So there’s a lot to unpack in this topic. My 10-year-old son, who is autistic (more on that later) and has been into video games his whole life wants to start making games. I told him that the quickest easiest way to make his own games (at least that I could help him with) would probably be to create his own text adventures and he seems interested.
I’ve made the assumption (y’all can correct me if I’m wrong) that Twine is probably the easist IF-making tool to get started with. But before he begins I want him to play 1-2 games first so he knows the general form that these games take. I’m hoping I can find a few Twine games for him that meet the criteria of: 1) being relatively short (probably 30 minutes or less), 2) can keep a 10-year-old boy’s attention (with either adventure, easy puzzles, or humor), and 3) are easy to follow along with.
He is fairly high-functioning, but I see two ways his particular brand of autism will manifest in this endeavor. He can get frustrated when a game gets too hard unless he is really into it (he will play Celeste for hours and take 5000 deaths without much fuss, but plenty of other games he quits after an hour or so). Also, while he is great at reading individual words and knowing definitions, he isn’t great at inference or overall reading comprehension, though he’s getting better. So simple and straightforward stories/games are best.
Any recommendations for games to start him on is appreciated!
I’ll also happily take advice on being a first-time IF author and/or ways to make simple video games outside of the IF world.
I’m not well-versed in Twine, but there is potential to make some incredible recommendations if he has any particularly strong interests, or any topics he seems to return to frequently.
For example, I’m also autistic and if someone recommends me anything about airplanes or orbital mechanics, then I’m going to really appreciate it because those are two very strong interests for me, mostly as a result of my autism.
So while having a good idea for ideal difficulty is very useful, it might be equally-useful to also find a game in his area of interest.
For that age I really like Escape the Crazy Place by @J_J_Guest. It’s a really big branching game but has really silly humor. My kid loved it, it’s written for simple comprehension, and is funny. While it is long each playthrough is generally pretty short, it’s more of an ‘explore as long as you like’ kind of game.
You Will Select a Decision by Brendan Hennessy is also very funny and short, although I think at least one branch has the F-word.
Animalia may possibly be a good choice, with its whacky animals, but its long and has some surprisingly mature sections (not in terms of gore or sexual content but in thoughtfulness).
4x4 archipelago is also long but otherwise is a fun twine adventure game that can be enjoyed even without finishing it. Has character classes and combat.
Secret Agent Cinder has great visuals and lots of gags, and is pretty short with some light puzzles.
Free bird. by Passerine uses 2 word sentences to run a whole adventure a bird trapped by poachers who has to escape.
Although it’s more toward “professional” (has images and sound), The Temple of No by Crows, Crows, Crows is a good example of how Twine stories work, both in simple and advanced ways such as character traits, text variation and linear/branching choices/text-expanding links in a game that is very silly, meta, and not too long.
(I just clicked through a bit, there is some non-targeted cursing (think salty Bri’ish storyteller) intended in a humorous way. I’m sorry I forgot about the language I know some people’s kids are mature enough and fine with random cursing, but I forgot how subversively meta this is so be aware if that’s a problem.)
-turned to ash. The frogs hopped around in the pond, and as he moved slowly on, his parents words came again to him. “Remember The Explorer’s Oath! Look! Don’t Tou-"
Fuck’s sake, I swear this gets good soon.
“Hey! HEY!! My name’s Mrs Watts! I’m dying! DYING, I TELL YA! That’s what’s up, yo. Did you bring The Stuff??
Oh, Jimmy Flippers! This broken bulb is babbling some bullshit! You blurt out the first thing that comes to mind…
Excellent point! His interests include dinosaurs/monsters, Minecraft (he’s played through the IF-adjacent Minecraft: Story Mode several times on Netflix), dungeon-crawling/fantasy-style adventure, anthropomorphic animal friends being goofy with each other… I guess given his reading comprehension issues he hasn’t really gone head-over-heels for anything quite yet, but that’s a starter list. He also love Outer Wilds, but I think more for the mechanics than the story. But I would add space exploration to the list. Resource management too.
If available, you can download the HTML (and supporting files if necessary) however the game will still open a browser for play, even if offline so it might look exactly the same. The only advantage is not needing an internet connection.
