What started as a kernel of an idea scribbled into my notes over two years ago has become Bits & Bytes.
I remember the driving force for the idea being that my oldest was in reception (age 4-5) and I was convinced he could start developing the mindset needed for computer coding without using a computer and indeed without even knowing how to write.
My priorities for the idea of the game was two fold – it had to appeal to a diverse audience and, secondly, it had to encourage creativity.
The next step was establishing the best format for the game. I contemplated creating it as a board game, even as an application on a tablet device, but eventually decided on a card game. Why a card game? Living in London (in fact, living anywhere with children) space is a luxury. The boys rooms were already littered with board games, lego and other toys so I decided I wanted Bits & Bytes to be compact – small enough to be able to take on holidays. Further, I felt a board game places boundaries on a child’s creativity and that a card game was much more flexible.
Thus I now had the idea and I had the format. The next step was the design. Bearing in mind one of my priorities for Bits & Bytes is for it to appeal to a diverse audience the design needed to reflect this.
By this stage I had volunteered to teach coding to the years 5 and 6 at the local primary school and this allowed me to see first hand what children were reading, how they were interacting, their level of capability and more. The most striking fact that stood out for me is that we, as parents, think our children are experts on computers. We see the way they use tablets and computers but the reality is that children know how to operate a computer but they don’t understand how it works. In effect the computer has been “dumbed down” for them. And as most parents would know the way computers operate has changed drastically in the last 30 years and it shows no signs of slowing down in the future. If things continue as they are then in 30 years time our children will be watching their children and commenting on how good they are with computers.
Over the last 12 months Bits & Bytes has gone through several incarnations and a few of those were printed out for testing (I’ve gone through lots of print cartridges) until settling upon a design. Ten decks of “demonstration” cards were produced of this design and duly handed over to a primary school for thorough testing within all year groups at the school (from reception through to year 6).
The next big test was going away on a camping holiday with friends and their two boys. It was originally an opportunity to test the game’s portability but, after the continual downpour of rain that lasted the three days we were camping, it became our saviour. Being confined to a tent could have been a disaster but the children played Bits & Bytes for hours, continually reinventing the rules but still being true to the essence of the game.
After this came the preparation for the upcoming crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo. There were children to film using the game (permission from parents to be sought), a website to build, social media presence to establish, meeting with manufacturers and printers, and much more. I also found a talented new graphic artist, Brett Newman, to redesign all the characters in the game (this work is still underway but will be complete in the next few weeks). And that brings us to here, the imminent launch of the crowd funding campaign.
I’m still finalising the strategy for the launch (on Tuesday 26th August) and there has been a few other unexpected hurdles. For example, Indiegogo decided to unexpectedly change their setup process, which necessitated me having to spend time changing the campaign after I thought it was ready to go. But despite the last minute hurdles everything is coming together, all that remains is for me to press the button, cross my fingers and watch the campaign go live.
Thanks to everybody who has helped so far and for the kind words – it is much appreciated.