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Game Developer Gives 7-Year-Old Best Birthday Present Ever (martinkool.com)
593 points by mrtnkl on Feb 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

I'm embarking on a similar hands-on exercise with my own 5 year old son called "let's make an iPhone game". I'm letting him completely define the plot, the characters, the actions, and overall requirements no matter how nonsensical it all seems, I don't debate his choices, I just take requirements as is. I have him involved with every step from designing the artwork, the music, the sounds, the actions, and he is quite obsessed with working on this project continuaously. I don't expect he'll know all the details of how the game works but I want to demonstrate that he can create fun things using a computer.

The refreshing part of getting software requirements from a child is there's no tedious debate about implementation details, timelines, and business value. "The cowboy is only on level 2 and level 4 because his friend is the mosquitto." OK, whatever, nonsense but perhaps no more ridiculous than Pac Man.

"OK, whatever, nonsense but perhaps no more ridiculous than Pac Man."

Love it. Break down Super Mario Bros. sometime. "So there's this guy, he's a plumber and has a huge mustache, he runs left to right and jumps on enemy mushrooms, but if he eats different ones (which he gets by hitting floating blocks with question marks on them) he gets bigger. Eating flowers lets him shoot fireballs, which kills anything that doesn't have a shell, except for the hammer brothers and Bowser. When he eats stars (that he's extracted out of the more floating question mark blocks) he becomes invincible for a short period of time. At the end of every level he sees how high up a flag pole he can jump. Oh and there's a princess you are saving or something who's always in a different castle then the one you are in. Every living thing in the world is pretty much made of poison since you die as soon as you touch pretty much anything. Oh, and some turtles can fly."

and jumps on enemy mushrooms

Goombas are actually chestnuts.


Because that makes it less nonsensical. :-)

Thankyou. I cant read the article from work as we block anything with the word games in the meta tags. But your post gave me most of the gist as well as making me smile with what you are doing. My hats off to you.

Let's hope game theory will never be applicable to your line of work.

I'm not sure if you need to be logged in to Instapaper to see this, but here is a text summary that has all the content: http://www.instapaper.com/text?u=http%3A%2F%2Fmartinkool.com...

Thanks. Work fine without logging in.

I suggest reading the article when you can, as that post wasn't actually very similar to it.

hey yassim, my workplace does that as well. I usually circumvent that by adding 'cache:' in front of the web address to pull the google cache (This might only be applicable on Google chrome, though)

Thanks. I'm surprised that actually worked here since proxy information is also semi locked down. I shall have to remember this trick in future.

Fantastic! And what are you using to build the game?

Incidentally, the game in question (Edge) is part of the current Humble Bundle, including a version for Android devices. I've already had quite a bit of fun with it on my way to work. :)

Edit: Kinda obvious, but here's the link http://www.humblebundle.com/ (only 4 hours to go!)

In the beginning when I saw the pictures, I thought that you could build levels for a 2D platform game with Lego and the game automatically reads them in via Webcam or so and you could play them.

That would be fun! :)

I thought the same thing! The next generation of toys gets me really excited. I hope things like that become a reality. I can't wait to play.... err get them for my kids. ;)

We can also enjoy those toys, not just our kids. LOL

I was expecting him to have hooked up a kinect to the level editor, so he could scan in all his lego levels.

Why can't we just put a computer in every lego piece with inputs and output on the "pegs" and holes, and have the pieces figure out on their own how they're put together? Then we just need a USB-to-lego adapter to export to the computer.

Anyone into distributed systems research?

There are a few research systems that do exactly this, and I think that some of them may be coming to the market soon.

http://www.modrobotics.com/ is the one that I could find quickish.

Why can't the world be much more like that?

Such a fantastic present. And it makes you wonder if there is some untapped potential in there.

There's not much here to say except: this is the awesomest thing I've ever seen game developers do.

Isn't that what indie game development is all about? That the developers actually care.

At least that's a lot of why I like indie games. They often do awesome things. They usually don't just develop games to make money, but to make people happy. I think that's a lot about why they are more creative and not just another implementation of the same boring game with better graphics.


Such a great story. Such a great ad for a game. Downloading now.

Unfortunately, they need to license his level; and if it is sold with the official game, they arguably should pay him.

This issue wouldn't occur if they coded his map for him as an independent modder's map - but a big part of the coolness of this gift is that it's part of the official game. (I mean, when I was 7, such a gift would be like becoming a god - legal issues, even money, would only diminish that).

