Dan Thomas is an avid gamer. He was a nationally ranked “Pokemon” competitor and plays the Nintendo game “Smash Bros.” at a semi-professional level. By day, Thomas is an instructor at Einstein’s Workshop in Lexington, which uses technology to teach mathematics and science skills to children. Thomas uses fun tools such as Lego and “Minecraft,” which help kids with problem-solving skills and critical thinking.
“Minecraft” for kids has been both dissed and praised. What are your thoughts, as a “Minecraft” instructor?
“Minecraft” is an open-ended game where players can roam freely or complete missions, depending on their choice. Many parents are skeptical of “Minecraft” and trying to understand it, but it’s not a vicious or violent game. At the core, it’s all about building and exploring a massively digital world.
If a novice wants to start playing video games, on an iPhone or a computer, how would you suggest they start?
First, familiarize yourself with the different types of games out there: strategy, shooters, MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena), and puzzles are just a few of the popular ones. If you can identify what sort of game you like, it opens up the door to that entire genre. My girlfriend isn’t exceptionally dexterous or interested in games, for example, but I know she likes solving puzzles and thinking through riddles. I’ve tried to get her to explore slower-paced puzzle games that she can take her time with.
Is it easy to create your own video game?
Making your first game isn’t actually too hard these days. There are plenty of tools out there that don’t require programming knowledge. Construct 2 is probably one of my favorite beginner’s tools. There’s a ton you can do with the free version — yet still have depth. I’d absolutely recommend Unity, as well.
It’s being used by more and more larger game studios, and it’s probably the fan favorite for hobbyists. The documentation on it is phenomenal, and video tutorials are everywhere for it. I’ve used it for about five years now, and it’s still my favorite. For people who are looking for more-advanced tools, Unreal Engine 4 is also great. It’s wildly powerful and has a ton of stuff out of the box to work with.
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