How to Code a Game: A Beginner's Guide (2023)

Getting Started with Game Programming

A recent study by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research found that nearly 70% of all Americans regularly play video games of some sort. That means that if you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve played a game or two. But even with such a huge number of people playing video games, the number of people who have programmed a game is far smaller.

In many ways, coding a new game can be just as fun as playing games, and it’s pretty easy to dive in. Maybe you’re wanting to eventually become a professional game developer for a studio. Or perhaps you just want to make a fun custom game for yourself or to share with your friends. Either way, it all begins with just a bit of code.

Coding Languages for Games

Scratch

The Scratch coding language is an amazing place to start learning the process of making games! It has an easy-to-learn block-based interface that allows even beginning coders to quickly build code. While it is simple to pick up, it also has a surprising amount of depth to it that has led to some pretty amazing games on the platform.

One of Scratch’s best features is that you can easily see the code used to build all of the games hosted on its platform if you’re interested in how to make a game of your own.

JavaScript

JavaScript is the coding language that helps support most of the interactivity that you can find on the web, which has made it a pretty popular language to learn. Its extremely flexible and lightweight nature makes it a great choice for building browser-based games that can be played on computers or mobile phones. Since mobile gaming is popular among such a large number of gamers, making a JavaScript game can be a great choice.

Python

Python is best known for being a quick and easy coding language for automating small, repetitive tasks. It’s super fast for the tasks it’s good at, but it can have a hard time scaling for larger applications. That said, it is an excellent coding language for making smaller games, and even some larger games use Python as their main language.

C++

C++ is the main coding language used in AAA games today (games produced by major publishers) and for a lot of good reasons. As a compiled language, it runs super fast and offers a ton of flexibility. It isn’t the easiest language to learn for complete beginners but is useful enough for game makers to be worth the effort.

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Another big benefit of C++ is that many of the most popular game engines can be used with it, including the well-known Unreal and Unity engines.

How to Code a Game: A Beginner's Guide (1)

Introduction to Game Engines

While it is definitely possible to build a great game from the ground up, many modern games are incredibly complex. There’s a ton of code running in the background that a game creator most likely doesn’t want to program by hand. Instead, game creators will typically turn to a game engine to take care of the framework so they can focus on making a great game!

What are Game Engines?

Game engines are collections of code that needs to be running in the background so that a game can run as it is supposed to. Many game engines include a variety of code libraries that creators can pull from so that they can create exactly the game that they want but with far less manual coding.

Some of the things that a game engine might take care of include the code managing object collisions, sound effects, game physics, and more.

Ultimately, if the game you want to make is more complex than you can reasonably code by hand, a game engine is the collection of tools that you’ll need to make it all possible.

Steps to Code a Game

So you’ve learned some code, you know about game engines, and you have a basic idea of the game you want to make. Now you want to know how to program a video game.

Great! Let’s get started.

Making a game can be broken down into a series of steps that, if followed, will result in a game that can be played. All games, no matter how simple or complex, need to follow these basic steps.

  1. Choose the type of game
  2. Add your game’s visuals
  3. Write the game logic
  4. Test the game
  5. Play the game with your friends!
  1. Choose the type of game

The first step in programming a video game is choosing what kind of game you want to make. This includes thinking about how you want the player to interact with the game, the general theme of the game, and how the player will be able to win or lose the game.

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  1. Add your game’s visuals

The game’s visuals include everything that the player can see on the screen. That means the player’s character, any objects they might collide with, like enemies or coins, and the background setting.

  1. Write the game logic

The game logic is the actual code that runs the game. Depending on how complex your game is, you may be able to code everything yourself, or you may need to use a game engine that pulls code in from larger code libraries.

This is the step that many people think of as “programming a video game,” even though it is only one step of the process.

  1. Test the game

The moment of truth! Testing the game to make sure everything works means pushing the game to its limits. Be sure to test every aspect of the game to make sure that everything works as intended. If something isn’t working right, it’s time to debug. Otherwise, the game is ready for primetime!

  1. Play the game with your friends!

Success! You’ve finished the game! The final step is to release it into the wild and enjoy the fruits of your labor by playing your game with your friends.

These five steps can be used to make all sorts of games, from the simplest Scratch game to a AAA shooter.

Types of Games You Can Code

It’s important to remember that different types of games are made with different coding languages, but ultimately, no matter what type of game you want to code, or where you want to play them, the ability to code is what will get you there.

So, just what types of games can you code?

Web-based Games

Browser-based games are some of the easiest to code and to access. Platforms like MIT’s Scratch allow even beginner coders to create and share fun games with minimal overhead. However, web-based games don’t pack a lot of power, which can be limiting.

