects of Scratch is that anyone can "remix" a shared project, so anyone is welcome to make a copy and add their own touches to it! It will even show up on the original project's page, by clicking the "tree" icon (to see the other projects branching out).

The second Wednesday session was a little smaller with 7 teens. This time the challenge was to take a project that had already been started, in this case a simple Pong clone, and play it a bit. As they were playing, I asked them to call out impressions about the game, or ideas to improve it. Lots of ideas were put forth, such as adding a second player, adding a scoring system, having the ball speed up as you played or adding background music. We then spent time getting some of these items added in, and then the remainder of the session was spent adding or changing whatever they wanted. Once again some ideas worked more than others, or sometimes just adding in something random did something crazy, and there might not have been enough time left to get things working again, but I'm including these as-is to be tinkered with additionally.

Click through the break below to see the embedded games. (I'm putting them below a page break to reduce loading times on the main page!)


Click the green flag to start the game, and press the red stop sign to stop it.
Okay, so here's the maze games that were made during the first week:

And here are some of the projects from week 2, the Pong clones:

As I mentioned, most people just kept on experimenting with different things. One cool effect that Anna did at one point was add a mosaic effect to the ball sprite every time it hit the paddle. After a couple of volleys it looked really cool! But then she got rid of the effect and did other things. 

The teens that attended seemed to enjoy the projects, and I hope they keep on playing around with Scratch! (It's free to use and can be run in a browser, so it's easy to access!) I'd really like to do this program again with a few extra sessions to both get the teens more familiar with the tools, and allow them more time to create original works.

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