A few days ago my young nephew came to visit and we spent some time with his Raspberry Pi – the credit card-sized single-board computer that helps teach programming, especially to children.
Following a sudden wave of nostalgia, I suggested that we create a game based on the arcade (and, later, home console) classic Frogger. The game, developed by Konami, involves guiding frogs safely to their homes by crossing a busy road and navigating a river full of hazards.
(If you’ve never played, a word of warning: Frogger is highly addictive. The gameplay and the movement are both very simple, meaning it’s easy to pick up but difficult to ‘put down’. Little wonder that it’s sold more than 20 million copies since launch in 1981.)
It was reported on Monday by the BBC that Britain urgently needs more digital skills, and the Raspberry Pi is an excellent way of building people’s knowledge and abilities – especially as it’s very quick to see the results of changes made to programs.
Yet for both me and my nephew, this mini-project was educational in more ways than one. For our mission to create our game involved far more than rudimentary coding – it involved skills that are relevant to many other areas of life as well.
Between us, we had to manage the project; what did we want to achieve and in how long? We had to cooperate, sharing keyboard and mouse, and collaborate, using each other’s abilities. And we had to prioritise; would we focus on making the game more challenging to play or on making it slicker-looking?
We debated ways in which to improve the game play and appearance, we applied logic, and we had to make some important decisions, such as whether to include levels, which would affect the entire program.
Suffice to say, ‘our’ game is still a work in progress – but it was an illustrative and enjoyable few hours spent on a constructive activity that helped the development of skills far beyond those of moving an animal-shaped sprite around a screen.