Codemancer's A Game That'll Teach Kids About Programming And Inclusiveness

Codemancer is something Rob Lockhart has wanted to develop for years - since before he even got into educational game development through his game studio Important Little Games, as a matter of fact. Lockhart is a man who loves teaching in all its forms; he's a man whose sole desire is to create a new generation of educational experiences that'll get kids genuinely interested in learning. The studio has already worked with various museums, colleges, and organizations, but for Lockhart, that was mostly work to pay the bills. 

While he certainly enjoyed his work, he wasn't passionate about it - not in the way he is about Codemancer.

"This is actually the third iteration of an idea that I had when I was at Wolfram Research," Lockhard explained to Polygon. "The first few iterations of that idea were very tech-centric, and culturally stereotypical in terms of what you think of when you imagine a technology product. They had to do with robots and tanks and hacking and stuff like that."

"What I'd like to do, if possible, is bring in people who wouldn't have found that kind of resource before, or wouldn't see the words ‘coding video game' and just jump on the bandwagon immediately. That's why I moved away from those [traditional] hacker archetypes and themes." 

Instead, Lockhart's developed a narrative and world he says is more akin to what you'd see in Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Golden Compass, or Harry Potter. Starring a little girl and her fox, Codemancer will follow their journey through a vast, vibrant world of fantasy and magic - teaching valuable STEM skills in the process.  By the time a player is finished the game, they should have all the basic foundations they need to learn modern programming languages.

There's far more to the game than the technical aspect, though. According to Lockhart, one of the things he really sought to do with Codemancer was to challenge the current state of women in tech - to actively work at bringing women's voices into both the story and the development process. In so doing, one of the things he discovered was that he couldn't just make the game an empty story about women's empowerment - there had to be something more to it. 

He couldn't just write in a few female characters and call it a day.

"During the Kickstarter," said Lockhart, "as I got more feedback from people about my mission of inclusiveness, especially gender inclusiveness, I kind of realized that it's not something where I can just try and make the game itself more gender-inclusive. But I should actually talk about gender inclusiveness within the game's story."

"I had to re-bullet the plot line. So now there are actual forms of sexism that the main character encounters. So it's not just a girl-power thing in a vacuum. It's more like these are [plot points] you will encounter."

The game's backstory wasn't penned exclusively by Lockhart, either. One of the project's stretch goals was a novelization, which Lockhart tasked Cassandra Khaw - a well-known games journalist over at The Verge - with composing. Her writing process, he says, has directly influenced the design of the game.

Ultimately, Lockhart hopes that his message of inclusivity will reach kids of all ages and genders. He hopes that the fact Codemancer is an educational game - and that its protagonist is a girl - doesn't narrow its appeal. 

I hope that the opposite happens," he said. "I hope that just as many people play it, from all potential genders and from every possible demographic. It's a bit like the Harry Potter thing. Just because it's a guy there in the role of the main character it has just as much, or maybe more impact, with girls." 

Codemancer will be available on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android in 2015. You can visit the official website to learn more.