Game Development

June 28, 2016 11:06 am

As the ATYPICAL SOUNDS writer most in touch with the female neonate demographic, it’s only right that I weigh in on the subject of Barbie’s ongoing initiative to empower young women with strong positive role models being portrayed throughout their product.

Personally, I think it’s better when men speak about women’s issues because we don’t have that nasty old inherent bias to worry about, you know? So I’ll be attacking this subject with an objective point of view. This is what people want in their toy analysis.  

So now that I’ve established my dominance, as per the advice of my personal bible, The Game, here’s the scoop:

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 11.05.34 AMIn addition to Barbie’s wildly popular Ava DuVernay line and the company introducing a wider array of body types that deviate from the usual portrayal of thin and tall blonde beauties, the beloved doll is now getting variation in her career opportunities. Yupp, Barbie’s a game developer now.

In typical internet fashion pertaining to whenever a woman does something, whether she’s real or plastic, a wide range of opinions were shared. It was worth any vitriol it may have gotten, though, because this is a forward thinking move in the right direction.

Game Developer Barbie is a much needed injection of niche that Barbie’s previous jobs never had. Just look at the other careers on that site. Obviously, they’re all great jobs that are important to portray; you women should be able to have a Dr. Barbie and Teacher Barbie available for purchase. Both of those careers, however, now stand as foundational jobs aren’t as loaded with gendered pretenses as other fields. It’s thankfully now the norm to allow a female doctor to diagnose somebody without her being accused of witchcraft. Electing to branch out into the tech world, Barbie’s simply acknowledging the need to amplify the representation elsewhere.

By giving Barbie a job in tech, a field notorious for its ridiculous lack of inclusion for women, it’s a minor step in normalizing an initiative already set in motion by a large collection of women in a continuous uphill battle. Whether it’s the black hole of sexism that is #GamerGate, or that the basic principle regarding female characters in video games is to put as little clothes on them as possible, the video game and tech world is still seen as a boys club.

Can a doll immediately fix this? Of course not. But it’s a great sign that Barbie now sees how diverse the job market is, and there’s true importance in women establishing a foothold in areas that were seldom before seen as an ideal fit for them. Let’s see if they use this momentum to give Barbie even more unfairly male-dominated professions going forward. What’s to stop her from getting into venture capitalism or truck driving? Maybe even a Bernie Bro Ken doll that says “I’m more of a humanist than a feminist” when you pull on his string. The possibilities are limitless.

June 2, 2016 2:21 pm

Even if you haven’t played it, you’ve probably heard of Minecraft. For those unfamiliar, Minecraft is an open-world, sandbox game in which players can build 3D environments with various blocks. 

The game exploded in popularity after its release in 2011, and has since attracted a devoted following of players. IGN ranked Minecraft as the #3 best-selling game of all time, with 70 million copies sold over a variety of platforms (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mobile).

In conjunction with the Hour of Code movement and TeacherGamingMojang, the developers behind Minecraft, have learned ways to incorporate programming into the game. 

Hour of Code is a global initiative designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of computer science. Launched by and Computer Science Education Week, Hour of Code helps bring programming and computer science to students at the grassroots level. 

When starting out you don’t even have to purchase Minecraft. Simply visit, where after a short introductory video by Minecraft’s lead developer “Jeb,” you’ll enter a version of Minecraft. Using Blockly, a visual programming editor that displays bits of code as connected blocks, you will help “Alex” or “Steve” (The two Minecraft characters) navigate the Minecraft world by solving a series of puzzles.

Each time you solve a puzzle, you are given the option to view the code behind what you just created. The code you are writing, while helping Alex or Steve build a house or plant crops, is actually JavaScript, a programming language used for HTML, the Web and various other functions.  JavaScript is a popular language for people new to coding, so by using Minecraft, players can learn JavaScript fundamentals in a fun and interactive environment. 


Learning programming with Minecraft is not limited to this online coding activity. MinecraftEdu, an independent learning project by TeacherGaming supported by Mojang, uses Minecraft gameplay to teach a variety of subjects. MinecraftEdu has an Hour of Code activity package as well, in which students use a Minecraft mod called ComputerCraft.

Created by modder Dan200, the mod incorporates interactive blocks dubbed “turtles” into Minecraft to teach students programming and computer science through new ways to interact with the game. MinecraftEdu comes equipped with ComputerCraftEdu, or the mod can be downloaded and applied to the regular Minecraft game. If students or teachers want to delve deeper into Minecraft-based learning there is now a full expansion of MinecraftEdu called Minecraft: Education Edition, which will be released as an early access program for educators this summer.   

To account for students without regular access to the internet or Minecraft, there is even an option for a printable MinecraftEdu board game! Another option is the Minecraft edition offered through Raspberry Pi. The Pi 3 comes pre-loaded with a version of Minecraft, that can teach players how to code with the programming language Python

It can be scary to dive into programming, especially if you have no prior experience with computer science. Game-based learning, like learning to code with Minecraft, is helping to alleviate some of these hurdles by making coding fun and interactive. These types of initiatives are changing the norms of not only what we learn, but how we learn. Who knows, in the next few years game-based learning and interactive e-learning activities could become standard over traditional teaching methods.