A common stigma against video games is that they dull the mind. But what if players are able to make their own video games? That would show serious brainpower and dedication.
With the Infinite Arcade app from Tinybop, kids expand their creativity and problem solving skills by designing and creating their own video games. It’s the fourth in app in their Digital Toys series which includes the iPad App of the Year, The Robot Factory.
Let’s Make a Game
There are two ways to make a game in the Infinite Arcade: from a template or from scratch. Using a template can save you a lot of time if you’re planning to make something classic like a platformer game or a pinball game, but a blank canvas gives you more freedom to create whatever you want. If you’re new to the game, I suggest starting with a template.
Once you’ve selected your template, you can start building your game. Add terrain blocks, coins, obstacles, enemies, and more. Enlarge or shrink the game, and control gravity. Decide how many lives the player will have.
You can also add a character to your game. There are seven unique characters to choose from, each with their own abilities. For example, the rocket monster is always on the move while the green monster likes to chomp through things. Another interesting tidbit is that you can customize the ninja’s colors and appearance, and create a new ball-like monster using your own photo.
In Infinite Arcade, you can add narrative elements, such as signs and thought bubbles, into your game. Attach all kinds of sound effects, from laughs to cheers to farts, to whichever element you want. You can also write a message for the end of the game: hooray if you’re a winner, try again if you lose.
Once you’re happy with how your game looks, you can take it for a spin by pressing the play button on the top right. Is your game too easy or too hard? You can go back anytime to make adjustments. All your games will be automatically saved in the showroom.
Update: As of v1.1.1, you can now share your games with friends, and discover and play others’ games in the Hall of Games. The update also brings new enemies, characters, terrains, and three new worlds: the Arctic, a city, and outer space.
Parents Need to Know
Like other apps by Tinybop, Infinite Arcade encourages open-ended creativity. It has no rules, so you can build things as simple or as complex as you want. Curiosity is highly encouraged and even rewarded with products that you can play.
If you’re starting out in the app, you can check out the Infinite Arcade Technical Manual in your app or download it from the developer’s site for hints and tips about what you can build and play with. The manual is available in several languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.
The Infinite Arcade runs a multi-user system: each player gets their own avatar and gallery to showcase their creations. It doesn’t require an Internet connection, and has no third-party advertising and no in-app purchases.
Things I Like
Billed as video game construction kit, Infinite Arcade provides a great exercise in programming. You not only get to design and build your game, but also play test it. If something doesn’t work, you troubleshoot it and make necessary fixes. The entire process has been designed to encourage programmatic thinking, while having enough room for creativity and imagination.
Just like a science experiment kit or an engineering toy, there’s a learning curve to get your first game fully set up and working. There is a manual, but trial-and-error is your best friend. This is an app that would be excellent for curious children because there’s just so much to discover and tinker with.
As ever with apps like these, I highly recommend accompanying your child while playing. Obviously you can help them with technical issues, but what’s more important is using the opportunity to discuss bigger things such as the idea behind their game. Who knows, you might just learn a new thing or two about their thought and design process.
If you’re new to building apps like this, my other suggestion is to start small. It might be tempting to create big boards from the get go, but it’s better to minimize complexity until you’ve figured out what each element does. Remember that you can always come back later and expand on your work, so just relax and have fun.
If you like smart toys, you’d love The Infinite Arcade. It’s actually an exercise in problem solving and creativity, but disguised as a Minecraft-like builder game that many kids will be familiar with. There’s also an opportunity for storytelling as kids add words and thought bubbles to their game. Overall, it’s great fun for all ages.
App was provided for our honest review.
Tinybop, Inc. is a Brooklyn-based studio of designers, engineers, and artists. They make toys for tomorrow.
Check out their other apps:
The Everything Machine lets you access the hardware and sensors on your device so you can create machines that do anything you can think of. This sophisticated app encourages creative thinking, and introduces kids to programming and circuitry. It’s a child-friendly app, yet at the same time complex enough for grown-ups to enjoy.