” I could see my mom’s face. She was glaring at me with her firm, dark blue eyes. She didn’t seem too excited to see what I was up to — computer coding.”
Mom knocks on my bedroom door. I freeze. My hands are hovering above the keyboard. I look over at my bedroom door. It slowly starts to open. I could see my mom’s face. She was glaring at me with her firm, dark blue eyes. She didn’t seem too excited to see what I was up to — computer coding.
Mom rolls her eyes. “Can you do anything else?”
“I’m just finishing up.”
“Okay, because I want you to do some other stuff too.”
I nod vigorously.
“Finish up in about ten minutes. Then do something like basketball.”
I nod again.
I’m a little bit disappointed. I just started coding ten minutes ago, and now I have to turn it off. But anyway, I wasn’t working on anything.
But still, how come she doesn’t appreciate coding? I wondered. Maybe it might be too much screen time that she doesn’t like. She put me in a melancholy mood. Maybe if I do something great with coding, will make her think it is worth my time.
I open a new window and think about something that will change mom’s perspective on coding. I think for a long while.
After about three minutes, the idea comes to me! A contest, on coding! Maybe if I got a prize, I would impress mom enough that she would recognize my talents! I search Contests within New York. Baking contest, drawing contest, costume contest. Wow, I didn’t know that contests were so abundant in New York.
I scroll to the bottom of the list before I finally find what I want:
Coding contest 7/15/15
145 Drake Hill Dr.
Make a fun, addictive game to get on the featured list on scratch! Entries due by 7/11/15
If I get on the featured list, mom will realize my talent! I think. I could almost see my game on the featured list and mom seeing that coding was the talent God gave me.
About a year and a half ago, my computer teacher, Ms. Wilson, started an end-of-year session on coding. I thought everything was amazing: the fact that code went in cars, computers, and phones. So I tried it out, and it was really fun. When you did something right, you would see it all work smoothly and gracefully on a screen. It was so fun that I decided to practice it at home. Dad was just as fascinated by coding as I was. But mom frowned; she wasn’t fascinated. She was almost upset that coding seemed to be the talent I was born with, but I never knew why. Perhaps, she thought it wasn’t healthy, but she decided that I could continue with it anyway.
But now, I have to prove to mom that coding is a great talent and is a great learning experience too. Because mom will never let me enter a contest about something related to computers, I have to enter secretly.
Then I realize something. My best friend Dan might want to enter the contest too. He also loves coding. I give him a quick call. “Hey Dan.”
“I found a contest on coding, and–”
“I think I might have entered the contest already. Which one is it?”
“The one on Drake Hill.”
“Well then, I did enter that contest. I finished my entry.”
“Oh, okay then, see you there.”
I have to hurry and start my entry, because I found this contest a couple days late.
After two days, I’m almost done with my entry, a game called Clutterfunk.
Kyle, my brother, is coming in to my room to watch me code. But this time I don’t want him around. He has to wait until I have finished CLUTTERFUNK completely before he can see it.
“Shoo Kyle, I don’t want you in here,” I try to say nicely.
“Why not?” Kyle asks in reply.
I grumble, then mutter, “‘cause I don’t.”
Kyle whispers something under his breath, so I can’t hear him.
Kyle runs off and tells mom, and then mom comes up to my room to tell me that Kyle can watch me. So I argue, “But mom, I can’t focus on my work with someone breathing on my shoulder.”
“But Kyle says that you were being mean to him and that he just wants to see your game.”
“I want Kyle to see it when it’s finished!” I yell.
Mom crossed her arms. “Jimmy! Do not talk back to me like that!”
“This is my computer. I bought it myself, so I get to choose who sees it!”
“Jimmy, your father paid for that laptop, not you,” mom says angrily. Kyle whispers something in mom’s ear. Now mom looks mistaken. (Kyle must’ve told mom that I actually did pay for the laptop.)
“Mom, please just leave me alone so that I can finish my game for the contest,” I say.
“What contest?” Mom says.
“I entered a contest… with Dan, and it’s in a three days. And it’s for coding,” I stammer.
“You can not enter any contests without asking ME first!!” Mom’s cheeks are flaring and her face is turning red. Her fists are clenched tightly and firmly. “This is a warning Jimmy, if I catch you entering any type of contest again, no coding for a month.”
You’re gonna have to be more strict than that. I have a lock on my door and I only code once a week.
