Anyone can be a game programmer!

Most of the game developers you know today, and even the ones you don’t know, grew up making games with extremely mysterious tools. Nintendo’s latest game, Game Builder Garage, may seem aimed at kids – but it’s part of a new era of game development that’s more accessible than ever.

Back then, many developers learned the ropes with BASIC – a precursor of modern programming languages, which you probably know as the one you can use for “PRINT “Hello world!”“. Slightly older developers may have used Assembly language, which is pretty much the language that computers themselves speak.

A small snippet of the Super Mario Bros. assembly code
A small extract from super mario bros‘Assembly code (Picture: doppleganger)

Assembly is what is called a “low-level” programming language, which means that it has fewer layers of abstraction that make it easier for humans to use higher-level languages. It’s like speaking French fluently to a French person, rather than having to consult a guide to ask where the toilets are, or ask Google Translate to transform “my leg is fallen” into French for you. As a result, it’s fast, as no “translation” is needed, but it’s also extremely hard to do complex things with, unless you are a programming assistant.

Imagine trying to write a Latin novel with your eyes closed, and that’s about what it feels like to play games in Assembly. Almost all NES, SNES, and Mega Drive games were made in assembly, as well as the original Pokémon games, and Roller coaster creator, Which one is crazy.

This is all just a computer that reads numbers for itself
This is all just a computer that reads numbers for itself

Fast forward to a bit later, and a surprisingly large number of modern video game developers have made their debut in FPS modding. Dear Esther, the game that launched the genre “walking simulator”, started life as a Half-Life 2 mod, and just like Stanley’s parable.

Others, like Super Meat Boy and Bond of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen, has found success in Flash (RIP), posting his games on sites like Newgrounds and eventually gather enough support to get them published for real. Some people even learned to code Neopets. Seriously.

Hope this extremely brief history lesson from the early game developers has helped you realize how honestly a miracle it is that anyone has gone beyond those obtuse gaming tools to create the video games you know and love.

Fortunately nowadays we not only have accessible ‘high level’ programming languages ​​like C #, Python and Javascript, but we also have high level tools like Unit, GameMaker, and RPG Creator it can help us make games without having to figure out how to talk to a computer. The sacrifice is that these languages ​​require additional processing power to “translate” them into computer language, but with powerful computers this is no longer a problem! Yay!





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