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/ May 9, 2014
New Board Game Teaches Kids The Basics of Programming

Board games like Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land taught us important lessons when we were kids: winning was about climbing ladders and eating candy. Well, there’s a new board game on the block, and it wants to prepare kids to code.

Code Monkey Island, a Kickstarter project created by NYU 2013 alumnus Raj Sidhu, began raising funds this week to make the idea a reality.  The game isn’t meant to teach children how to code, but rather to introduce them to related concepts, like Boolean logic and conditional statements. These tools will hopefully help kids better understand the frameworks of coding once they start later on in school.

It may sound complicated (a board game about coding logic?!) but it’s really pretty simple. Sidhu estimates it takes about a minute to learn and 45 to play. Each player is given a tribe of monkeys, and must play through Rule Cards to go around the island. Once all their monkeys have circled the board, you’ve won.

It can be played by families, classmates, friends, you name it. So far, the game has raised over $8,700 out of a goal of $15,000. Backers get anything from just a free copy of the game, to an entire package of the game plus it’s sister-game Super Fruits plus programming lessons and a fun day in New York City.

We sat down with the creator to hear more about what he had to say on creating Code Monkey Island:

NYU Local: How was coding integrated into your education at elementary, middle, high school, and college levels? Do you think that’s different now?

Raj Sidhu: Programming classes were nonexistent at my elementary and middle school, unfortunately. I started learning how to program at NYU, at a time where my friends and I were starting to come up with app ideas together. Once I realized that hiring a developer to build these ideas was infeasible, I decided to learn how to build them myself.

NYU Local: How do you hope to see Code Monkey Island integrated into people’s lives?

Sidhu: At the end of the day, I want to have created a toy that kids and adults can equally enjoy and learn from. If at any point in the future, a kid yells “Forget Monopoly, let’s play Code Monkey Island!” I’ll have achieved way more than I ever set out to do.

NYU Local: From the kids who have tested it out, what did they say about it?

Sidhu: My biggest fear when I was designing and prototyping Code Monkey Island was that kids would spot the education element from a mile away. What I didn’t realize was that kids love board games – a lot – and really enjoyed playing this one. They would put so much care into which card to play on their turn, would help each other decide which one would get them the most amount of moves, would freak out if they landed on the quicksand tile – it was awesome.

NYU Local: What was it like to make a physical prototype of a game? Have you ever done anything like that before?

Sidhu: It was surprisingly challenging, but also gave me a great opportunity to develop an understanding of the game I wouldn’t have gotten without doing it myself. I designed all of the artwork myself, and pored over how-to articles and videos for days before starting the physical prototype.

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