Zachtronics’ Shenzhen I/O lets players join an electronics company to design circuits and write code. (Image credit: Zachtronics via YouTube)
When it comes to video games for engineers, we tend to think of Tetris, Minecraft or even Sim City perhaps, but those are geared for more entertainment rather than relying on trade skills to complete. Zach Barth of Zachtronics created a different game with engineers in mind with his Shenzhen I/O, which pits players in an imaginary tech company who have to design their own circuits and write code for them to progress through the game.
Players in the game are expatriates living in industrial China and employed by an electronics firm Longteng. Emails and pings are sent to the player who is required to design devices for various clients. These can range from a simple flashing neon sign to creating your video games through actual coding, and everything in between (the products are extensive). No matter what you’re building, you will need to refer to the manual- a 30-page book with original datasheets, technical diagrams, and reference guides. It’s recommended to have those printed out for easy access.
Creating those devices are similar to what it would be in the real world- the programming is similar to assembly language, and the circuit elements resemble simplified versions of real-world electronics so being versed in either will help you in the long run. That being said, it’s an excellent game for those looking to get into circuit design and coding without needing a BS in either. To put it plainly, you will have to crunch some numbers, nudging them from one node to another and move chips, switches and other components around on a circuit board correctly for them to work. What’s more, you will have to optimize your designs to run more efficiently before the clients will accept them.
Zachtronics breaks the gameplay down as follows:
-Build circuits using a variety of components from different manufacturers, like microcontrollers, memory and logic gates.
-Write code in a compact and powerful programming language where every instruction can be conditionally executed.
-Read the included manual, which includes over 30 pages of original datasheets, reference guides, and technical diagrams.
-Get to know the colorful cast of characters at your new employer, located in the electronics capital of the world (Shenzhen, China).
-Get creative! Build your own games and devices in the sandbox.
-Engineering is hard! Take a break and play a brand new twist on solitaire (included in-game).
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