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

  1. Pingback: Game by a 5 year old | Learning Interactive Media

    1. Gareth

      Yes, friggin’ is a bad word. It comes from the verb frig, an expletive for masturbate. It is commonly misused as a less severe replacement for f-cking. Either way, the general use of the word in a game designed for children is HIGHLY inappropriate. It also, should bear no place in the vocabulary of a child. A shame, as I’m sure my daughter would have loved playing this game, but I cannot let her play for the fear of masturbating ponycorns. Maybe someone should alert child services!

      Reply
      1. Ryan Henson Creighton

        Not sure where you got the masturbation etymology … everything i’ve looked at has turned up “fucking”, with a possible German root meaning “to hit” that’s used to describe aggressive copulation (although these days, variations of “fuck” form every possible part of speech – even the almighty F-word has lost a considerable amount of sting in the past 20 years.)

        From the Wikipedia article on “minced oaths”:

        Acceptability

        Although minced oaths are not as strong as the expressions from which they derive, some still find them offensive. One writer in 1550 considered “idle oaths” like “by cocke” (by God), “by the cross of the mouse foot”, and “by Saint Chicken” to be “most abominable blasphemy”.[13] The minced oaths “‘sblood” and “zounds” were omitted from the Folio edition of Shakespeare’s play Othello, probably due to Puritan-influenced censorship.[14] In 1941 a U.S. federal judge threatened a lawyer with contempt of court for using the word “darn”.[15] Zounds may sound amusing and archaic to the modern ear,[16] yet as late as 1984 the columnist James J. Kilpatrick recalled that “some years ago”, after using it in print, he had received complaints that it was blasphemous because of its origin as “God’s wounds”.[17] (He had written an article entitled “Zounds! Is Reagan mad” in the Herald-Journal for 12 June 1973,[18] and also used “zounds” on 11 June 1970.[19])

        i guess i’m just going to have to accept the fact that by using friggin’ in the game, i’ve lost the audience with Puritan and 1550-era sensibilities. You can’t please everyone.

        Reply
  2. Pingback: Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure is a Magical Adventure with Ponycorns | Gay News from Gay Agenda - GayAgenda.com

  3. Omar S

    I just want to say you seem like a great father who loves his daughter very much and i wish you and your family all the success in the world because the world really needs more love and you seem to be doing your part, keep it up!

    Reply
  4. Luke

    My 17m old loved screaming along when Sissy did. We both had a ton of fun playing it… and I can’t wait til she is old enough to start creating!

    Reply
  5. Pingback: “Sissy’s Magic Ponycorn Adventure”: The Videogame Made By A Toronto 5-Year-Old « Movie City News

  6. Ewen

    She looks absolutely, adorably devilish with those eyes. LOL. But very cute. And you can probably just pick up a book on etiquette and then teach her out of that. (I forget the name of the book that I was ultimately taught out of, but I think that it was published in the 60s). Try looking up “Miss Manners” or “Mrs. van Uppity”. Or Emily Post.

    Reply
  7. Pingback: 5-Year-Old Video Game Designer Friggin’ Loves Ponycorns, Daily Wonder - How To Pedia

  8. Pingback: Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure | Lega Nerd

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  10. Sslaxx

    UGAGS? Any chance of releasing this publically?

    And this is wonderful. Kudos for getting your children involved like this in creating games!

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks, Sslaxx! Due to popular demand, we’re seriously considering preparing UGAGS for a commercial release. It’s not yet ready for prime time at the moment.

      Reply
  11. One-Glitch

    Great project Cassie and Dad!! The other responders about “frigging” are right. NOT a word for a 5 year old to be using. Check it out in a dictionary. Sadly it means I can’t promote it in schools which I would love to do. Yeah I know you’ll hear that word in the halls every day BUT that doesn’t mean teachers can use it or use games with that in it as role models. Any chance of getting rid of that one word so others can enjoy the game too?

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      “Darn” is a euphemism for “damn”, which is short for “damn him to Hell”, which was perfectly scandalous a few hundred years ago. “Sheesh” and “geez” are euphemisms for “Jesus”, but i wonder how many angry letters the Jim Henson Company gets about Kermit’s trademark use of “sheesh”? “Golly” and “gosh” are euphemisms for “God”. Using the Lord’s name in vain was a huge no-no even a few decades ago. “Goldarn” and “doggone” are euphemism for “Goddamned”. “Mofo” is an abbreviation for “mother-fucking”.

