Brooklyn designer’s board game, Code Monkey Island, teaches programming basics

code monkey island
Raj Sidhu plays Code Monkey Island, a board game he created to help kids learn how to code.
Credit: Aaron Adler/Metro

Kids can’t just monkey around with this board game.

Code Monkey Island, developed by Brooklyn-based designer Raj Sidhu, helps teach children 8 and older basic programing concepts, from control and data structures to Boolean logic.

“Everything is starting to become reliant on some form of software,” the 23-year-old Williamsburg resident said. “Being able to manipulate the world around you and understanding how the tools that you’re using work is just as important as reading and writing and basic math skills.”

Hoping to make programming “child’s play” for the next generation, Sidhu launched a Kickstarter campaign on Wednesday to crowdfund the initial manufacturing of Code Monkey Island.

The game is straightforward: Players move a tribe of monkeys around an island using two types of cards with conditional statements, such as “For each monkey NOT on a rock, move 3 spaces.”

code monkey island 1
In Code Monkey Island, players use cards with conditional phrases to move a tribe of monkeys around an island.
Credit: Aaron Adler/Metro

“It’s a fairly simple concept for us to grasp, but for children it’s a pretty important logical hurdle to leap,” Sidhu said. Boolean logic — essentially, determining whether something is true or false — is incredibly important for programmers, he said.

Sidhu, who works at New York startup Quirky, learned how to code in college. But long, academic lectures on logical theories were far from stimulating.

“I wanted to turn that on its head and present that in a language that even kids could understand,” he said.

Unlike computer programs and apps that teach programming concepts, Sidhu said a board game is more hands-on.

“It’s a great way to get parents involved with that learning process and encourage kids to keep going as a result,” he said.

code monkey island
Elementary school students play Code Monkey Island last month.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Raj Sidhu

Sidhu began developing the game in January and has already put together a Code Monkey Island prototype, complete with hand-painted monkey pieces made with a 3-D printer.

A representative at WinGo Games said the company is willing to manufacture Code Monkey Island once enough funds are raised. Through the Kickstarter campaign, Sidhu aims to have 1,000 games made. 

After playing Code Monkey Island with his adult friends, Sidhu reached out to the principal at Little Red School House in Greenwich Village. A handful of elementary students at the school played the game in April.

In a video on the game’s Kickstarter, the children are seen grinning as they play cards to get their monkeys around the island and into the banana grove. One boy tells Sidhu he would buy the “awesome” game.

“It’s much different when a kid is playing it,” Sidhu said. “They have a lot more thoughts.”

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders


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