/sick of negotiating licenses for my code

Yes, for that kid this will be something to look back on in pride. That's amazing.

This is a lovely story, great parenting, and a lovely gesture.

But I could not stop thinking about how many extraordinary coincidences would be required for this to happen to a little girl.

Would her parents have encouraged her relationship with video games?

Would her friends support it?

Is it even physically possible to make an "Edge" level with the new "girl" Legos?

These are the tiny little experiences that turn little boys from future Biologists into future Computer Scientists.

My daughter plays the same games (e.g. Minecraft) as the boys. She plays with the same Lego bricks as the boys. It's not that she doesn't see the differences, especially at school - it's that we don't make the differences seem like anything to worry about at this point.

By the time those differences matter more, I hope to have her self-confidence to the point where she'll kick those boys' butts.

Maybe, the only sad part is that creativity toys like Lego have somehow stopped being gender neutral. Have you seen the latest sets?

One does not buy the latest lego sets -- one buys what ever magnum box they have with the most blocks.

Especially if you are concerned about the image.

While I don't argue that the majority of lego sets are geared towards boys they still run the Lego City line as well as the Harry Potter line which does seem to be relatively popular with girls. (My Ex-gf played with legos and loved the Harry Potter Stuff.)

Lego sets may be geared towards boys for the most part but plain lego bricks are about the most gender neutral toy you could possibly find. And it seems that kids of either gender (and any age!) appreciate them equally.

Two of my almost-10-yr-old daughter's favorite things are Minecraft and LEGO.

This makes me sad. As a father of two girls, I'm always available to build blocks, legos, and castles. I've even introduced the older one to my own HTML5 games. She's great at using the mouse now and can even use Chrome's auto-complete to get to her gaming web site by herself (we're working on full urls, but the alphabet comes first).

However, come xmas and birthdays, the family continues to shower them with traditional girl toys (dolls, stuffed animals, kitchen sets, pink toys, pink blocks, pink legos). Whenever she opens a present, and it's pink, my stomach churns. It's almost to the point where you feel like giving in. I certainly wouldn't take away their girl toys that they enjoy, simply for the sake of gender. They should be free to play with what they choose. I just wish society (the older generation and especially marketers), would be less insistent on specific gender toys.

I don't think it would require a great "many extraordinary coincidences" for this to happen to a little girl. All it takes is for her parents to encourage it.

Certainly, as she grows, the overriding influence of her parents declines, but for a long time parents can be the primary driver in what a child determines to be appropriate.

Saying that "many extraordinary coincidences" are required for a little girl to like a puzzle game or legos or whatever else is entirely hyperbolic. All it takes is parents who encourage that behavior.

>All it takes is for her parents to encourage it. //

Or just allow for her parents to allow it?

Our 2yo wanted a tea-set for christmas. The most non-barbified one we could find (ie no latent advertising and as non-pink as possible, I really hate lurid pink ... except that one shirt ...) so we got him the cherry red set with the pink bows.

Am I encouraging him to develop a liking for picnics and fancy tea-ware? Not particularly. That's just what he wanted.

Oh there I go wittering again ...

I don't know where you live, but Ikea do some great 'mini' crocery. Just like the real stuff (even made of the real materials) but smaller.

It's all in neutral colours too.

This is a really touching story.

Above that, it will really spark this young man's creative mind. For his eighth birthday get him a laptop, and get him programming.

Sounds like a really awesome kid. You are one lucky Dad.

yep, couldn't agree more! The laptop could be the best present you ever buy him! ..second to Lego :-)

Apologies for the meta comment but this is the thread with the highest points/comments ratio I've seen in HN. Almost six hundred readers upvoted it but less than 10% posted a comment, which is pretty unusual. I'm guessing it's the overwhelming "this is amazingly cool/touching/lovely but other than I don't really have anything to add to the discussion" feeling.

And the developer gets positive karma from the press for doing this, which leads to more sales. Sweet!

(disclaimer: I'm not at all insinuating that they did it for the press. I just like that a good action is being rewarded.)

Well done to the game devs to support their fans/players like this ... they deserve all the exposure they will no doubt get for their game because of this story ...

Lovely story. If I were a kid and that happened to me, I would be ecstatic!

Am I the only one who is curious to see gameplay video of this 7-year-old?

They're awesome and you're SuperDad!

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