      And yes, “friggin'” and “freakin'” are euphemisms for “fuckin'”. But, like these other words, they’re NOT “fuckin'”. That’s the whole point of using a euphemism … you’re not using the actual word. And in this case, the euphemism itself has lost so much of its bite, that for people my age and younger, it has about as much sting as “darn”.

      A few years back at my church, we ran an American Idol-style competition. Some of the older folks in the church implored us to change the name of the event, because hey – thumb through the Bible some time. Idolatry is a sin.

      You can’t please everyone.

      Reply
  12. Anna

    As a young girl I was totally obsessed with unicorns and My Little Ponies at the same age as Cassie (I had an actual MIP stable for my ponies). I also loved computer games. I can only imagine how much fun I would have had making my own games at that age!

    My father had a very busy job with lots of travel, so he couldn’t spend much time with us kids. But when he did, he would sit down and play my favorite games with me. I still have the graph paper he used to map out the desert in King’s Quest V, and match clues and suspects in Carmen Sandiego. It’s only now that I can see how times like those are priceless: they showed me that I mattered and that the things I loved mattered, and gave me confidence to pursue my own path in life. You can’t overestimate the wonderful things your children are learning because you encourage their creativity and spend time with them. I don’t have children, but as someone’s daughter I can say I would have loved to have you as a dad. :)

    Reply
  13. Angela

    I don’t see friggin’ being a big deal. On the cartoon show Adventure Time with Finn and Jake, Princess Bubblegum said “Finn you better not break your frickin’ promise.” And there’s been a lot worse than that. They’ve also said things like “Crotch punch” and yet, the show’s still on the air. I’ve also heard the term “Crotch” on Regular Show. There was one episode where one of the main characters saw the elderly grandfather character nude, and then said to his friend that he saw “the old man’s junk” or something similar.

    People need to grow up, this isn’t the 1950’s anymore.

    I came across this game on Twitter, and it’s now my favorite game ever. I’ve played it at least three times in a row. The evil lemon is my favorite character, because, of course, all lemons are evil. Even Spongebob knows lemons are evil. “Every Villain Is Lemons”

    Reply
  14. Scott Traylor

    I loved reading Cassie’s adventures going to TOJam. Thanks for sharing. I brought my son to a game and kids software development conference in Monterey, CA recently called AppCamp. He’s a bit older than Cassie, but I was nervous for many of the same reasons you were. He did really great, wanted to stay at the conference into the wee hours of the morning (I had to leave to write my presentation, so it’s lights out for you buddy!). He met so many big names in the game development world and they treated him like gold, answering every question he asked. We also heard some amazing stories about other game developers in the world that I may never have heard without him being there with me. I think this was maybe the best education I could give him and totally worth taking him out of school for two days. I highly recommend all parents consider doing this, just check in with the show organizers ahead of time. Some events are willing to give it a try more than others. I can’t wait to see Cassie’s game up in the Top 10!

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks for the story, Scott! A cursory cruise through your blog tells me that i need to read your stuff – ALL THE TIME. Kermit, Pee Wee, and a condemnation of sugar cereal ads, all on the front page? i’m sold.

      Reply
  15. Pingback: Father creates adventure game with daughter, is unbearably adorable | Gadgets Magazine Philippines

  16. Pingback: Interview – Ryan Creighton @ Untold Entertainment << Gaming Irresponsibly » Gaming Irresponsibly

  17. Pingback: Ponies + Unicorns = Ponycorns. Genius! | Launchpad Toys

  18. Desanera

    Hi Ryan and Cassie!

    I friggin love this game. Its so nice when I just want to take my brain away from work for a little while, but don’t want to do anything too difficult, and just want something to brighten my day. This game just makes me giggle. I don’t generally do ‘cute’, but since Sissy turns evil dinosaurs into mice, that makes her awesome! Awww yeah! I’d love to see more from the two of you – I want to know what the pink ponycorn’s name is supposed to be other than inaudible, and I may just have to get the “I am an evil lemon” tshirt, but may have to paint on the back: “That’s what you get for being evil – AND a lemon!”. But the game is full of soooo many good quotes, it’s very hard to pick favorites :)

    Love and ponycorns to Cassie,
    Des (from the concrete jungle of NYC)

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks, Des! We’re really glad you like the game. There’s lots more to come from Untold Entertainment, including a few titles to suit your dark NYC sensibilities. If you get an evil lemon shirt, be sure to join the League of Lemony Evil … send us a picture of yourself wearing the shirt and doing something evil (wearing socks with sandals, having a cell phone conversation in the elevator, eating ice cream for dinner … that type of thing).

