Image from game “Divided” created by Vincent Miller and Leo Bunyea

Though creative coding in libraries like Cinder and p5.js is popular among digital artists, digital game design and development is another way to build immersive, interactive media projects through code. Built by game developer and WPI Professor Brian Moriarty, Perlenspiel is an open-source gaming library written in JavaScript that allows programmers and game designers to make 2D games.

Moriarty was inspired by the idea of a “gameclavier”, a software instrument instructors can use to teach students how to program games. Perlenspiel’s deliberate simplicity is meant to inspire students to develop games using only fundamental features, challenging them to conceptualize in spite of two main constraints — a rectangular raster of megapixels, and a single line of text.

The updated Modern Oregon Trail retains the simple raster graphics and basic text commands associated with the retro aesthetic. Source:

The retro look of raster graphics found in many classic computer games from the 80’s and 90’s are making a nostalgic comeback in recent years. Modern revivals of games like Oregon Trail, Super Mario, and Sonic the Hedgehog can be played online, signaling that vintage games are still engaging new audiences. Creating games with an engine like Perlenspiel sheds light on the code and processes that power those games.

This version of Sonic features smaller pixels with a brighter, more varied color palette. Source:

Using low-resolution graphics and a minimal grid layout, Perlenspiel is a great way to get accustomed to introductory game functions, easing students into more advanced game programming skills required for other industry-standard game engines like Unity3D and Unreal Engine. Wondering what you can build with Perlenspiel? Below, you can view some projects made by Perlenspiel inventor Brian Moriarty and other student examples.

(Click on the title links to play the free games online.)

“Rain simulator”

Course exercise by Brian Moriarty

“Mark’s Magnificent Music Machine”

“Make some music!” Created by Mark McCormick / Spielmatrix

“Simple Paint”

Course exercise by Brian Moriarty.

“Magic Library”

“Organize magical books in this puzzle.” Created by Mark Jacobson / Spielmatrix

“Bomb Defuse”

“Defuse and navigate through the bombs.” Created by Jacob Frost / Spielmatrix

Here are examples of non-playable demos.


“Divided” by Vincent Miller and Leo Bunyea


“Closed” by Jack Moore and Matthew Figueroa

“Follow the Rule”

“Follow the Rule” by Aaron Graham and Peter Nolan


“Lumen” by Justin Kreiselman and Jordan Cattelona

“Smiley Face”

Course exercise by Brian Moriarty


“Scramble” by Patrick Luck and Laura Sawin

The diverse project ideas show the versatility microgame design can achieve. For more information about Perlenspiel and how to learn game development, check out the free course below:

Introduction: Elements of Microgame Design

Introduction: Elements of Microgame Design

Worcester Polytechnic Institute