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:


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

  1. Jos

    Some excellent photos of you with your child there.

    Sounds like an excellent time all around – congrats to you and your family for working so hard to making sure it was an excellent time for everyone.

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks, Jos! Brendan and Paul took some AMAZING shots. i want to actually buy a few for our living room photo wall.

  2. Paolo

    This is just awesome, Ryan. I can’t wait till I am in a position to do something like this with my sons!

  3. Joseph Cassano

    I just went through the game and it was fantastic! Cuteness overload.

    Maybe this game can be the spark of a game jam of its own? People bringing in younger relatives (daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, etc) and making games based on their ideas? Or would too many kids be too much chaos?

  4. Jimmy McAmazed

    All of my concerns about a 5 year old attending TOJam vanished after seeing Cassie laser focussed on creating art for the game. When I asked to see her drawings, I felt like I was interrupting her!

    Like Cassie, the game turned out absolutely adorable (luckily I read that sign).
    My only regret was missing out on Cheryl’s homemade cinnamon bun offer.

    Thought: If your father hadn’t run out on you when you were 8 months old, you’d probably be me.

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      We’re planning on having you and em and Rob and Tessa over for dinner to thank you guys. Which would you prefer: BBQ jerk chicken, or homemade perogies?

  5. Agos

    My father was undoubtedly awesome, but this is… another league. Donating what I can to help the girl grow as smart as she’s cute :)

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks so much for the donation! If your father stuck around for your first birthday, he is indeed awesome. ;)

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  8. Simon Windmill

    My just-turned-six girlie exclaimed “She looks like a GREAT person to play with!!!” (she managed to verbalize the exclamation points). I have an Evernote tag for her game ideas but have yet to fully commit to one, though I think she (and Cassie) will enjoy a future game of mine that does in fact feature ponycorns.

    My suggestion? Port to Unity and release on iOS. Ponycorns go hand in hand with iPads.

      1. Ryan Henson Creighton

        We developed it at the Playbook screen spec. i’m waiting until June (hopefully) for the AIR 2.7.1 packager, because i hear that anything movieclip-related performs really sluggishly. Maybe i should just give it a go anyway?

        You know what would be awesome? Two little girls Skyping to create a game together.

  9. Simon Windmill

    Charlotte’s review:

    “Hey Cassie, I LOVED the way your dad did “Oh no! Ow! My face!” It was SO funny! :) By the way Cassie, why didn’t you just make the key a magic wand because actually it looked like a magic wand more than a key. By the way by the way Cassie, I didn’t know Sissy’s voice was your voice! Because Sissy’s voice was really, really, really good. And by the way by the way by the way, it was really funny that you made Sissy say “Awww yeah!” but at first I thought she was saying “Boo yeah!”



    By the way, I saw a picture of you and you looked really great to play with.”

  10. An Escapist

    I Just want to say Great job,
    And now that games are officially considered an art form (in the US) by the supreme court
    to see the imagination of a young child being brought to life and shared by this interactive media, all i can say is that your work here is meaningful in many more ways that one.

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks! i just wish Cassie could comprehend what you’re saying … she can’t get past “lots of people are playing my game??”

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  13. Ryon (because it's cooler with an O)

    It’s obvious that Cassie is the new bread-maker of the family. I’m expecting a Ponycorns 2!

  14. HelenWLee

    Wow, really loved reading this! I wish I had made games with any parent when I was a kid. Well, they say it´s never too late to have a happy childhood so now I´m going to bring my mother to the next event I can find ;D

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      My name is Ryan, and i approved this message. How old is your mom, Helen? That was my next thought re: intergenerational game development – to involve a parent or (perhaps even more interestingly) an octogenarian. One of the themes i’ve been pushing for at TOJam and elsewhere is “Games made by your mom”. That’d be so interesting!

      1. HelenWLee

        My mom is 74 and says “oops” a lot while using her computer. I even heard her curse which she selldom does :D
        But she draws fantastic and loves cats, that´s already half a game right?! Would be fun.

