5-Year-Old Girl Makes Video Game

As planned, i took my five-year-old daughter Cassie to TOJam, the three-day Toronto independent game jam, to make a game with me. And here it is:

Cassie drew all the pictures, wrote all the titles, and recorded the voice of the main character. She also came up with the NPCs (including Mr. Turtle, the Mean Tiger, and the villainous Lemon), and designed some of the puzzles (including the one where you [SPOILER ALERT] have to read a sign to justify your need for a coconut to throw at the Lemon).

Cassie and Daddy

Cassie and Ryan [photo by Brendan Lynch]

Send Cassie to College?

i used Mochimedia’s ad service to inject ads into the game, which is fitting, because Mochi was a TOJam sponsor this year. i threw ads in there with the hope that the game might drum up a little bit of cash, which i will put toward the education fund that Cassie’s grandma started for her. Wouldn’t it be cool if Cassie’s game paid for college? (Sadly, it won’t happen. See the Pimp My Game series for more reasons why.) For kicks, i added a PayPal Donate button beneath the game.

Cassie tries ot eat with chopsticks

With your help, maybe we can send her to get some etiquette training? [Photo by Paul Hillier]

Alert Child Services

Dragging your kid to a weekend-long game jam, eh? Before you call Children’s Aid on me, please understand that i didn’t actually keep Cassie captive at TOJam all weekend long. She came in with me at 9:30 Saturday morning, and was the most excited i’ve ever seen her. We’d been preparing her for MONTHS so that she’d be emotionally ready for TOJam. After the organizers expressed concern that my rotten kid would be running around the place pestering people and making noise (an entirely likely scenario, if you’re familiar with my insane children and my lousy parenting style), i spent every evening coaching Cassie.

Me: Remember, you’re the first little girl who’s ever made a game at TOJam. And everyone’s worried you’re going to run around screaming and making noise and wrecking things.

Cassie: (shocked face) No i won’t!

Me: *i* know you won’t. (totally lying here – i was as nervous about it as anyone) But you have to prove to everyone that little girls can make video games too. If you’re very well behaved, then next year if another little girl wants to come and make a game, the TOJam people will say “the little girl who made a game last year was SO wonderful, we’d LOVE to see more little girls making games.”

Cassie: i’ll be have. i will!

Cassie bes have

Cassandra, “being have” [Photo by Paul Hillier]

Yes, Cassandra, There Is a Game Jam

The morning of TOJam was like Christmas for her. i’m not kidding. In the days leading up to the event, she told everyone she knew that she was going to TOJam. Naturally, they had no idea what she was talking about, but the strangers in the elevator and in the grocery store smiled and nodded politely all the same.

By the end of the day on Saturday, Cassie had spent 10 hours at TOJam, and was begging me to let her stay overnight. She had put in about 6 hours of actual colouring work, and sunk at least another hour into voice acting later that evening at home, where it was quieter. i tucked her into bed and returned to TOJam late Saturday evening, and then pulled an all-nighter scanning her crayon drawings and integrating them with the game logic using UGAGS (the Untold Graphic Adventure Game System).

Daddy working

[Photo by Paul Hillier]

Family Jam

Sunday morning after church, the whole family joined me at TOJam with a bunch of instruments in tow. My wife Cheryl and the two little girls sat together on the carpet down a quiet hallway. Cassie grabbed the harmonica, i took the drum, Cheryl took the ukulele, and little Isabel used the thumb harp and the Happy Apple. We recorded some music tracks together. The one that made it into the game intro is just Cassie and Izzy playing together. It was really nice to have everyone involved like that. Here’s the family track that didn’t quite make the cut:

[display_podcast]

Sunday evening, the family regrouped at TOJam. The game, while still unfinished, was set up in a hallway where Cassie excitedly ran up to any interested passers-by, snatched the mouse out of their hands, and said “I MADE THIS! LEMMIE SHOW YOU HOW TO PLAY!”

i think it was a really valuable life lesson for Cassie to see that all her hard work and effort went into making a product that brought smiles to the faces of her players. The next step is to brave the hairy Playbook process to get it on the device so that Cassie can bring it to school for Show & Tell.

Creighton family

[Photo by Paul Hillier]

Correcting History

i really hope you enjoy Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure. In all of this, our goal as parents is to give our kids the kind of childhood we would KILL to have had. i can’t imagine how different my life would have been if i had made a real working video game with my father at age 5. In fact, i can’t imagine how different my life would have been if he hadn’t left when i was eight months old.

But no matter. Some day, the ponycorns will get him.

