The Best Free Online Resources to Learn Game Development and Gamification

Learn Game Development

Global spending on video games is set to exceed that on movies, and the average 21-year old has racked up 10,000 hours of gaming! The best games and game designers can tap into human psychology in a way that we can all learn something from.

Maybe you’re a gamer curious about the psychology of game design? Perhaps you’re a budding developer wanting to create your own video game, but don’t know where to start. Or even an experienced game developer looking to sharpen your skills?

I’m curating some of the best online courses and resources on game development, gamification and game psychology. The best part? They’re all free! So go ahead and learn something new today!

Edit: I realize that this is by no means an exhaustive list, so I’m looking to update it with newer and better resources. If you know of other awesome free resources, share them in the comments and I’ll add the best ones to the list.

Game Development for Beginners

1. An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python: One of Coursera’s most popular courses, this Rice University offering is perfect for beginners with little or no Computer Science background. In this 8-week course, you will build a different game each week including classics like Pong, Blackjack, and Asteroids

Level: Beginner | Duration: 9 weeks | Next Start Date: September 2014 | Read reviews

2. Beginning Game Programming with C#: Another beginner-level course offered by The University of Colorado. Uses C# which is preferred by some developers using Windows. For a comparison of Python vs. C# for game development, see this thread on GameDev.net

Level: Beginner | Duration: 8 weeks | Next Start Date: To be announced | Read reviews

3. Begin programming: build your first mobile game: This course teaches you to build a basic Android game in Java. Offered by The University of Reading on UK’s FutureLearn platform.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 7 weeks | Next Start Date: To be announced

4. Walker Boys Studio Unity 3D Training: A very comprehensive course that takes you from beginner to developing a 3D game in Unity. The instructors, who have worked at top studios like Ensemble, Firefly, and Terminal Reality, have assembled over 50 hours of content, and have seen over 3.5 million views to date.

Level: Beginner to Advanced | Duration: Self-Paced | Always Available

5. Concepts in Game Development: This very popular somewhat-theoretical short course on Australia’s Open2Study platform is ideal for beginners looking to dip their toes into game development.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 4 weeks | Next Start Date: To be announced

6. Game Programming A to Z: Space Rocks: This course on Udemy teaches beginners to build a game using free and low-cost tools, such as GIMP, Inkscape, Audacity and GameMaker

Level: Beginner | Duration: Self-paced | Always Available

7. Game Development Crash Course with Corona SDK: Create a simple mobile game using Corona — a tool used by many developers to build mobile apps and games for iOS and Android.

Level: Beginner | Duration: Self-Paced | Always Available

8. gamedev.net: A great community of game developers who share useful articles, answer questions on forums, collaborate on hobby projects, and even post job openings. Great resource for anyone who likes learning in a social setting. 

Level: Beginner to Advanced | Duration: Self-Paced | Always Available

Gamification, Game Psychology and Games as Media

9. Gamification: Taught by Wharton professor Kevin Werbach, this is among the earliest and most popular courses on the Coursera Platform. It covers psychological and technological aspects of good game design, and how game design principles can be applied to non-gaming problems.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 10 weeks | Next Start Date: To be announced | Read reviews

10. Gamification Design: This course on Iversity covers how to gamify experiences to make them more interesting. The professor takes gamification seriously — he will reward the best students with a Google Hangout!

Level: Beginner | Duration: 7 weeks | Next Start Date: June 14, 2014 (In session!)

11. Video Games and Learning: This University of Wisconsin-Madison course reviews the kinds of thinking and learning that goes into video games, as they permeate mainstream culture as a source of entertainment.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 6 weeks | Next Start Date: To Be Announced

12. Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative: Tolkien fans — this one’s for you! This 6-week course from Vanderbilt University, designed as an English literature class, covers how stories change as they move across different media (books → movies → games) with Lord Of The Rings as the central example.

Level: Beginner | Duration: 6 weeks | Next Start Date: July 14, 2014

Game Development for Experienced Developers

13. HTML5 Game Development: This intermediate-level Udacity course (prerequisites include knowledge of HTML and Javascript) is taught by two members of Google’s Chrome team. It covers game development techniques and building a high performance HTML5 application.

Level: Intermediate | Duration: Self-Paced | Next Start Date: Always On

14. General Game Playing: A theoretical mathematics / artificial intelligence course from Stanford about General Game Players, i.e. computer systems that are intelligent enough to play games whose rules they only find out when the game starts (different from say, Deep Blue, which was pre-programmed to play chess). This course requires familiarity with Symbolic Logic and ability to read code.

Level: Advanced | Duration: 8 weeks | Next Start Date: March 31, 2014

15. Game Development Fundamentals with Python: According to the reviews, this Udemy course (taken by over 12,000 students) is good for people with some prior Python programming experience.

Level: Intermediate | Duration: Self-Paced | Always Available

16. Unity3D Environmental Series: Learn to sculpt realistic looking terrain (e.g. snowy mountains) in Unity 3D using this video series.

Level: Intermediate | Duration: Self-Paced | Always Available

Game Art and Design

17. Vertex (e-book on game art): Very comprehensive resource on game art with two 300-page free PDF’s, filled with tips, tricks, and techniques from across the industry. We found this from a hat tip on Reddit.

Level: Intermediate | Duration: Self-Paced | Always Available

18. Game Design Fundamentals: A YouTube talk on game from MIT’s gaming lab.

Level: Beginner | Duration: Self-Paced | Always Available

And finally, here’s your reward for reading this far (gamification FTW!): an awesome TED Talk by game designer and author Jane McGonigal on how gaming can make the world a better place! 

Have you taken any of these courses (or others that you found useful)? Tell us what you think of them in the comments below!

Want to learn something new this year? Whether it’s web development or playing the guitar, you can find a course on SlideRule!

 

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About Gautam Tambay

Gautam co-founded SlideRule with a mission to organize online educational resources and make it easy for people to gain real world skills. In addition to being an avid learner, Gautam is an adventure seeker and loves to travel.