The future of the video games industry is extremely bright. With more than 3.24 billion gamers across the globe and revenues in the hundreds of billions of dollars and growing fast, the industry generates scores of high paying jobs leading more and more people to view it as a lucrative career option. For children, learning how to program a game is a great way to learn coding (a vital skill for future employment) and to develop a natural proficiency in design, math, problem solving, logic and even physics. In this article we explore the best programming language for game development for kids.
Video games have entertained people of varying ages for decades. According to the Entertainment Software Association, almost 64% of US households own a device that is used for playing video games. Games have evolved rapidly since they first appeared in 1958; they now offer increasingly realistic experiences, not at all similar to the pixelated screens and 8-bit graphics of the past. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the world practicing social distancing and staying at home, interest in the multi-billion dollar video game industry has increased exponentially. As the market becomes more profitable, more and more people look into the best language to learn for game development as they seek ways to involve themselves in this growing industry.
- What is game development? What do game developers do exactly?
- Which is the best programming language for game development and which one should my child start with?
- Practice creating a small gaming project with the selected language
But first, what is game development? What do game developers do exactly?
Game development is the process of designing, programming and releasing a software-based or online game. It takes a team of producers, designers, programmers and several other departments to fully realize the project’s vision into a playable game. Game programmers use coding or programming languages to create all aspects of a game’s functionality, such as the speed at which your character runs, how high they jump, how many enemy aliens should appear and how they react when attacked. There are a variety of different programming languages that can be used to build games and many different opinions on the best programming language to learn for games.
What are programming languages for game development?
A video game programming language is the code that game programmers use to create a game’s settings and mechanics. Different programming languages possess different syntax, memory models, concurrency primitives, performance, available libraries- and therefore may be more efficient at performing certain tasks.
Many of these languages overlap and are also compatible with each other, and contribute to the overall experience of the game together. The choice of programming language depends on several factors, such as game type (console, computer, mobile) and the extent of interactivity required.
Which is the best programming language for game development and which one should my child start with?
Gaming has become a huge force worldwide, and there has never been a better time to pursue game development. Learning about the most popular game development languages prevalent in the industry is an essential step towards building one’s game development skills.
Behind each game is the code that runs it. Choosing a suitable programming language is critical for creating high-quality games with smooth and seamless experiences. Many people vary on their opinion regarding the best language for game development, and in this article we have discussed eight languages that your child can choose while learning how to program a game.
- Created in 1985, C++ is a programming language that will teach your child the basics of object-oriented programming, and is also the language used to build most big console and Windows games. Other scripts such as Python, UnrealScript, Lua etc thread through its code.
- Its benefits are its speed, the control over memory management, the availability of extensive libraries which can come in handy for powering complex and detailed graphics.
- There is a lot of literature and sources available online for your child to access that will help in the learning process!
- C++ continues to be one of the most important programming languages for game development today, and is the most used language for creating game engines. Game engines are used by game programmers to build and host games, making the process of developing them quicker and easier.
- It is widely considered the gold standard in game programming, and is frequently considered the best programming language for game development.
Popular games: Witcher 3, World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, Doom, the Bioshock series, Counter-Strike, Football Pro, Starcraft, Master of Orion III, King Quest, Invictus
Game Engines: UnrealEngine, CryEngine, Lumberyard, G3D Innovation Engine, Godot, Source Engine, idTech
Learning Curve: Hard
- Inspired by C++, Java is a general-purpose programming language that is nearly universally compatible, which makes it extremely versatile and has caused its popularity to increase today.
- Java offers a greater range of systems to play for and has easier writing, debugging, compiling and learning than C++.
- It is beginner-friendly due to its cross-platform status, system-controlled memory management, and the ability to add built-in support comments which lets developers provide documentation within their source files.
- Due to its versatility and the online availability of open-source material, it is popularly used for the development of indie and mobile games.
- Java is often paired with HTML5 for increased interactivity.
- Although it is beginner-friendly, the programming language supports complex features such as multithreading and socket programming.
Popular Games: Minecraft, RuneScape, Star Wars Galaxies, Missions Impossible III, FIFA 11, Ferrari GT 3: World Track
Game Engines: LibGdx, openGL, slick2D, JavaFX, jMonkeyEngine,
Learning Curve: Medium
- HTML5 is the name for the latest standard for Hypertext Markup Language, a markup language used to write underlying code that creates web pages. It has been designed to deliver almost everything a person would want to engage with online, without requiring additional software downloads or plugins.
- Developers are turning to HTML5 more regularly because of its web-based nature, which provides added flexibility.
- It is one of the most common programming languages for games on the web, and a top choice of game developers to build cross-platform and cross-browser applications and games.
- The language is considered easy to learn and does not require an expert-understanding of low-level fundamentals to learn, making it a popular option for game developers.
Popular Games: Bejeweled, Kingdom Rush, 3D Tetris, Cookie Clicker, Gods Will Be Watching, World Cup Penalty 2018.
