Technology Will Save Us is one of those companies that probably doesn’t need an introduction anymore. Founded in 2013, the design-led tech startup has grown from 4 to 22 employees in the last two years, with the aim of sparking technical creativity through a hands-on approach. Earlier in the year, TWSU helped develop the micro:bit, as part of the BBC’s Make It Digital programme.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on their infamous DIY Gamer kit. The kit was one of the first launched in 2013, and it keeps growing in popularity. Sold in over 87 countries, the DIY Gamer kit is now such a success that the Museum of Modern Art (New York) has acquired it to be a part of its permanent exhibition; and children even dressed up as the kit for Halloween this year!
When you open the box, you will find neatly packaged components with a clear iconography to identify them. All the tips and instructions to assemble the kit can be found online. Everything is clearly labelled, and each step is illustrated, so they can be followed with ease.
Experienced solderers will be able to complete the circuit in under 1h30. And if you’re not too confident with an iron, the kit also comes already soldered, so you can focus on making games.
The DIY Gamer kit has seen a few improvements since its first launch, mainly on the software side, where the priority was to make it easier to get started with Arduino. The 8×8 LED matrix allows for a lot of classic games like tetris, snake, or flappy bird to be played. Most of them are already available in the examples that come with the library. You can also make your own animations with the online animator.
Once you’ve finished soldering, you only have to add an Arduino and assemble the cover. The header pins that plug into the Arduino are slightly too long, which makes the Gamer a bit bulky, and leaves the battery hanging a little. However, this bulkiness is somewhat reminiscent of the first black and white Game Boy, so, perfect for the nostalgic maker.
Our only regret is that the LED matrix is a single colour; having RGB lights could open the game and animation possibilities even more (think 2048-style games). Although, the limited edition Deluxe Bundle comes with 3 different matrices in primary colours: red, blue, yellow, for an extra £15 to the regular kit.
Whether you prefer tinkering with hardware or coding, the DIY Gamer kit will make a great stocking filler for keen new (and old) makers this Christmas. It can be purchased at all good retailers, such as the Science Museum, the Design Museum, Topshop and Maplin, to name a few.