“So I can enter my game into the contest?” I ask. If I can’t enter this contest, nobody will recognize me. I will pass up my chance to get onto the FEATURED LIST–the place where people have their projects on the homepage so that everyone will see them. And also the chance to get mom’s approval of coding.
“No you are not in the contest anymore, Jimmy,” mom replies in a quiet, yet still strong kind of voice. Mom, the contest is my big opportunity, I say to myself as she and Kyle leave the room.
I finally get a chance to work on my entry. I add some ghost and pixelate effects to my title screen and add my logo to the bottom right corner.
Now for the music, I’m using the song Clutterfunk for my game (hence the name of the game). But one catch is, I deleted my Java connection to a website that makes recording easy, so I have to record it from youtube and on speaker, which picks up noises for miles around.
I bring up Clutterfunk from Youtube and record it. Luckily, everything around the speaker’s pickup range is absolutely silent. And so I think that the recording is gonna be amazing. The song Clutterfunk is four minutes and fourteen seconds long.
I am three-and-a-half minutes through the song when Kyle opens my unbearable, creaky door and ruins the whole recording! I stop the recording and look at Kyle. I give him my best icy stare.
“What are you doing in here?!” I grumble with annoyance. “You ruined my perfect recording! I also told you that I didn’t want you in here! Don’t you have any respect for people’s privacy?!”
Kyle’s shoulders are drooping, and he starts to frown. “I…I just want to see the game,” Kyle whimpers. I do think that I overreacted a little, after all, he didn’t know I was recording music. So I decide to make it up to him.
“You know what Kyle? Come back in about 10 minutes, and the game’ll be done.”
Kyle perks up. Now he isn’t upset, which is good. He practically jumps out of the room.
In the next 10 minutes, I work silently and efficiently and complete my game in a matter of minutes. It takes another few minutes to write the instructions and the credits.
“YES!!” I cry out. “YES!!” It’s done! I can’t believe it! It has highscores and smooth text fonts and everything! “Kyle! You can see my game now!”
There’s fast thumping and then the doorknob twists and Kyle flies in at the speed of light. He loves seeing my finished games, and he seems to be extra excited with this one.
He plays it about fifty times before stopping, and he gets a high score of 67. He is way better at the game than I am. My high score is a measly 16. Maybe it’s the control flip that screws me up. I don’t feel like telling mom though, because she thinks coding is a waste of time. And she also might find out that I was still entering the contest. When dad gets home from work, I’m going to show him Clutterfunk. But in three days I’m going to face a bigger problem: getting to the contest location. Considering that mom is not on board with the contest idea and dad is at work, which isn’t good because he likes coding just as much as I do.
In the next town, in a huge mansion, another contestant had finished their ‘not so great’ game.
“I finished my game! I’m gonna crush everyone in this contest easily!” Vicky yells gleefully.
“Don’t get so worked up Vicky, I’m sure other people have great games too,” Mom replies.
“No one will match the expertise in my game! I have been on the featured list twice!”
“That’s because you helped make scratch and you are the one who goes around featuring things,” Mom counters, rolling her eyes.
Vicky gets too worked up over coding contests, and she thinks that because she’s been on the featured list twice means that she is amazing at coding. When in reality she doesn’t know how to use pen (which everyone on scratch knows how to use by the way).
“But I helped make scratch, the most complex coding of all!” Vicky says proudly.
Her older brother gets in on it. “You only tried to boss people around in COSTUME DESIGNING and you didn’t succeed. You also didn’t do any coding, because you’re horrible at it.”
Vicky sulks and turns to face her brother. “Very encouraging, also you’re bad at coding.”
This is stupid to say because her older brother is amazing at coding and has 204 followers and has been featured 5 times by some other scratch worker. He also knows how to use pen. Vicky has 1 follower– herself– she doesn’t know how to use pen, and she hacks, but with the help of her friends who know how to code.
A week later, on the day of the contest, I ‘m starting up my plan.
I’m using the oldest trick in the book, saying that I will be sleeping over at Dan’s house and that I will be bringing my laptop so that I can code with Dan and then I will run off to the contest location.
I grab my laptop and run downstairs.
“Why did you bring your laptop down from your room?” Mom asks suspiciously.
Here it goes: “Can I sleep over at Dan’s tonight?” I ask.
“You still haven’t answered my question, why did you bring your laptop downstairs?” mom asks again.
