There are plenty of ways to learn to code: taking classes, studying books, and working through online tutorials.
“Being a fellow nerd who definitely did play a bunch of Chrono Trigger and other classics of the 16-bit era, the metaphor of a role-playing game where you could kind of level up at your own pace seemed like a useful thing to build upon for training,” says Kevin Whinnery, the game’s creator and head of the TwilioQuest team.
Now Twilio is rolling out version 3.2 of the game, which is free for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. The new version boasts improved graphics courtesy of pixel artist Kerrie Lake, as well as a new level where players can learn to use the application programming interfaces that let their code talk to cloud systems such as that offered by Twilio. That level, called The Arcane Academy of API Arts, takes some inspiration from fantasy magic schools in series like Harry Potter, The Magicians, and Earthsea, but the focus is naturally on writing code, not spells, to harness the power of existing online resources.
“Developers get to stand on the shoulders of giants now,” says Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson.
“There are a lot of coders out there and a lot of people that are interested in coding,” says Arthur Tham, a game designer and recent college grad who works on TwilioQuest after working with Twilio as a student.
The game is used in some schools, from the middle school to university level, as a fun way to teach coding skills, and some students used it as a fun way to study while kept home during the pandemic. The company estimates that student sessions on TwilioQuest more than doubled during the past year.
But some active users are also working professionals looking to add new programming languages to their repertoires, occasionally leading to teasing from coworkers or pointed questions from bosses when they’re seemingly playing games in the office.
TwilioQuest’s popularity is naturally beneficial for Twilio–which provides a platform for programmers to automate tasks like dispatching texts, emails, and phone calls– as developers familiarize themselves with using such systems. And the game’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek storyline captures the spirit of internet upstarts challenging incumbent players, while spreading through word of mouth and helping to woo up-and-coming developers like Tham.
“The power of code is so potent, it has attracted the attention of those who seek to greedily expand and jealously defend their own power,” reads a plot summary on the Twilio site. “A shadowy organization, known only as the Legacy Systems, plans to exploit their hoarded wealth and privilege in a sinister plot to dominate the free people of The Cloud.”
But the company says the game—which ultimately is produced by a lean team of no more than six people—also furthers its mission of empowering developers.
“Our mission is to unlock the imagination of builders,” Lawson says.