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Console Games

Console games are what most people think of when they hear the word “video game,” but they’re really only one of the types of game that you can code. Interestingly, even though consoles like the Xbox and Playstation are designed for the sole purpose of playing games, they’re only the third most popular place to play video games.

Computer Games

Personal computers are incredibly powerful machines, and native computer games are capable of providing the absolute best game experience in terms of graphics and speed. If you want a game on the cutting edge of what’s possible, this is the type of game for you. But while computer games are the best performing option, they’re only second-place in popularity.

Mobile Games

Around 90% of Americans that play video games play them on a mobile device. That means that of all the types of games that you can code, mobile games have the greatest potential audience.

How to Code a Game: A Beginner's Guide (2)

Coding Video Games

Now that you have a bit of an idea of how to program a video game, you might be wondering how coding video games actually works in real life, or perhaps even how you could become a video game designer or developer.

The process of making a AAA game is typically the work of entire teams rather than something one person does on their own. That’s because the different parts of the process, from coming up with mechanics, to drawing the assets, to coding the actual game logic are all very distinct skill sets that people can specialize in.

Working as part of a team allows everyone to focus on the parts of making a game that they know the best and results in a much better product.

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If you want to become a game developer, the best place to start is by figuring out which part of the process is the one you like best, and then work on learning everything you can about that particular role. Don’t know what part you’d want to do?

Start by coding a simple game on your own!

Try Coding a Game

While programming a AAA game takes a team, getting started with coding your own game is surprisingly simple. If you’re interested in giving it a go, check out these tutorials and begin coding your own game in Scratch, HTML, or Python.

Scratch Game Tutorial

Anyone can get started coding with Scratch by signing up for an account. Once that’s done, check out our Scratch coding tutorials for some ideas to get you started!

  • Halloween Candy Collector Tutorial
  • Valentine’s Day Scratch-off Tutorial
  • Holidays Advent Calendar Scratch Tutorial

HTML Game Tutorial

HTML is the code that is used to build all the web pages you visit every day. This simple card matching game uses a blend of HTML and CSS (with a touch of JavaScript magic) to make a game you can be proud of. Check out the tutorial below.

  • Thanksgiving Matching Game HTML Tutorial

Python Game Tutorial

While Python is a fairly simple coding language, it does take a bit more work to pick up than either Scratch or HTML. As such, you will need to know some of the basics of Python programming in order to make the most of this particular tutorial.

But, assuming you have a bit of Python knowledge, this tutorial on making a frogger-like game using Python is a great look at some beginning game development principles.

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Learning how to code a game completely on your own can be intimidating. Coding classes with CodeWizardsHQ are a great resource for helping you learn to code, no matter where you are in the process. Live, interactive classes with an experienced instructor are a great way to level up your coding experience and help you to take the next step in your coding journey.

  • Elementary School Coding Classes
  • Middle School CodingClasses
  • High School CodingClasses

Making and playing your own games can be a ton of fun, even while you’re still getting started. And if you find that it’s something that you’re good at, it’s definitely a viable career path. Those 221 million gamers in America aren’t going anywhere, after all. Why wait, start building your first game today!

FAQs

How is code written for a game? ›

Most games are written with custom code based on the C programming language. A 3-D code engine is almost always used to generate the incredibly complex code necessary for all of the polygons, shadows and textures the user sees on the screen. Another important aspect of the code is the artificial intelligence component.

What is the easiest game code to learn? ›

Discover easy games to code for beginners
  1. Pacman. A Pacman is a maze arcade game, where the player controls the Pacman, who must eat all the dots on the enclosed maze, while avoiding the ghosts. ...
  2. Make a Mario Game. ...
  3. Easy pong game. ...
  4. Cross the Road game. ...
  5. Easy jumping game to code. ...
  6. Code a Whack a mole game. ...
  7. Make Tic Tac Toe.
6 Apr 2022

Is coding easy for beginners? ›

No, coding is not hard to learn. However, like anything new, it's not easy to start, and how difficult a time one has with learning to code will vary across a number of factors. The point is, learning to code isn't impossible; or, it's not as impossible as it might seem when it comes to getting your kids involved.

How hard is coding a game? ›

Coding a game is not much of a difficult task. There are a lot of designed technologies like Game Engines that simplifies the Game programming workflow. However, you need a sound knowledge of programming languages like C, C# and C++.

Is coding for gaming hard? ›

The answer is yes. Game development is very hard. Many projects have begun, but only a tiny percentage of them are completed. You may need to spend months debugging unusual quirks, dealing with unanticipated edge situations, and fine-tuning the whole system.

Is learning coding hard? ›

Programming has a reputation for being one of the most difficult disciplines to master. Considering how different it is from traditional forms of education, including college degrees in computer science, it's not hard to see why some people have difficulty learning how to code.