  15. Yoonsin Oh

    I <333 your game! My bf sent me the link of your story and I played it first thing in the morning today. I adore Cassie's drawing, imagination, & voice acting!! everything is so awesome. I learned a new word today. "Ponycorn"! Thanks for you and your daughter's work!

  16. Dave B

    This is about the cutest story I’ve read in a loooong time. Loved the game – Awesome job Cassie! I wish I had the technical chops to do something like this for my kids.

  17. Rafael

    Hi Cassie and Ryan Henson Creighton, congratulations on your site! I am Brazilian and I like games! Work with Designer and sent my link there, my English is bad but it’s impossible to understand lol! big hug and maybe work together. thanks for listening. Rafael

  18. Breakdance McFunkypants

    Hi Ryan,
    Thanks for inspiring me to someday make a game with my son (who at the moment is four months old). This type of family project has been a dream of mine for a really long time and it made my day to see a successful example. I have an invitation for you, please join the google “game devs with kids” group! We’d love to have you on board, though perhaps by now you’ve been invited by others as well.


    Kind regards,
    ChrisK aka Mcfunkypants

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks, Chris! i tried to join the group earlier in the week … everything i click on seems to say DIS GROUP BE LOCKED! J00 NEED TEH APPROVALS! (where do i get teh approvals?)

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  21. jennytablina

    I see copious amounts of certain Ponies, Was Cassie inspired by “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” by any chance? Because I know a community that’ll love to make her a honorary “Brony” ; ). Will forward her wonderful game to the pony community for you <3 Well Done Cassie and Ryan, keep creating!

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks, Jenny. Is FiM a straight-to-DVD My Little Pony movie? My girls are starting to get more into the ponies. i have mixed feelings about it, but as far as body image goes, i prefer them to Barbies … at least ponies have curves and big, healthy butts. They beat Barbie’s bony ass any day.

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      All you need is a willing guy and nine months to wait around twiddling your thumbs.

      1. Ewen

        @lith says:
        “Awesome idea, awesome game, great write-up!

        Now I want a girl to make games with, too! :)”

        @Ryan Henson Creighton:
        “All you need is a willing guy and nine months to wait around twiddling your thumbs.”

        I second that. I want a daughter to make games with too!

  22. Rohit

    It’s a beautiful invention! Cassie is an adorable genius and I hope the younger one walks the same path!

    Lots of love and ponicorns to Cassie,

    New Delhi, India

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks, Rohit! Cassie’s younger sister Izzy is showing some musical talent and a distinct sense of rhythm, so perhaps their skills will complement each other?

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  24. CarryingColoradan

    Oh my gosh, that was adorable!! (h/t to PC Gamer)
    Great pictures of Cassie and your family! Having Dad leave does suck (mine left when I was 10 or 11), but it makes you all the more commendable for building a solid family of your own like it appears you’re doing. God bless you! And thanks for Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure! :^) Here’s another vote for SMPA2!

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks! i think i’d prefer losing a dad earlier than later. Ever see that show “Intervention”? i find it so interesting that almost every addict on that show had parents who divorced when they were kids or in their early teens.

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  26. Ron bright

    This game is shit, needs more gore and better voiceovers . maybe some mature scenes like a unicorn xxx unlockable then it’ll GOTYAY(game of the years all years)

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Let me just say how tickled i am that for once – for ONCE – a gore-free game is getting attention.

  27. Jacob Oller

    Hi Ryan! First off, let me say thanks to you and your daughter for this game. The adorable non sequitur makes it all the better. I’ve included this game in one of my videos, so hopefully this helps you get some more traffic and more donations! Good luck with everything!

  28. recursor

    Played it. Finished it. Loved it! I thought that Sissy’s talking and “excited” animations were great along with the other characters animations. My kids were glued to the screen the whole time I was playing.

  29. argos

    I’m sure you’ve heard this enough already but thanks to both you and Cassie for developing this incredibly wonderful game. I am both a programmer and gamer myself but have never felt this way towards any project or game in my life! Please thank Cassie for reviving my own childhood delight in things – perhaps she’ll understand the sentiment when she’s older. She’s a truly beautiful child and it’s apparent you guys have done an amazing job as a mum and dad. I’m going to donate towards her college/etiquette fund – she has a bright future ahead of her.