“I’m gonna code with Dan at his house,” I answer. This is the big moment. I hope mom will say yes. The fate of her respect depends on it.
“Fine,” mom replies, waving her hand in a shooing motion. “Go get your sleeping bag and walk down.” Yes, I say in my head.
I go upstairs to get my sleeping bag. I dart down the hall. Open up my creaky bedroom door and run in. I always keep my sleeping bag underneath my bed. I reach under my bed and grope around for my sleeping bag. After a couple seconds of hitting carpet instead of cushions, I finally grasp the strap of the compact bag and squeeze it out from under my bed. I sling the sleeping bag over my shoulder and walk back down the stairs.
I do sort of feel guilty about lying to mom about the sleepover, but I’m twelve and I am not afraid to make my own choices. But I’m making it even: she hates the fact that I code, so I go to a contest that means a lot to me. Kyle sees me with the laptop and sleeping bag.
“What are you doing?” he asks curiously.
“Don’t even think about telling mom.”
Kyle pretended to zip his lips together, “Alright, I won’t tell mom, but next time–”
“Okay, okay, I won’t do again. But there is a reason that I’m doing this.”
I don’t want to lie to everyone, so I let Kyle in but make him promise that he won’t tell mom.
I pass through the kitchen and out the door. “Bye mom!”
“Bye honey! Have fun!” but mom eyes me suspiciously right after she says it.
Vicky is riding in her limo to the contest, when the driver pulls up at the final destination, a Victorian-style house. It has a double oak front door with a brass lion head for a knocker and a golden keyhole and doorknob. The house in general is tan, with many bay windows and lots of windows with no sills.
“I thought it would look nicer, it’s not even a good house,” Vicky scoffs. Compared to Vicky’s mansion, it was a shack.
Vicky hops out of the limo without giving the driver any sense of gratitude. Vicky doesn’t even look at him. She just walks off with pride and up the cobblestone pathway. I’m gonna win this thing, Vicky thinks confidently. She stomps up the cobblestone steps and swings open the oak double doors without knocking first.
There are many kids in the room, from nine-year-olds to 16-year-olds. Vicky shouts at the top of her lungs, “MAKE WAY LOSERS!! THE WINNER VICKY IS COMING THROUGH!!”
Everyone stops to look at Vicky. Some people laugh, and everyone blocks that obnoxious kid’s way. One kid even says, “HEY!! YOU’RE THE HACKER, THE… THE… GIRL WHO DELETES PEOPLE’S PROJECTS FROM SCRATCH, YOU HAVE FUN RUINING OTHER PEOPLE’S HARD WORK AND EFFORT!!! I’M TELLING THE JUDGES THIS!!!”
Vicky’s face turns pale. That kid somehow knows that she deletes projects by hacking with her friends to get an edge in competition! That’s impossible! How does he know that? Vicky thinks. She now knows that everyone else has an ADVANTAGE on her.
“YOU GUYS ARE ALL LOSERS!!!” Vicky yells again.
Everything is working smoothly! I escaped from the house and now I’m walking to the contest! I drop my sleeping bag in the front of my house against the wall so that I won’t have to carry it. And then I dash off before mom can see me without my sleeping bag. I walk for a little while after I and sure mom can’t see me through the neighbor’s finely trimmed hedges.
After a while, I arrive at the contest. Dan is waiting for me at the front double doors of the awesome Victorian-style home. It’s like a McMansion! He waves me over. So I run to him.
He cups his hands over his mouth while he whispers, “I got rid of a threat.”
“Huh?” I say in confusion.
“When an obnoxious hacker walked in and yelled that her name was Vicky, it took me a second to realize that she was Vicky12. The deleter of projects that are amazing. She has hacked and deleted 15 of my 67 games on scratch. I’ve also had to remake my entry because she writes discouraging comments on my not-shared project, which is not possible, then she says that she will delete it, and next thing you know, 127 lines of code are gone forever.”
“So that’s why I couldn’t find my platformer.”
“I told the judges this and they said that it would affect how they rate her game. Now Vicky’s not so sure of herself.”
I grin, so does Dan. He has very good memory, and with that move he saved all the contestants! Vicky probably would have deleted everyone’s entries before the contest even starts! Dan and I go inside the house.
There are only twelve kids. One after another every kid is called in individually. And after five contestants go up, it’s Dan’s turn.
