Code Master: How a Depressing Visit to Target Ended up Improving my Programming Logic

Despite a scandalous data breach in 2013 that affected 41 million people, Target still lures me back to their stores. Why? I’m not quite certain. Could it be because:

  • They have overflowing popcorn stations in their concession areas?
  • Their hodge-podge array of closeout electronic items appeals to my inner hoarder?
  • Their lighting system doesn’t make me feel like I’m in a beef cattle processing area?

For whatever reason, every few months, I’ll stop by and browse the store, usually walking out with a small bag of chewing gums and a pair of sunglasses. Last visit was different. First of all, I had just gotten off a shift at my job as a Starbucks brand ambassador. It was a temporary contract gig that paid great money. Also, the customers were really friendly, since part of my job involved giving out free drink samples. And who doesn’t like free caffeine?

But the job was anything but tech related, and at the end of the day, nobody at that location really cared if I showed up or didn’t. I interacted with 300 or more customers during my four hour shift, handed out really cute sample cups of Salted Caramel Frappuccinos with miniature green straws, collected data on how those customers responded to the product, and filed my weekly report. Week in, week out. It was the antithesis of what I want to be doing, which is to create dynamic online experiences for people.

Let’s face it: the real reason I was perusing the aisles with such diligence was because I was emotionally shopping. It’s usually a chick thing, and it feels amazing. . .But I digress.


Figure 1: The Gossip Girl and I had so much in common on my fateful night. 

During this particular trip, I needed a dose of non-adulthood as I was pondering how to bridge this chasm between my reality (marketing research for a corporate entity) and my dream (coding and tech entrepreneurship as an independent creator). SoI wandered into the gaming section of the kids’ toy department. Apparently, some non-conforming purchasing agent had decided to really rock the boat in the family board game area– the quality was insane:  there was Ticket to Ride, Sheriff of Nottingham, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and even Catan. (Don’t get me wrong, though, Pop the Pig and Disney Princess Enchanted Cupcake Party were still very much prominent…Hey, I can be down with that if it means more epic games on the shelves.).

I eagerly scanned the shelves, swiping a few higher-quality games for when I had a day off and made a few more friends. Continuing to scan for one more potential game to wedge beneath my armpit, I saw a Minecraft-like pixelated man staring back at me. The game was called Code Master. Code Master, really? I thought to myself. They’re teaching kids the art of medical billing now, and have the nerve to culturally appropriate a dude from Minecraft? But then I saw below the title: ”Programming Logic Game”.

Code Master: A one-player programming logic game that is targeting coders. Was this a cruel joke?


I swiftly piled it on my other games and went to checkout. When I got home that night to file my report, all I could think about was unwrapping the cellophane and sinking my brain into Code Master.

While the game is targeted towards kids (I think? Your mission is to collect power crystals and head for the exit portal as you solve the puzzles), the levels become progressively more challenging. Game notes:

  • By the tenth challenge, I was convinced the board had a glitch since it was unsolvable.
  •  Twenty minutes later, my brain had finally detected the pattern and I could collect my crystals and move on.
  • It’s immensely satisfying once you figure out the logic. Eventually, the player gets to use conditional tokens and the levels get very interesting (read: I feel like an idiot, but in a good way).

Just to be clear, I don’t end my Code Master gaming sessions and immediately hop on my code editor to code the next Google Maps from scratch or anything crazy like that. But I do feel my brain improving on pattern recognition, sequential reasoning, and efficient problem solving. Instead of sinking my woes into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby and feeling sorry for my Starbucks-y self that serendipitous night, I was strategizing on snagging my Minecraft-y crystals using a conditional token, progressively feeling better about my future. . .If only for a few rounds.

For less than $20, this is a definite yes for beginning — and even intermediate – coders and aspiring developers. Probably cheapest at Amazon:

Code on and enjoy,


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