Game Engines: GDevelop, Construct 3, ImpactJS, Phaser 3, Turbulenz, Booty5, pixi.js
Learning Curve: Easy
- Lua is the language used to build Roblox. It has a simple language structure and syntax, and is considered easy to learn, but is still one of the most powerful free languages available. Due to its simplified text-based script, it has been likened to Python as it reduces potential syntax issues that could make coding for children frustrating.
- It is a lightweight language with a small memory footprint. It runs on virtual machines, which means it is both fast and efficient. It is easily integrated into many other applications and is highly compatible with more complex languages.
- Lua prides itself on portability and its interpreter is built to have a small footprint, making it a multi-platform language- this means it can run on Windows, Mac, Linux, and all sorts of mobile platforms.
- It can also be designed to embed into many applications, which makes it easier for developers and players to alter the game.
- A large number of modern game engines use Lua as their primary game design programming language. All these qualities combined make it a fast, fun, and efficient language to use for video game development!
Popular Games: Roblox, Dark Souls, Far Cry, Age of Conan, American Girl, and Aquaria
Game Engines: Defold, Corona SDK, Gideros, Raylib, Instead (2D), Spring RTS, GameGuru, Shiva, Leadwerks, Roblox Studio, Stingray (3D)
Learning Curve: Easy
- Another factor in its popularity is its massive online community and the huge number of frameworks. It is one of the most popular programming languages for interactive games online, and is easier to integrate with other conventional web technologies like HTML and CSS, which leads to an increase in cross-platform mobile games.
Popular Games: Browser Quest, Diablo JS, and HexGL, Hangman, Little Alchemy, Swoop and Polycraft.
Learning Curve: Easy
- Python is one of the world’s fastest-growing and most popular programming languages. It is a beginner-friendly language due to its trademark simplicity in terms of syntax and execution.
- It is a versatile language, and its PyGame game development library is developer-friendly, which makes building games and developing prototypes faster and easier. The ease in prototyping games can help make the process of game development smoother.
- Python is efficient in terms of time as well due to its large library- you might not need too much coding, just logical thinking.
- For a child that is just starting out with coding, this could be considered close to the best language for game development. Simultaneously, it remains a powerful tool for serious game, website, and app development.
- While it isn’t block-based, it follows the same basic principles: keep things simple and focus on the fundamentals!
Popular Games: The Sims 4, Civilization IV, Battlefield 2, Disney’s Toontown Online, Eve Online and Frets on Fire.
Game Engines: PyGame, Kivy, Pyglet, Panda3D, Unity, Ren’Py, PyOpenGL
Learning Curve: Easy
- Released by Microsoft in 2000, C# (“C Sharp”) is a programming language that is a well-established and popular choice for developing a large number of applications as well as video games.
- It is considered a relatively simple language to learn, and is frequently used by smaller game studios. If your child is familiar with Java, they may find C# similar, thereby making it easier to master.
- It allows users to play around with objects in 3D, additionally allowing them the option to add various elements to these objects.
- C# is one of the programming languages supported by the popular game engine Unity3D, enabling developers to build games on a range of platforms such as Android, iOS, PlayStation & Windows.
- The platform Unity makes it possible for children to pick up the language while they create games using the popular game engine More than a third of top games are made with Unity, which makes C# a great option for a programmer seeking a career in the game development or virtual reality industry.
- It is considered generally easier and more accessible than C++, yet is a powerful video game scripting language.
Popular Games: Pokemon Go, Hearthstone, Temple Run, Super Mario Run, and Assassin’s Creed Identity
Game Engines: Unity 3D, Stride, Godot, Wave, CryEngine
Learning Curve: Medium
- Introduced in 2014 by Apple, Swift is an iOS exclusive general-purpose programming language, mainly focused on iOS app development.
- As we know from our daily lives, the growth of cell phone use and development has made mobile gaming a strong contender in an industry that has been traditionally dominated by consoles. Swift is used to create any games for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS- basically anything that can be played on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad.
- It is fast, reliable, quite easy to learn, and has multipurpose uses. It is an industrial-quality programming language, and has quickly become one of the fastest growing languages.
- The syntax is concise, but expressive, which makes it easy to both understand and write.
- Its source code and development builds are available for everyone, and it has a large and supportive community with a variety of third-party tools.
Popular Games: Color Switch, Crossy Road, Flappy, 2048
Gaming Engines: SpriteKit (2D), SceneKit (3D), GLKit, Cocos2D, OpenGL, Box2D
Learning Curve: Medium
Practice creating a small gaming project with the selected language
Instead of building a game from the ground up, your child can also edit existing video games. Many games that are popular today involve elements of customization as well- the worldwide sensation Minecraft is an excellent example of a game that allows kids to create and develop their own environments!
The best way to learn coding and game development is by doing. Beyond just looking at books, you can explore enrolling your child in age-appropriate coding classes. At Camp K12, we offer 1 on 1 classes with experienced coding instructors and a unique curriculum, where your child will learn to code through practical, real-world projects such as 3D game development and mobile app development.
There is no right answer to this question of what the best programming language for game development is because every programming language has unique practical advantages, so which language you choose will depend on the functionalities that you require in your game. Many of these languages overlap, are compatible with each other and can be combined to contribute to a better overall gaming experience. We hope this article helps you choose your own best language for game development!