Dan walks into the judges’ room carrying his white iMac. There are three judges: a man around fifty years old, another man around forty years old, and a woman around thirty-five years old. “Welcome, contestant No. 6. How are you doing?” says the woman.
“Fine, how are you?” Dan replies politely. He is getting all jittery inside and is extremely excited.
“We are all very excited to see your entry,” the woman says again. She smiles.
Dan set his iMac on the judges’ table. He opens up his scratch account– ScratchLikeDan. “This is my game, Qix 2. It is a game that is a re-creation of the old arcade game Qix. You are a small red diamond that runs along a grid making squares and rectangles to enclose that cube so that it bounces an average every other second. Arrow keys to move and draw. When you press and hold the f key, you move faster when drawing. When you press and hold the s key you draw slowly, but is worth more points. It the cube touches the line you are drawing that is not finished, you die. Anyone wanna try?”
The fifty year old man tries first. He beats level three and loses on level four. He gives the game four stars. The forty-year-old man goes next. He beats level one but dies on level two. He gives it four and a half stars. The woman beats the whole game and rates it five stars.
Dan pumps his fist in the air and closes his laptop. “Thank you!” Dan says as he walks out of the room. He hears on the loudspeaker:
Will contestant number SEVEN please come show his or her game?
Vicky walks up the stairs to the judges’ room. She runs into Dan. “Hey! Watch it loser!” She yells.
Dan smirks. She notices with horror that he is ScratchLikeDan, the kid who yelled about the hacking, and also her favorite target for deleting projects. “Hey, Vicky12, good luck getting more than a 2-star rating in there,” Dan sneers. She hates him. She only recognizes him from his profile picture.
“Did you figure out how to design Minecraft? Or did you REMIX a really good game and hack to erase the remix label?” Dan scoffs. He also sounds like the kid who yelled about the hacking. Vicky now completely loathes him. He is insulting how good she is at coding! Did he not know that she helped code scratch?!
Vicky can’t take his insults anymore. She clenches her fists and grits her teeth, and…
I saw the whole thing unfold, Vicky12 calling Dan a loser, Dan insulting Vicky12. Vicky12 getting angry, and then Vicky12 punching Dan in the gut and screaming. Dan only laughed though, he’s had two concussions from playing football and has been punched harder than that many times. But I still yelled at Vicky12, “Hey!! What the heck are you doing?! Go tell your mother that you have behavior issues!”
Another kid supposedly called Marcus ran up to tell the judges. Vicky12 got disqualified for cheating and assaulting another contestant. She also earned a judge to call her mom. The judge even mentioned something about BEHAVIORAL ISSUES! (I know that because I’m a champion eavesdropper.)
After the remaining contestants (and I) went, these people won these prizes:
Third prize: Monica Jones and her game: Amusement Park
Second Prize: Logan Brandenburg and his game: Chillstep
First Prize: Jimmy Brendon and his game: Clutterfunk
Grand Prize: Daniel Ronan-John and his game: Qix 2
I walk to Dan’s house with Dan. I have a big smile on my face, Dan has a bigger smile on his face. “I can’t believe that I got grand prize in the contest. I guess the judges really liked my game.”
“Yeah,” I reply. I admit that his game was better than mine, but I’m happy that I’m getting featured tomorrow.
“But hey! I’m on the featured list right now! And you’ll be on the featured list tomorrow!” Daniel says excitedly. I slap my hand onto his back. He laughs, I grin. We’ve both had a really exciting day, and it all ends with a celebration sleepover at his house. Dan starts to run. He’s too excited to see his game on the featured list that he runs at the speed of his sprint as a running back in football.
When we get to his house, we rush up the stairs and into Dan’s bedroom. He sets his laptop on his desk and opens it up. Then he opens up scratch, and there it is:
Dan nearly breaks into tears of joy as he writes in the credits:
MY FACE WHEN THIS GOT FEATURED o_o
(DO NOT WORRY THIS IS A NORMAL REACTION TO BEING FEATURED)
The next day in the morning, I take out my laptop with Dan and open up scratch. My game pops up on the featured list just as we open up scratch. I currently only have 17 favorites and 26 loves. But I start to get comment after comment, and love after love, and…
I keep trying to answer everyone’s comments, but it is impossible. There is a new one every second. My hands are flying across the keys like mad. Everyone is saying Amazing game! and My highscore is only 15, but still, great game! Maybe I will tell mom that I got featured. Maybe that’ll get her to understand that I’m good at coding and that I love it and that I should continue with it. Maybe…
When I finally leave Dan’s house, I take in the fresh air and look around. The sky is a brilliant blue, with occasional puffy, white, cumulus clouds. Trees are swaying lightly to the quiet, gentle breeze. There is also the distant humming of cicadas and a landscaper blowing leaves.