I think it depends. If you think the graphical interface with nodes is going to click for him, then the answer might be yes. I personally found both ChoiceScript (using CSIDE) and Ink (using Inky) much easier to understand – Twine seems to get complicated fast if you want to move beyond the surface.
Seconded! ChoiceScript / CSIDE are an absolute dream to work with, I picked it up in no time. I’m writing the new version of Escape from the Crazy Place in ChoiceScript, with the hope of eventually releasing it as a Hosted Game.
Ink / Inky is similar but more complex and it took me a little longer to get up to speed with it. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Ink for kids or beginners to IF, but I’ll probably be using for most of my choice-based projects in future.
I’m trying to remember back to when my child was that age. I remember his comprehension was very poor. Two sentences in, and he’d forget what he just read. Each word was it’s own struggle and so much energy was spent on deciphering each word. We worked very hard with him. There are English workbooks that ask to read a paragraph or two and answer some questions, amongst other things. They helped a lot.
Twine can get complicated. It’s not as friendly to work with for kids.
I recommend the more traditional videogame development route with Scratch before he gets into any actual code. Scratch is what they teach to young kids in schools. You can make interactive stories, simple arcade games or whatever. It substitutes typing code with drag and drop parts that make a code logic chain. There are lots of resources online for Scratch and I recommend following a few tutorials with games that he wants to learn to make. There are even published books with Scratch tutorials. It’s that popular.
Edit: After Scratch, I recommend trying to tackle Adventuron. Once he feels comfortable with Scratch and he wants to get into text games, Adventuron is set up to be taught to kids and way more accessible for it. Adventuron Classroom
Wise enough. The Twine home page nearly always lists some games you definitely won’t want him even seeing. Twine itself can be downloaded too.
Apart from saying that simple Twine doesn’t really feel much like code, I second this. He’ll enjoy playing the existing Scratch games and seeing how they work. The user comments are childish of course but seem to be well moderated. If he doesn’t have an account he can read comments but not make them. I think the idea is you don’t have to start from “scratch” – you’re encouraged to base your code on other people’s.
It’s good to hear that there is another autistic writer on this forum! May I know what got you into airplanes and orbital mechanics? Thank you. And yes, putting my writer cap on, it is important to write something in your area of interest. That way, you’ll be happier. In fact, my Bring Out your Ghosts entry is based on my favorite stuff.
My dad had Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 on the computer. There’s something really satisfying about a subject that has a lot to learn and a lot that could use what you’ve learned. Also the freedom of a sky is deeply captivating in a lot of ways. I have a preference for stunt/sports planes, as well as experimental planes that use new ways to move (vector thrust airplanes, for example).
So I actually got introduced to orbital mechanics when I first played Kerbal Space Program, but the game that made me realize I had a special interest in it was Children of a Dead Earth. It’s really hard to explain but there is something magical in orbital mechanics. It’s so different from how literally everything else moves (on an intuitive level), even though it all comes down to perpetual falling, which gives it this startling degree of poetry, too. I’ve also found that a lot of things in my life can be figured out with orbital mechanics analogies.
You can play TWINE games on your desk top. The instructions here are for Chrome browser, but other systems will be similar. While playing a TWINE game in your browser, right click and select “save as”. Then save to your desk top. Then click on the icon for the website you’ve just downloaded (or the index link if its part of a project folder). This has worked for me with games hosted on itch.io as well.
As a bonus, if you have TWINE installed on your desk top, you can upload the website that is sitting on your desktop, and TWINE will translate the HTML code back into TWINE code so you can read the game’s actual code. (assuming you’re working with a similar enough version of TWINE, and the correct story format. It took me a while to discover this, but when I did, it changed my world with what I learned about how to code in this platform.
I think TWINE would be a terrific starting point to game design for the right 10 year old. I taught a class last summer for 5th-8th graders, and by the end of the week they were all doing some pretty sophisticated things in Harlowe, which I had to learn at the same time, because I am more familiar with Sugarcube. Harlowe is better for beginners because it offers better built in editting tools compared to Sugarcube. I don’t think Sugarcube is any more complicated as a language, it just doesn’t have the same built in editting tools.