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Kids code games: 80M user messaging app Kik jams in NYC

Above: A NYC Generation Tech participant

Image Credit: NYC Generation Tech

Developers love it when kids code games. That’s why Kik Messenger invited NYC Generation Tech to its mobile game jam this weekend.

GenTech teaches low-income high school students HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as well as the basics of entrepreneurship. About 25 GenTech participants will join Kik and its game development partner TreSensa at the NY Media Center on Sunday to take part in the game jam.

“It’s a great chance for them to learn about game coding and also see and experience a game jam,” TreSensa CEO Rob Grossberg told VentureBeat. “We’ll likely involve them even more deeply in later events.”

This summer, Kik rolled out a feature to its app called Kik Cards, which serves up rich media (like HTML5 web games) right within the chat window. TreSensa and Zynga are Kik’s first two gaming partners.

Games for mobile messaging platforms are skyrocketing in popularity, with KakaoTalk, Tango, Line, and WeChat all offering some form of games support. Just this morning, Tango hired a former Zynga exec to run its games division.

These mobile messaging titles usually come in “bite sized” experiences that serve as a quick game session — think Tiny Wings, not Infinity Blade. There’s a huge potential audience for them, too: Kik Messenger alone boasts 80 million users across its iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Nokia apps.

At Kik’s game jam this weekend, the GenTech kids will get a crash course in JavaScript for game development, then they’ll split into teams and make games for Kik’s platform. They’ll also have the opportunity to playtest and provide feedback on jam games from the adult developers.

Kik and TreSensa are offering up cash prizes to developers of the top games: $1,000 for first place, $500 for the runner-up, and $250 for third. And, naturally, everyone gets free swag and food for showing up.

The jam is receiving support from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which facilitated the connection with GenTech.

“The city has been fantastic in making New York the next big place for games, similar to how New York is hospitable to the film industry,” said Grossberg.

“New York is prime for games, because you have a growing development community between the NYU Game Center and Parsons [School of Design]. There’s no reason why New York can’t lead here.”

To learn more about the Kik-TreSensa mobile game jam, which kicks off this evening, visit the Meetup page. And be sure to check out our GamesBeat conference (Oct. 29-30 in Redwood City, CA), which has a stellar lineup of speakers who will talk about the future of the games industry.

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