I had been looking into computer programming courses for my daughter recently and not found anything that was a good fit for her ability (she’s 8 years old) or her available time (mainly free straight after school). The courses I did find covered the basics of using a paint package or how to write a letter, but she wanted to know “how to get the games in my head onto the computer” as she put it.
I had just started to look into software that would help me teach her (with what little programming knowledge I gleaned from my Computer Science degree) when a friend asked if I’d had a look at Wario Ware D.I.Y. ($7 on Amazon). Although this starts off like a typical Wario Ware game with hundreds of mini-games, here you are also encouraged to create your own.
My daughter took a bit of convincing that a game like this could teach her anything about programming, but the happy little graphics and merry tunes seemed to win her over. As you play the preloaded games you win different elements that you can use to include in your own games — it’s a little like Little Big Planet but much simpler.
Once you have won an item in each category you are taken through a tutorial about how to put them together. As I watched her slowly piece together her first Wario Ware mini-game I was surprised how similar the process was to my early lectures at university.
Although Wario Ware D.I.Y. abstracts much of the complexity, it lets the player combine the different elements with enough flexibility to encourage experimentation. Within an hour or so she had created a game that involved trying to get the TV remote control before her brothers did to stop them changing the channel.
Perhaps the biggest success of all this was how it fired her imagination, rather than dampened it with too much information. The next day I found her at her desk with reams of paper mapping out her next few games — each of which seemed to involve various family members.
Best of all the whole exercise cost a fraction of the classes I was looking at, and she could even work on her mini-games too, from and after school on her trusty portable DS. She could then use Wario Ware D.I.Y Showcase on the Wii (Wii-ware download) to play her creations on the big screen with the rest of the family. Once we had got over starring in her games (in some comical scenarios) we all enjoyed having a go.
Wario Ware D.I.Y to create your own mini-games on the DS is available from Amazon for $7.
Wario Ware D.I.Y. Showcase to play your creations on the Wii is available from Amazon for $7.99.