190 thoughts on “5-Year-Old Girl Makes Video Game

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  5. Freegames from me

    The story is great. I have a daughter myself. She loves to play games with me. She is 10 and already has developed a small website, which she will publish soon. By the way you chose a great way to develop the interests of your child. Keep i that way, because you do a great job.

    Reply
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  8. Mils

    hi i love the game
    but I don’t really get the donation part, is there a difficulty in the family or with Cassie that’s why the donation is carried out?

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton Post author

      The only difficulty is that daddy is the sole bread-winner supporting a family of four with his small business, a video game studio. Ponycorns is the biggest success the studio has seen to date, and it’s free-to-play. Donations are just a revenue stream for people who enjoyed the game and would like to contribute to Cassie’s further development. Who knows? She could be a famous game developer some day, and a bunch of people will be able to say “i helped her go to college!” :)

      Reply
  9. Eric

    I really like this project and the game is actually quite well designed. Of course, this is one of those titles that goes beyond simple mechanics. Thanks for the article and all those who haven’t played Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure should definitely give it a chance!

    Reply
  10. Maks

    I really want to know what programing language you used for this, see i want to make games too and that is the only thing that i ever want but i have no idea where to start, so any tips and tricks to make a game like this one would be awesome.

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton Post author

      This was a collaboration between a five-year-old girl, and an eleven year game development veteran. We used Flash to create the game, with a custom framework called UGAGS that took months to develop.

      i recommend you start with a program called Scratch. It’s free, it’s cross-platform, and it’ll introduce you to a lot of concepts in programming. It’s a great springboard to other things.

      http://www.scratch.mit.edu

      Good luck!

      Reply
  11. Gabe

    This girl is a true GENIUS! I beat the game in a total of 2 minutes (I counted..) Best thing is,SHE UNDERSTANDS THE CONCEPT OF EVIL LEMONS! You go gurll :D

    Reply
  12. Pierre Schiller

    Thank you for posting such inspiring article. It´s fantastic how you´ve put together so many accomplishments, not only develop the game, but to give out a torching light to most families looking out for a better gamming experience and reward to children (not always taken into account on the gamming industry). A found thanks.

    Reply
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  14. Fiona

    I’m actually 8 years old. (Typed in my mom’s password-easy as that!) I think this game is awesome, and when you piece everything together, you can realize Ponycorn=the likeness of a pony from MLP and Dinosaur=the likeness of Discord.

    Reply
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  16. Sonya

    I’m glad I came across this! I love seeing projects like this made by kids. I’m going to show my 5 year old the game and let her play it. She came up with a card game idea last year, so I helped her put it together, and it was successfully published in January thanks to Kickstarter. Now we are working on a board game she wants to make.

    Reply
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  19. Tahlia Woolacott

    Hey, I am 14 years of age, and i thought this was the cutiest thing ever!. I was smiling the hole time i played it, and i played it again.. Your daughter is so cute!..

    Reply
  20. Pewdiepie bro fist hug me

    Wow thanks to the awesome pewdiepie I am now able to play and discover an amazing game!

    Reply
  21. ???

    I think you should put some cute music in the game.
    It is little horrible. …Really..
    Anyway, I wanna be nice dad like you.

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton Post author

      The music was created by Cassie and her little sister, Izzy. We basically grabbed all of the musical instruments from our house and had a jam session, and then kept the least aurally offensive bit. That’s Cassie on the harmonica, and Izzy on the Happy Apple. :)

      Reply
  22. shannon

    i’m just wondering why you have a donate button? you can’t exactly have strangers donate money for your child’s college funds, it’s your responsibility to provide an education for your child, not random people of the internet. scrounger.

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton Post author

      Would you be happier if i spent the money on beer and cigarettes? Cassie and i created a game together, and posted it online for you to play for free. If you felt that we provided some value to you and you’d like to reward us for our efforts, click the Donate button. If not, move on.

      Reply
  23. Angel

    One of the best “indie” games i have played
    I really love it, seriously, and Cassie have a cute voice
    Call Of Duty can jump on their butt’s, this is the oficially the best game ever made (lol)
    I really want to see a sequel of the game, gonna be awesome, something like Magycal ponycorn adventure 2 return of the evil lemon….(The lemon is stil evil rigth?)
    Anyway, good game really, sorry if my english suck’s i’m from chile and when i hear about the game it was…Really? a 5 year old child make a game? xD and come here to say that it was a great work, and a good game (Y) Keep it up man! and take care of your child ;)

    Reply
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