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CodeCombat: this game teaches you to code while fighting ogres

Always wanted to learn how to code but can’t face sitting through a lecture or an online course? How about playing a game?

CodeCombat is a browser-based dungeon-stalking battle game where you play as a wizard, who can control the movements of other characters. But your spells aren’t made using magic wands and secret potions — they’re cast using Javascript. The game, which was designed by the Y-combinator funded team behind written language-learning app Skritter, came about after the founders noticed that friends would start courses at sites like CodeAcademy, then get bored and drop out. So the decided the best way to learn was practice, practice, practice — with some added incentives (like not being killed by an ogre), of course.

The team explains that if you want to code, you “don’t need lessons. You need to write a lot of code and have a great time doing it.”

That’s what programming is about. It’s gotta be fun. Not fun like yay a badge but fun like NO MOM I HAVE TO FINISH THE LEVEL! That’s why CodeCombat is a multiplayer game, not a gamified lesson course. We won’t stop until you can’t stop — but this time, that’s a good thing.

The game puts your characters and their stories alongside a spell caster screen, which allows you to write code line by line. Like other coding software, it will point out mistakes in your code so you can identify them and get back to navigating a dungeon. There are also prompts to aid first time coders who may feel panicked by something that looks like it should be running across a screen in The Matrix.

Best of all? It’s completely free, and the team took the project open source two months ago, which means that you can not only play with code, but tweak the code that runs the game.

Author | Lauren Granger

Lauren Granger
While studying towards her Bachelor of Journalism degree at Rhodes University, Lauren gave into her fascination with everything digital. As she was more interested in creeping tech sites and Twitter than she was in picking up one of those printed things called 'newspapers', she decided to specialise in... More
  • Hi Lauren, thanks a lot for the writeup of our project, we really appreciate it! If anyone (including yourself) has any questions, feel free to drop me a line at george@codecombat.com. Also, I love the quote you took from our site about wanting to keep playing the game, we actually included that because Nick kept using it as a way to differentiate our perception of “edu-fun” and actually enjoyable games.

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