      – Ryan

      Reply
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  25. Rox

    what an awesome Dad ! what an awesome kid ! what an awesome family ! I learned about the game via my dd so glad she sent me . as for having your kid there , it is educational , we are homeschoolers and what you gave your dd is a huge chunck of knowledge and inspiring indiviualism she may not have gotten from a teacher at school who has 30 kids . great job Cassie ;-)

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks, Rox! Do you do any programming or video game stuff at home school? i advocate teaching computer programming to kids at a very young age … it’s a GREAT way to learn logic, math, structure, and creative problem-solving in a crazy/fun way.

      Reply
  26. Pingback: Una niña de 5 años crea un videojuego

  27. anna

    hi Cassie and Ryan!!! i just played the game last night, and i couldn’t stand how adorable it was so i played it again. i wanted to play it and play it and play it, and KEEP playing it, but i had to go to bed. i’m in fifth grade and i’m ten. i luv this friggin’ site/game!!! PONYCORNS!!!!! my favorite is Poo-pants. i like green. i really wanna buy Poo-pants, (for myself) Lady Fuzzwuzzle, (for my 4-year-old sis) and OrangeBoy (for my 8-year-old bro), but i don’t have that much money. and to let you and Cassie know, i was thinking you could make a sequel to Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure. it would be with Sissy, and while she was going on a picnic one day, there could be the evil lemon, only this time he could be a magic evil lemon wizard! then, he could steal the ponycorns, and Sissy would have to find the lemon and beat him up and save the ponycorns. then, Sissy would see that he had stolen a ponycorn that Sissy hadn’t gotten and had never seen before. it would be a special ponycorn with wings and special magical powers!!!! have fun Cassie and Ryan!!!! (^.^)

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Hi, Anna! We’re glad you like the ponycorns game. Thanks so much!

      That’s a great idea for a sequel. Do you make video games? Do you want to? We’re going to build a website to help you and other kids do that. Please let us know if you think this is a good idea.

      – Ryan (for Cassie)

      Reply
  28. Pingback: Ep.136 – “Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure” with Ryan and Cassie Creighton of Untold Entertainment | Bulletproof Pixel

  29. Pingback: Sweet Corn « If Wishes Were Ponies

  30. Ted Hobgood

    Bought the iPad game, bought the buttons. Just love, Love, LOVE Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure. Cassie, you rock! Hoping for a Ponycorn Adventure: Game of the Year addition come Christmas. (Because hey, who is going to argue that this ISN’T the game of the year, and perhaps all time?)

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I’m sharing it with everyone I know. (But they have to buy their own ponycorn buttons! These are MINE!)

    -Ted

    Reply
  31. Athena

    I wouldn’t worry about the comments about friggen’. Some people need to come to terms with what century they’re in.

    Anyways, I think this is super cute! I’m going to college for programming right now, a senior actually, and literally the only female in any course I’m in. It’s great to see you taking your daughter under your wing and showing her what great fun it can be to create a game. :D

    Reply
  32. cleo

    hello! im cleo and im 10. i think i know anna who posted the comment… maybe not though. anyways, when my dad told me abut this site i was lke, “oh, cool!” bt this is more than cool. this is like over the top AWESOMEFULL!!!!!! Go Cassie! rock on! go pony corns! rock on! but not evil lemons. they’re so bad, they’re evil AND lemons!!! adorable! and dont take in any bad comments aboutthe use of tehe word “friggin” even if theres some possible way th@ its a bad word, u didnt think so and nobody told u th@. i loooooove the game and tell cassie 2 keep being creative as long as th@ little angel can. (sorry if th@ sounded a little creepy) o! and i botheed 2 learn ur name, ryan! go ponycorns (again) k bi!

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thx cleo!! i’ll def pass that all on to Cassie. She’s feeling sick right now, so th@’ll be a nice pick-me-up for her.

      Reply
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  34. Momeeof4

    I love this game. I giggled so much I about dropped my mini-laptop. My 7 and 5 year old are going to be fighting over it to play this game. My 7 year old is as big a gamer geek as I am (well, not literally but definitely proportioned to her age) and I think she would love to make a game. I’ll be checking back to see if that site where kids can make their own games is up. Rock on Cassie and Ryan!

    Reply
  35. David

    Wow, I couldn’t believe it. She’s sure is a bright kid. Although I don’t envied you that much because I have my son too who’s is brilliant but the thing is that she had made a video game which I couldn’t do myself.I hope you continue supporting her. Keep rocking on Cassie!

    Reply
  36. Pingback: Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure | Games I Made My Girlfriend Play

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