At Criterion we know that making great games needs great people, experts in coding and gameplay. Lucky for us that, in the UK, schools are now doing more than ever to train the next generations of engineers who will be building tomorrow’s games.
From the age of five, students are being taught the basics of creating with computers. By the time they’re eight they will be learning to code in Scratch, progressing through programming languages like Java and Python until, at eleven years old, they are making their own apps and games.
Code Club is a charity that helps support this new learning by organising after-school sessions for kids aged 9 to 11, run by volunteers in schools, libraries and community centres all around the country. The job of these volunteers is to coach, inspire and energise young people about making software.
Three of those volunteers happen to be on the Criterion team. Our Studio GM, Matt Webster, Chief Technology Officer, Alex Mole and Technical Artist, Edwin Jones all run Code Clubs in the south-east of the UK. “Software engineers will rule the world,” Matt predicts, “So if we want to increase the pool of talent it’s up to us to inspire that talent.”
Matt has been running his Code Club for a year, spending an hour a week after school helping his group of 18 make games in Scratch. He admits you don’t need to be a programming genius to volunteer. “I don’t know a lot about coding,” he says, “but I bought a text book called ‘Adventures in Scratch’ and I thought as long as I stay a month ahead of the students I’d be fine.”
What if you’ve never taught before? “Code Club gives you an induction because it can be scary,” says Matt. “They also provide lesson plans and tutorials for different projects and you can decide which you’d like to use. In our group we voted on which games we should make, and we built them from start to finish. It could be insanely chaotic but it was great fun!”
If you’d like to volunteer to run a Code Club in your area, you’re a parent or you’re between 9 and 11 and would like to find a local club so you can join in, check out https://www.codeclub.org.uk/. Scratch is free to download from https://scratch.mit.edu/ where you’ll also find lots of tutorials and community-made games, so try it out!
All great game creators have to start somewhere. Get involved and get coding!