As many parents of boys can tell you, the dream careers of “Fireman” and “Astronaut” have long since been supplanted by “Video game programmer” (and “Lego designer”, but that’s another article…). Pretty regularly I hear from other parents that their son has an aspiration to learn programming so that he can make video games, and my own boys are no exception. This isn’t an entirely bad thing.
Kids want to make games because they understand games, and for many of them games are the most compelling thing they do on a computer. It’s not a bad way to get started in computer programming; frankly, anything that motivates you to write code is a good way to get started in programming. If that thing is games, so be it; if it’s a loan amortization calculator, that works too. Far be it from me to discourage any aspiring programmer from coding whatever gets his or her brain ticking.
Even so, there are three morsels of food-for-thought that young people and their encouraging parents should chew on when a child sets his (or her) sights on a career in video game design.
The previous articles in this series helped you set up a Linux-based system for a child, and explored some of the great educational and kid-friendly software available. I’ve based this on almost eight years of experience in setting up GNU/Linux on computers for my own kids, and for their friends. So, based on that experience, what things do I wish the Free software community could come up with to make Linux a better experience for kids (and their parents!)?
By now you’ve got that old computer purring along like a panther with your new favorite distribution of Linux, loaded to the brim with educational software, ready to propel your child to the heights of intellectual stimulation. But before we launch this starship, let’s take a bit to make sure the safety equipment is in order and reign in some potential problems.
One of the common suggested uses for old computers is to install GNU/Linux on it and give it to your kids. I have five children, ranging in age from pre-teen to infant, and all but the youngest (naturally) regularly enjoy the use of computers running some variant of GNU/Linux. We’ve been using it at home since about 2005, and over the last eight years I’ve gained a reasonable amount of experience setting up Linux on computers for my children or their friends. This series of articles will cover some of my insights on setting up a Linux computer for kids.