When I arrive at my house. Mom is setting up the dishwasher and Kyle is watching TV in the family room. I walk right into the family room where Kyle is sitting on the couch watching his cartoons.
He looks at me. “How was the contest?” he asks quietly, as if to be sure mom can’t hear.
I smile, “Great.” I hand him the prize winner sheet.
He glimpses it. He notices that Dan won grand prize, and not me. “You didn’t win, huh.”
“No, I didn’t. But at least Dan did.”
Just then mom walks into the room. She sees that Kyle’s holding a piece of paper. Mom says, “What’s that?” She eyes both of us suspiciously and sees the words:
First prize: Jimmy Brendon and his game Clutterfunk
“Nothing,” Kyle says. Jimmy’s eyes are wide with worry.
“Then why, may I ask, does it say JIMMY BRENDON AND HIS GAME CLUTTERFUNK?!!” Mom yells, “Jimmy! You are banned from coding for a month! Kyle! You attempted to lie to cover your LYING brother so that he wouldn’t get in trouble! Well you just made the situation worse! You’re not allowed to watch TV for a MONTH!!!!”
Personally, Kyle thinks mom is wrong. She shouldn’t be disappointed that Jimmy’s hobby is coding. She shouldn’t be trying to force me and Jimmy to do ballet, she should be letting us choose what we want to do, whether it’s coding or astronomy (which is what Kyle is into, but mom isn’t much happier about that choice). So I am going to protest by bringing my iPad to my room, shutting and locking the door, and watching my astronomy shows there. And I think that Jimmy’s gonna do the same.
As ifm, Mom, I thought, Kyle and I have locks on our doors and we’re both gonna do what we love, coding and astronomy. So you can punish us all you want but you won’t stop either of us. So Kyle and I both grab our iPad and laptop and dart up to our rooms. I code and Kyle should be watching his educational astronomy shows from his iPad.
A little while later, mom is pounding on my bedroom door. I hear her yelling, “YOU BETTER NOT BE CODING!! I’LL TAKE THAT LAPTOP FROM YOU!!!”
I yell back, “IT’S MY LAPTOP AND I BOUGHT IT SO YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING WITH IT!!!” That makes her lose momentum.
“OK FINE! BUT I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT CODING!!”
I say in a normal tone, “Alright.” I unlock the door and let her in.
She doesn’t look that angry anymore, and she sits on the bed with me.
“I might have been a little too angry for the situation, but I’m still angry that you entered that contest without my permission, because the truth is, I would’ve let you do it if you’d asked me first.”
Oh that would’ve been easier, I think.
“I’m happy that you found the thing that you love to do– coding.”
I nod slowly. “But why do you seem… well… so unsupportive of it?”
Mom looks down at the floor. I could tell that there was a more serious reason then staying active, “It’s just that… your dad understands it, and so do you. Even Kyle sort of understands it.”
I nod again. She continues, “I don’t understand it. It’s all so confusing to my eyes. So seeing all you guys enjoying it, it would mean a lot to me if I could join in, do something with you guys. That’s why I don’t look like I support you. But I do.”
“I could always teach you the basics, so that you can get a simple understanding of it.”
Mom smiled, and gave a small laugh. She put my hand on my shoulder, “You could do that for me?”
“Yeah,” I grinned. So did she.
She got up and said, “I’m very proud of you Jimmy.”
“You still can’t code for a month,” mom continues, “but after that if you ask permission I’ll let you in on those contests.”
She smiled, nodded, and then left my room.
Wow, I’ve misperceived a lot of things about mom. I thought she didn’t like that I coded, based on how she acted when I coded.
In the end, today and yesterday were pretty interesting days. Probably the most exciting days I’ve ever had in my life. I mean, mom all along did appreciate my coding, and Vicky12 is now in trouble with her parents and with scratch. And Dan and I got on the featured list on scratch and each have 20000 views!!!! I also found out the truth about mom, and I started to teach her the basics of coding every other day.