CodeCombat's "play first, learn later" approach gets kids gaming long before it occurs to them they might want to learn a little programming. Fundamentally a game played by writing code, the site never feels like code school. Instead, the code works like a magical language, where properly formatted incantations animate the on-screen characters. While many educational games have tried to make learning more fun, this is a game in which the real challenge is to make fun more educational. So while the game could use more educational content, the growing CodeCombat community promises to expand resources for teachers and learners. In the meantime, teachers would do well to check out this site to see an educational game done the right way.
CodeCombat would make a great platform for an after-school, game-based code club. Because the game focuses on play, rather than on learning coding, teachers will need to find students motivated by the idea of battling knights and ogres. And because the game emphasizes doing, rather than rote memorization and programming concepts, teachers will need to be prepared to build lessons themselves and help students as they learn how to master the code -- and the game. As players get more advanced, they can learn to create their own levels, offering long-term motivation and development for burgeoning game programmers.