I turned my brother into an app for secret santa

26th December 2019

My brother Colin is a driving instructor and I’m a freelance software engineer in Bristol. I had drawn Colin for our family’s Secret-Santa with a strictly “no gift-lists” policy this year. That stumped me, so I was thinking about what I could get a man who has everything.

The idea started off as a joke with my wife, but quickly I realised I had mentally planned out the entire mobile app and server development plan. I started coding in October by dedicating an hour before work each day, and by December I had a working prototype mobile game running on my Android phone. I commissioned some amazing pixel-art featuring Colin’s driving school (taken from a photo used on his school’s Facebook page), and of course, the players selectable in the game feature my mum, brothers and sisters. There’s even secret unlock codes to play as Colin’s dog Woody and my wife Lucy!

The daft yet strangely competitive little-game features high score boards, challenging character traits and social-media sharing to boast of your scores. It’s available on both Android and iOS app stores right now.

Colin was completly shocked to find out that he was a game and could be downloaded in the app stores! Both Colin and my family thought it was hilarious and have since been sharing it with their friends and competing to get the highest score with their representative in-game characters. I captured his and my family's reactions on Christmas morning on camera which I'll share here later.

This isn’t the sort of thing I do in my day-to-day - although I've done a good deal of Javascript development in the past, I’m a full-stack software engineer by trade, focusing on server-side coding in PHP. I’ve done work for small and international brands such as Hargreaves Lansdown, United Nations, the World Health Organisation and one project you may recognise is the personalise your Marmite jar which my code has been humbly taking your orders and payments online since 2015.

The mobile game was built in React Native, a Javascript library which allows developers to code in Javascript and compile to native Android and iOS applications. I’ve been dedicating time every day the past year building React apps, and I hope this little app cracks a few laughs and is the first of many to come.

Why not give it a play and let me know what you think? You can download Semi-Colon's Driving School, the mobile game here. Want to chat? I’m @ChrisMcKirgan on Twitter.