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Thoughts on the violence


I teach a technology class for grades 6 - 8 at my daughter’s school. Every student at the school takes my class, which to date has been pretty much just using Scratch. 80% of the children want to dive right into creating some kind of combat game where things shoot and get blown up. I get it, that was what I wanted to do when I was their age. I think it is important to be inclusive in an environment where a class is mandatory for all, so I always include game assignments around less killing-oriented options like racing games and platformers. 80% of them build some kind of ninja vs. SWAT team battle with an extraordinary focus on complex animated explosions, but the other 20% do some really cool things too that tell stories or solve puzzles with no death required.

What are your thoughts on the focus on “slay the bad guy” in Code Combat and accessibility to all learners? Personally I love what you are doing including the whole fantasy combat thing. The visual style is not gruesome or offensive in any way, other than the fact is you progress through the game by killing. I would like to think I could use it as a fun bridge towards a goal of teaching basic web development with Coffeescript (or just plan javascript), but I worry about how great it is going to be for someone who finds the idea of killing abhorrent.

Is it better to have a design focus on something that you can make really great (combat), even if that alienates 20% of your potential audience? Is the alternative a kind of milquetoast watered down experience that is totally politically correct and boring? Or is there a way to design the levels with a death-free path available to achieve the same learning objectives?


It’s certainly an interesting point you’re making! When I was that age I remember learning to play chess and it never occurred to me that it’s a war game where the pieces die happily for their king. To me code combat feels the same, figuring out how to reach the next level takes all my attention and if I would want to see things blowing up, even at that age, I would know where to get access to the next iPod touch or daddys iPad or the remote to the family tv.
So I think it’s fine if kids are interested in combat games, but if some are not ready for that, they shouldn’t have to feel excluded by doing alternative things. I’m sure it can be challenging to unite all the kids’ needs.


Good points! It’s certainly possible to make non-violence-focused levels and campaigns for beginners (and non-beginners). Resource acquisition levels, mazes, creative building scenarios, physics challenges, math problems, art canvases, and other puzzles are all possible, and there is a team of students making a campaign aimed at elementary students which has, I think, either no violence or very little.

We have been building combat-oriented levels because that’s what we like, but there are many more levels yet to be built, and we’ll just have to see what the eventual main beginner campaign ends up looking like. We’ll be happy to build other kinds of campaigns and to keep improving the level editor to allow others to do the same.


In time I’d like to develop some peace-keeper levels, where you have the choice between fighting, or recruiting peacekeepers, who’s ‘attack’ is to switch the allegiance of the other unit.

A campaign could be built around this where there are consequences for how many you kill, or how many villagers you don’t save, or even a third team who dislikes your team and team 2, and dislikes you more if you have more units from team 2.


There is already a neutral team.