Getting into Gamedev Programming in High School

David · May 24, 2020

I’m a programmer and I love programming. If you’re new to programming then here are some pointers to help get you started. Keep in mind that everyone learns differently, so this might not be helpful to you. However, you can’t learn to program from video tutorials alone – you have to get in there and write some code. Give it a shot (try for a few days) before giving up and trying something else.

Don’t wait for university/college. May not be necessary, but you will likely get more out of school if you aren’t struggling with coding. I wish I’d done more programming so I could have shipped a game during university. 

If you know nothing and making learning into a game will get you to do it play this for a day (don’t need to download or pay for anything). When it gives you options for Language, I’d recommended Python since it’s the most relevant to professional gamedevs. (we do a lot of automation and tool building with it. I love having designers who can make their own tools.)

Once you have a handle on variables, loops, branching, and so on, you can try making your own stuff.

At this point in my programming career, I did the equivalent of installing Python and writing programs that asked questions and took text input. This is a super low-tech and simple to setup method,  but nowadays people tend to want to are graphics. You could grab pygame and make something move around on screen, but I don’t know great tutorials for pygame. This could be an opportunity to practice your Google skills.

My favourite tutorial for getting stuff moving around is the Pixelnest 2D shooter. This one uses the C# programming language and uses Unity. Think of it as a platform for your programming experiments. Finish the tutorial (which mostly teaches you to use Unity) and you can start changing the code: make your bullets homing, add new enemy movement behaviour, add a boost button. Eventually,  you could rip apart the game and build it to do your own thing.

Another tutorial I like is Building Bytepath. It uses the Lua programming language and Love2d. Lua will be more similar to the languages available in code combat than C#. Lua is also a common scripting language in games, so it’s likely you’ll encounter it as a designer. 

If you feel like you need more step by step instruction, try Khan Academy programming, which uses the JavaScript programming language. It gives you space to experiment, but breaks down the steps so it should be hard to get lost.

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