Before I realised I was better off writing about my love of video games instead of actually coding them, I wanted to be a video game developer. And do you know what? I might’ve just stuck with that dream had Nintendo’s Game Builder Garage existed when I was a child.
Nintendo first sparked my love of video games back in 2001 with the release of the Gameboy Advance (which would probably still work today had I not spilled a bottle of PVA glue on the buttons), so it was a pretty full-circle moment to be coming back to Nintendo to live out my developer fantasy with Game Builder Garage.
Game Builder Garage isn’t so much of a game itself, rather it’s a tutorial software that teaches you the basics of building your own game and allows you to make one for yourself.
“Ever wanted to make your own 3D platformer, high-speed racing game, or side-scrolling alien blaster? Bring your ideas to life with Game Builder Garage for Nintendo Switch, a fun way to make your own games,” Nintendo writes on the website.
First things first, the game is super cute. Instead of boring commands, each function is a “Nodon”, and has its own little face and personality to make things far more interesting than when I learned coding in high school.
This makes it super easy to understand how everything works because the whole system works on a drag-and-drop premise. To make your character jump, you simply draw a line between the button (‘A’) and the action (‘jump’).
Additionally, the coding screen and the actual play screen are interchangeable, so you get to actually see how each function works in a real-life setting, which makes it super rewarding as you go along.
Before you get to the freeplay mode, you have to work your way through the tutorials. This makes sense because you should probably, you know, know what you’re doing before you dive off the deep end. However, for an impatient being like myself who builds IKEA furniture without reading the instructions, this tested my patience.
While it makes sense to make you play the tutorial first, the tutorial is pretty long and unfortunately, you have to click through a seemingly endless amount of dialogue between each actual activity.
Granted, the game is designed for children, who will probably learn from this dialogue, but as an adult with a pretty sound understanding of how it all works, this was quite draining.
But once you get through the tutorial, I imagine this game is something that you could really explore your creativity with. The premise of being able to craft your own platformer game and be able to share it with friends is something I truly wish I had as a kid.
Obviously, this is a very basic introduction to game development and isn’t an exhaustive guide for people looking to pursue a career in the industry, but is it enough to spark the creativity in children to want to learn more? Absolutely.
It’s very clearly geared towards children, but with seemingly endless possibilities and a learning element that doesn’t feel boring, it seems like a great gift to give your nieces or nephews if you want to be the fun, yet educational aunt or uncle.
Game Builder Garage won’t be for everyone, and I probably wouldn’t recommend it for adults. But I simply cannot stress just how much I wish this existed when I was a kid and how it really could’ve been the thing that pushed me down a different career path.
But alas, I will continue my job critiquing other games instead of learning to build my own.