What are the 4 types of coding? ›

While the names of the coding paradigms sometimes vary, most experts agree on four primary types of code: imperative, functional, logical, and object-oriented.

What is the hardest thing to code? ›

Malbolge

Coding in this language looks like garbage or malfunction and it is said to be that Ben Olmstead has never written a single program in this language. Malbolge is a public domain esoteric programming language and considered as one of the hardest programming languages in the world.

What game is hardest to code? ›

5 Of The Toughest Games to Code!
  • Factorio. Factorio has a simple story: you have to create a plant from extracting carbon to launching a rocket into space after the crash landing on an alien planet. ...
  • 7 Billion Humans. ...
  • World of Warcraft. ...
  • Conway's Game of Life. ...
  • Elevator Saga.
7 Oct 2020

Which code is the hardest? ›

C++ C++ is considered to be one of the most powerful, fastest, and toughest programming languages. It can be used for a variety of purposes and carries out the same efficient and robust programs.

Is coding harder than math? ›

Working with code has been generally easier. You should note that both activities range on a scale from extremely easy to almost impossible, so it's not possible to give an absolute answer to “which is harder”. People do very easy mathematics sometimes. Some people do coding that is close to impossible.

How many hours should I code a day? ›

On average, you should spend about 2 – 4 hours a day coding. However, efficient coding practice isn't really about the depth of time spent writing or learning codes but rather benchmarked on the individual's consistency over a given time.

Do you need math for coding? ›

While some fields of programming require you to have extensive knowledge of mathematics (such as game development and machine learning), you don't need advanced math skills for most coding jobs.

How long do games take to code? ›

Game Engine development can take anywhere from a couple of days, to years. The expertise needed to make a small functional engine is a lot higher than the expertise needed to make a small functional game from an existing engine (keep that in mind). As an example, I made a 2D engine in about 6 months.

Is chess harder than coding? ›

A chess game usually lasts (at most) only a couple of hours, and takes 40 - 60 moves. Yes. And playing chess is A LOT more intensive than programming.

How long does it take to code a simple game? ›

The average casual game probably takes 2–6 months to make, while the typical AAA game averages 18–36 months (with the biggest titles taking as long as 5 years to develop).

What coding do gamers use? ›

C++: C++ is an object-oriented programming language. Its speed, ease of use, and widespread adoption make it stand out as a highly desirable language. According to Game-Ace, it is widely considered the gold standard in game programming, and many call it the best coding language for games.

How much do game coders make? ›

According to Payscale, video game programmers earned an average yearly salary of $63,400 as of July 2022. The top 10% made $90,000. Zippia reports that the average entry-level salary for game programmers was $65,000 as of August 2022, with the top 10% earning $134,000.

Are all coders gamers? ›

Not all programmers are gamers but most top gamers are programmers. A lot of game developers got into game development because of their love for games which led to a burning desire to design games utilizing their gaming experience to visualize what makes a game unique.

What are the 3 types of coding techniques? ›

Data compression (or source coding) Error control (or channel coding) Cryptographic coding.

Is coding a stressful job? ›

In general, coding is a fairly relaxing job. There is the flexibility of working remotely as a programmer, and in many cases there is the security of routine. However, as with any job, whether coding is stressful depends largely on the company you work with. Cultural pressures and tight deadlines can cause stress.

Does coding pay good? ›

Software developers are very well paid, with high entry-level salaries and high earnings potential. According to the BLSs, the median salary for a software developer in 2020 was $110,140, and the lower range of salaries in the tenth percentile (entry level) had a median of $65,210.

How many hours will it take to learn coding? ›

Most coding bootcamps last 3-4 months and teach enough coding skills to qualify graduates for entry-level coding jobs. It typically takes 6-12 months to learn to code on your own. Likewise, a bachelor's degree in computer science or computer programming usually takes four years.

What are the four C's of coding? ›

The overarching properties of good code are: Correctness, Completeness, Conciseness, and Clarity. Since Creativity didn't make the list, I call these the 4Cs of Code Review.

Which coding language is best? ›

What coding and programming language should i learn? JavaScript and Python, two of the most popular languages in the startup industry, are in high demand. Most startups use Python-based backend frameworks such as Django (Python), Flask (Python), and NodeJS (JavaScript).

What type of coding is the most fun? ›

Python is often thought to be one of the most fun programming languages to learn. There are many great reasons why this is the case. Python is written using a syntax that is extremely clear, readable, and accessible.

What is the biggest code ever written? ›

Well, the largest program ever written would be from the Human Genome Project: This is an open source project aimed at figuring out the sequence of human DNA. The software for analyzing the human genome and map the nucleotide base pairs of DNA took 3300 billion lines of code.

What game has the biggest code? ›

The Age Of Empire online game took more than 1 million lines of code.

