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The next generation of Java developers can learn the ins and outs of the language through an unlikely source: video games such as Minecraft.
One of my main takeaways from Oracle Code One 2019 was what needed to be done to ensure that the Java programming language remains as popular in the future as it is today.
The ability to win the hearts and minds of the next generation was one path I suggested, and there's no better way to do that than through Java video games.
Getting teens to do anything, of course, isn't exactly easy. "I tried to persuade my son to learn a programming language, but he wasn't having it," said Mark Little, CTO at JBoss.
That reluctance disappeared after his son started playing Minecraft, or, more accurately, when his son learned that the Java video game allowed users to integrate their own code to change how the game is played.
"Within six months he had learned how to write Minecraft mods," Little said. "Minecraft is actually written in Java. It's teaching a lot of kids, and by that I mean people who are less than 16 years of age, how to appreciate Java and how to code in it."
Java video games and Minecraft mods
Kids want to learn how to master the various JDK utilities that are needed to write code and deploy mods. In 2016, Little and Arun Gupta, principal open source technologist at AWS, ran a "mod Minecraft" session at Minecon in London, and Little doubts that anyone who attended the session was older than 14. "The average age was 11 or 12."
Of course, just because Java is the first programming language a person learns, there's no reason to expect that they will stick with it. That responsibility remains with the architects and maintainers of the language to ensure that Java continues to improve and remains relevant in fields such as AI, microservices development, quantum computing and robotics.
With that said, the ability to make Java appealing to the younger generations and to get kids to program is definitely a step in the right direction.