Building a game app, week 2: On learning and “Input”

Choosing what to learn in app development

I worked my way through college at an armored car company.

[You may react/gasp here in this space.]

As part of the job, I screened potential armored car drivers and other employees responsible for cash processing.

As you can imagine, the screening process intended to weed out those who should not have guns, money, and your armored vehicle simultaneously.


I still have my Loomis mini, too. But it lost a wheel.

One of the tools we used to avoid hiring potential hijackers was a personality assessment.  If you haven’t seen one, they generally ask a long list of questions, often the same questions with different wording.  I would score the test, which rated the applicant in areas such as honesty, judgement, and basically to see if they are big liars who are going to take your armored vehicle to Mexico following a bank heist (this was pre-Wall).

I’d be amazed by some of the answers people volunteered.  Yes, of course I’d steal my neighbor’s groceries if he left the garage door open! IT WAS OPEN! (I paraphrase.)

Fast forward years later to my last professional job, where we were not armed, but I underwent, or shall I say took, a personality assessment.  The test has advanced in the past decade, and this one was particularly geared toward maximizing team camaraderie by discovering your inner workings and communicating these to your co-workers. (Mine said: Neurotic! RUN!)

Input: just do it

It was just a few weeks ago, while applying for part-time work, that I discovered how one of my key attributes was directly related to a slight problem.  This attribute? “Input.”



Sounds positive, input. I like input.  That’s not what it means, though. Of course, no one creating these tests for profit wants to leave companies with employees in puddles of tears, so the definition given for this “quality” was not negative, per se.  Like a good social worker, the test compliments us Inputs with our desire to learn and gain new information. How we like to constantly take in knowledge and acquire new skills.  Sounds nice.

As an input, I read past the compliments (unlike those output types, who read the first sentence then start talking).  The fine print basically says that an Input should pair with someone who will actually execute the project.

input app development

I’m on the good side.

Between the lines, the politically correct test is basically saying that an Input maintains a slight state of obsession/compulsion without the diagnosis.  We want to research everything, but spend so much time with said research that it’s difficult to actually launch the danged thing.

It is with this very long-winded caveat that I introduce to you the list of free courses I am taking to prepare myself for the launch of my game app.  What is the game app? More on this in the coming weeks.

Free courses on app development

In order to manage my learning, I decided to prioritize the list of courses I’d signed up for over the past couple of years.  In other words, manage my input.

Therefore, those I’m currently taking are in red (other courses are at the end of this post).

Free app development and gamification courses through EDX

Mobile Application Experiences Part 1: From a Domain to an App Idea (MIT)
Intro to Game Design (MIT)
Java Fundamentals for Android Development (starts now)
Android developer fundamentals (starts in March)

Free Gamification course on Coursera University

Gamification (University of Pennsylvania, Wharton)

I also am Kindle-reading courtesy of the NY Public Library the instructor Kevin Warbach’s book, How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business.  For some reason, the book’s text is about size 5 font on my Kindle. I consider that part of the challenge.

Courses via Webinars/Email

Gamification, 21-day course by Yu-kai Chou
How to make an app (webinar by Bluecloud Solutions)

Other “research”

Have you ever received those annoying messages on Facebook about friends playing Candy Crush or Farmville?

app development candy crush

Candy Crush

My stance was, if a stance could be a half-second reaction: I don’t care who is crushing candy and how talented they are at breaking it into bits.

So I’ve always ignored these hooks. I have no vendetta against candy, and no wish to crush it. Nor do I want to be on/near a farm. However, there is something to this smashing of candy: Candy Crush is one of the most successful “freemium” model of games, and grossed around $493 million in three years (thanks again, Wiki).

So, I began crushing my own candy accompanied by a soundtrack that says, “You are in hell.” My research has also taken me to Sims city, and a free test version of Plants vs. Zombies.  I’m taking notes.

An English major building a game app with an Input problem: one important lesson

This past week, I was struck by the idea that I did not necessarily need to learn code to make an app.  I could actually use  templates to achieve a similar result and hire contract coders to customize. This was a suggestion by Bluecloud Solutions (who also conveniently sell their services to help you launch your app).

Though I plan to go my own route, I do very much appreciate Bluecloud’s breaking up my Input-minded idea to learn absolutely every skill in every role of app development.  NO SKILL LEFT UNTURNED!

There are shortcuts. Coincidentally the same message was just conveyed in a chapter of Charles Duhigg’s excellent book Smarter, Faster, Better.

smarter faster better

Smarter (check) Faster (yep) Better (DONE)

In the chapter, he writes about the creation of West Side Story (my late Nana’s FAVORITE … in fact here she is in later-stage Alzheimer’s dancing to the music while watching West Side Story the year before she died):


Nana dancing to West Side Story. She forgot about most things, but remembered the music. Love this lady.


…and how the original concept for the production was to defy convention by combining ballet, modern dance, song, and gangsters.

Upon shaping the story, however, they realized the importance of also grounding it in the familiar framework of traditional theatrical productions and stories.  Taking the familiar, but adding a unique spin.

So, yeah, a template. In the meantime, I still think it is valuable to learn coding to better understand what’s possible.

Are there any addictive adventure/quest games I should download for my research?  Do you also have an Input problem? Please comment below!

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing tips (and aforementioned failures) from my process of learning to build an app and these courses. Next week:  Key gamification takeaways.

Non-essential reading: Other learning as part of my Input Issue

Statistical Thinking for Data Science and Analytics
Solving Complex Problems
Intro to Project Management
Instructional Design
Intro to Sociology
The Science of Everyday Thinking
Framing: Creating powerful political messages
Learn Spanish and Greek (in process – DuoLingo)
Behavioral Economics (done!)
Inclusive Leadership Training: Becoming a Successful Leader (done!)


Building a game app, week 2: On learning and “Input” — 1 Comment

  1. Nothing to share, but enjoyed reading this! Look forward to reading more as you navigate the app building journey!

    I love the research part too, as long as I don’t have to report back to anyone but myself.

    I also love learning and watching tutorials–especially on creative techniques (photography, video and motion graphic techniques are my favorite to learn).