Operation Mars is a cool, fun space exploration game that teaches you how to code as you support a variety of challenges for a team to land on Mars. Intended for kids and adults, this game starts with the very basics of code concepts and helps people learn how to think the way a software geek thinks.
My spouse and business/creative/everything partner Mary @marycamacho asked me some questions about it and it flowed so nicely I will post here to explain it.
Q: Why do you want to build the project?
A: A few reasons, but mostly I have a passion for teaching people about coding. I get really excited about the idea of more people learning to code. Well done games make things fun. There are starting to be some good games out there around coding but nothing like what I have in mind. And I have always wanted to write a game. And I want to play the game I have in my head also. Plus space is cool.
Q: Why don't people learn how to code?
A: I think that they don't get how fun and fulfilling software development is. I think it is the most challenging, fun thing you can do. But I think it can be hard to see that if you don't grow up around geeks.
Q: Why should more people learn how to code?
A: Software increasingly runs everything, I mean EVERYTHING, and what it doesn't run today it will tomorrow. Software development is going to touch all professions even if it is just in that people will have to talk to software developers about what they need software to do. I think understanding basic programming concepts, not necessarily how to develop professional software per se, will be a huge advantage to everyone going forward. And like math it is a great way to strengthen your mind. And some people will discover that this is something that they really love doing. I don't think you can figure out if you will love coding without trying it first hand.
Q: So what exactly are the basics of code or programming?
A: Some of it is just learning to think and state things really clearly; we say "computers do exactly what you tell them to, not what you want them to". Basic math is all that most geeks ever deal with but that is part of it. Then there are particular ideas that I think are particular to programming at least the way we use them: loops, if/then and other kinds of decisions, how variables work, functions.
Q: Who will Operations Mars serve?
A: It will be useful to anyone that wants to learn to code, but we are going to focus on young people. But it will be fun for anyone that likes challenging puzzles. Like I said I want to play it too. Plus I think that there are a lot of teachers that would like to include coding in their curriculum but they feel they lack the training to teach it. I think we can create some fun ways to empower them to learn and teach programming.
Q: How can other people get involved with you?
A: We are just getting started. We will need a lot of different talents involved; graphic artists, software developers, beta users, game designers and other people I am not thinking of yet. We will have a website up soon, but for now the best way is to follow us on twitter at @OperationMars.