I started coding when I was 7 years old at a school-holidays computer camp in the UK. We used QBASIC to write a "guess my number game". I remember writing that same program out on the school library computers to the amazement of my mates who insisted that I show them how to do it too.
I think that experience combined with early modding sessions of Quake and GTA is what led me down the path to become a professional computer games programmer.
So when 24 years later and half a world a way I as offered the chance to give back and help the next generation of computer games developer make their start I didnt hesitate to volunteer to help out.
TechCamps4Kids is run by an incredible South African lady called Brenda who, fedup with the way computer science was taught in school, decided to start her own after-school club to try to tech kids the actual skills they will need to become the next generation that shapes our technological future.
I was introduced to Brenda and TechCamps4Kids via a mutual friend that I know from one of the entrepreneur meetups I attend here in Perth. She told me she was looking for someone in the gaming industry who could be a judge for a game development competition she was holding for the kids. Knowing how I started out on my career I thought this would be a good opportunity to pay just a small part of my thanks back.
It was a great morning with about 15 kids in attendance ranging from ages 8-14. I spent some time going around looking at all their games, chatting to them, asking questions and trying to work out how to judge their creations.
The kids were being taught using Click Team Fusion and some Scratch. I really surprised at the results. I was expecting to see lots of very similar games that had just been taken from the "template games" but what I got instead was an incredible variety of different games and genres. Some kids had really gone to town and built story driven experiences and others had built simple but addictive avoidance games which wouldn't look out of place in this "just one more level" style of endless runner mobile games out there right now.
In the end it was a very hard decision to pick just 3 kids as winners, I would have loved to pick all of them but I guess thats not how competitions work.
I hope that TechCamps4Kids continues to grow and develop so that next year I can be invited back to judge once more. I would be great to see the progress made by the kids over the intervening year.
If you live in Western Australia and are looking for somewhere to send your children to teach them some essential skills for this digital age I would strongly recommend TechCamps4Kids.