What game has the longest code? ›

I don't think so. The leading candidate for “The Largest Program In the World” is the Grand Theft Auto V video game which is estimated to have around 100 million lines of code.

What is the most profitable code to learn? ›

You want to learn the most profitable programming languages! But don't worry! Stack Overflow, the famous software development platform, recently published its Developer Survey for 2022.
...
These are:
  • F# - $95,526.
  • LISP - $95,000.
  • Ruby - $93,000.
  • Elixir - $92,959.
  • Scala - $92,780.
  • Perl - $90,073.
  • Go - $89,204.
  • Rust - $87,047.
15 Sept 2022

Why is C++ so hard? ›

C++ is hard to learn because of its multi-paradigm nature and more advanced syntax. While it's known to be especially difficult for beginners to learn, it's also difficult for programmers with no experience with low-level languages.

Should I learn C or C++ first? ›

There is no need to learn C before learning C++. They are different languages. It is a common misconception that C++ is in some way dependent on C and not a fully specified language on its own. Just because C++ shares a lot of the same syntax and a lot of the same semantics, does not mean you need to learn C first.

Is C++ harder than Python? ›

Is C++ Harder Than Python? Yes, C++ is harder to learn and work with than Python . The biggest difference is that C++ has a more complex syntax to work with and involves more memory management than Python, which is both simple to learn and use. Python is considered a better beginner programming language.

Is coding left or right brain? ›

Using fMRI scans of computer programmers as they read code, researchers have discovered that the complex language processing takes place in the left hemisphere in a part of the brain dedicated to logical reasoning.

How much code does a programmer write per day? ›

The mythical book, Mythical man month quotes that no matter the programming language chosen, a professional developer will write on average 10 lines of code (LoC) day.

Who was the best programmer in the world? ›

1. Dennis Ritchie: Dennis Ritchie “Father of the C programming language” who also created UNIX operating system along with his long-time colleague Ken Thompson. He was an American Computer Scientist.

Is it better to code in the morning or at night? ›

The quiet atmosphere at night actually feels a lot better for mentally stimulating tasks like coding. The brain works best when it's late at night because it turns out that late at night/really early in the morning, the brain gets tired enough that it can only focus on one task, not on multiple tasks.

Is 2 hours coding enough? ›

Fairly enough only if you give time everyday. Consistency is the key to become a great person in any topic. If you regularly give 2 hours, then at the end of the year, you worked for 730 hours. That's quite good.

Can you code too much? ›

You know you've been coding too long when you find yourself using CamelCase (or snake_case or Train-Case) to write things that aren't variables, functions, methods, classes or some other geeky programming thing.

Do hackers need math? ›

The short answer is yes. Cybersecurity is a technical field in computer science, and potential job seekers will need strong analytical skills. It isn't a math-intensive field—not like astrophysics or engineering—but it requires comfort using certain math types.

Can you teach yourself coding? ›

It's true that you can learn programming languages on your own, but it won't be easy. Coding is a highly technical job that entails different algorithms and complex data structures. On the flip side, learning by yourself allows you to set the pace of your education.

Does coding have a future? ›

As discussed, coding skills are in high demand around the world. To meet this demand, universities are training many computer programmers. Your salary as a computer programmer depends on your skills as a software developer, the coding languages you know, and the kind of applications you can develop.

What type of code are games written in? ›

C++: C++ is an object-oriented programming language. Its speed, ease of use, and widespread adoption make it stand out as a highly desirable language. According to Game-Ace, it is widely considered the gold standard in game programming, and many call it the best coding language for games.

What language is GTA 5 written? ›

In what language is GTA written? GTA V or any other game doesn't use any programming language directly as such for the development. They use Game engines ( made using programming languages like C / C++ and Java) such as CryEngine, Unreal engine, Unity, custome game engines to make the games.

How can I create a game? ›

How to Develop a Video Game
  1. Pick a concept. Generate a few game concepts to see what kind of game you want to make. ...
  2. Gather information. Game creation involves extensive research. ...
  3. Start building. ...
  4. Refine your concept. ...
  5. Test your game. ...
  6. Market the finished product.
7 Jun 2021

What code do most games use? ›

C++ is the most popular language for creating game engines—the development environments where game programmers create and host their interactive worlds. Game engines provide the technology for every aspect of a game, from graphics, physics, and sound to the behavior of AI-powered game bots.

Are games written in C or C++? ›

C++ is still the most common language for writing games, and not without reason.

Is PUBG written in C++? ›

The PUBG video game is created by Epic Games using the Unreal Engine 4 game engine platform. This platform provides audiences with realistic graphics because of its C++ coding and extensive toolkit.

Do games still use C++? ›

C++ plays an important role in today's game development ecosystem. C++ is used in the source code of many major game engines, such as Unreal and Unity, allowing developers to build more high-performant games.

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