Who says coding has to be boring? Checkio, a Las Vegas company funded by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, has come up with a way to turn writing code and helping others write code into a game.
The company’s latest addition to its web-based code-editing platform is a publish-and-share feature, where players can write, design, and publish custom coding missions and then share them across the Checkio community. Those who win the top scores in the leaderboards, which measure the “most elegant” solutions, can win prizes.
Even with a limited platform, more than 40,000 users have already contributed over 100,000 competitive programming solutions to Checkio’s coding missions. The platform enables experienced programmers to complete missions and puzzles in competition with peers — or just to share knowledge.
For novices, Checkio gamifies the learning of programming with feedback from a positive community. The platform has a streamlined code editor and runtime environment that tests programmers’ solutions. It also visually illustrates the way the code behaves in testing.
“Checkio is the game for coders,” said Liza Avramenko, the company’s founder and chief executive, in an email. “We are building a platform that allows players to create and publish games and then compete in coding the best algorithms to beat those games. We are changing the gaming industry. We are changing how games are made and played. We are changing the world by focusing creative gaming energy on solving complex global challenges. And we are making it fun!”
Checkio is releasing a tool that enables coders around the world to code puzzles or artificial intelligence games. They can then publish them so that others can compete at creating the best algorithm for a puzzle or the best strategy for the A.I. game.
Avramenko said that Checkio is offering live coding competitions across the world and is partnering with other developer-focused companies such as GitHub, Dropbox, HubSpot, and O’Reilly Media. Winners receive prizes and publicity.
Checkio was founded in the Ukraine in 2011. It went through the Techstars Boston incubator program and then moved to Las Vegas in December after it received funding from Hsieh’s VegasTechFund.
Avramenko said in an email that the platform enables users to easily translate missions into their native languages, share them with broader communities, and add hints for fellow players. Once you solve a coding mission, you can see how others did it and learn from them.
Checkio offers puzzles that teach players to write software code in a fun way. The coders solve challenges on different virtual islands. Users compete and collaborate with each other, and the community votes on whose solution is the most elegant. Checkio started out with the Python programming language. So writing the best code becomes a kind of game.
As for crowdsourcing, Avramenko said, “It is totally possible that somebody can add their real-life challenge they are working on, as well as a company posting a challenge for a community to come up with the most efficient algorithm. But we are premoderating those code missions that we publish with one major criteria — they have to be fun. This is what our users tell us sets us apart.”
Besides VegasTechFund, other investors include Brightcove co-founder Bob Mason, Acquia co-founder Jay Batson, AVentures Capital, Bob O’Donnell, and TA Venture. Checkio has 10 employees, and it has raised $750,000. It competes with CodeCombat, Codewars, and Talentbuddy.
One of the founders is Valentin Bryukhanov, a former Federal Security Service officer who contributed code as a volunteer almost every day to help build the company. Avramenko said he has been the creative spirit behind the Checkio community. Over time, the company will add more programming languages, each with a separate community.
Avramenko said that players are beginning to include their Checkio profiles on their resumes and job applications.
“With the most recent email, we got to know that an applicant was hired because of his Checkio set of solved missions, and this is how the company got to know about Checkio.”