    P.S. the voice acting was awesome.

  30. Josh Latondress

    Hey dude,
    Your dedication as a father/family man is really commendable. Family is especially important these days and this kind of story doesn’t make news nearly as often as it should. Tell your daughters they’ve brightened a miserable guy’s day! For what its worth from some college punk: I’m thoroughly impressed. Bravo, sir.

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks, Josh! It’s fine to be a college punk for now, as long as you endeavor to be a good daddy some day. :)

  31. carmel

    when i was a little girl, i remember my dad justifying to my mother time and time again why video games were good for me in that they (i.e. duckhunt, zelda) helped develop hand-eye coordination and problem solving. it wasn’t still i was older when i realized he justified these games so that he too could play them. i’m 24 now and it still upsets me that i had to go to sleep because i had school the next day, yet he could continue playing even though he had work the next day – an argument that i never won. don’t worry, i had my revenge…it urked him to no end too that it would only take me 20 minutes when i got home from school to catch up to him (a feat from an entire night of playing before). a friend told me about sissy’s magical ponycorn adventure, not only did it put a huge smile on my face, i’m sure it will help my dad with his hand-eye coordination and problem solving…and hopefully put a smile on his face too! big big cheers to you and Cassie!

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      My wife’s father was hooked on The Legend of Zelda back in the day, but had to play vicariously through his kids because he lacked the skillz. i’m sure it’s a story that played out in 1986-era living rooms the world over :)

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  34. Clark

    I just sent your daughter 5 canadian dollars now will you please show her how to use chopsticks properly :P peacecake :)

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks, Clark! We’re trying to earn enough money so she can hire someone to use chopsticks FOR her.

      1. Ewen

        When it comes to chopsticks, it just takes practice. DO NOT let her use the tweezer type. (They’re hinged at the end, sorta). Chopsticks isn’t a tweezing action. And she’s lucky now that they’ve got kid-sized one. I remember growing up on the result adult sized ones (which are oversized for kid’s hands). As a result – lots of bad habits that I had to unlearn by watching other adults (mostly non-Asians) learn how to use chopsticks.

  35. Tom from Berlin

    Hey, thumbs up from Germany for this great idea.
    We just made a news about it here: http://www.computerspiele.com/putzig-sissys-magical-ponycorn-adventure.html (this is a gamer blog in Germany)
    Also, my little 16 months old daughter enjoyed your game too, althought she was a bit scared about the loud voice of Cassie :)
    And dont argue about your father. You have a great family and you are making video games – how could things be better?
    Greetz from Berlin

    PS: Oh, I just saw that you are from Canada. So you are one of the good Americans… lol

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      No – Americans are just badly-behaved Canadians. :)

      Cassie’s loud voice terrifies me too. Just be thankful you can turn it off. i can’t.

  36. Kat

    Please let Cassie know that I had a lot of fun playing her game! I especially loved her rainbow illustrations! I hope there will be more ponycorn adventures in the future! ~Kat in Hamilton, Ont :)

  37. Pingback: untoldentertainment.com » Ponycorns Come to Kindergarten

  38. Jorge

    As a professional videogame programmer I must say this game is just wonderfull and amazingly cute, congratulations for you and your family !

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  40. Alethea Lim

    Dear Ryan and Cassie,
    Playing your game brought back vivid memories of the books I would write with my mother as a five-year-old. Out of an A4 sheet of paper, dear mum would fold an 8 page book and I would dictate to her a marvellous story, then illustrate it. (Sadly I did not have the writing genius to include ponycorns)

    It’s true that kids today have many more interesting opportunities open to them than I did a mere 17 years ago. But parents and kids collaborating on stories, working to engage and energise young minds – that’s something that’s always been available to us. I hope one day my kids will have the opportunity to dictate stories to me that I’ll subsequently turn into holographic shows of sound and light ;)

    Thank you for your game!


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