I've used Gamemaker in the past to make games and I have experience coding. But for some reason, Pico-8 is intimidating. I bought it to make a game for my wife's birthday and i'm terrified to start. I don't know why. I think I was expecting it to be easier? I didn't expect i'd have to code the game from scratch and instead was hoping for a drag and drop vibe like unity of game maker. How do I get over this initial fear?
The best way to get familiar with an engine is to use it. Start simple. Just make a sprite move around on screen with the arrow keys, play around with a few of the core functions (like sspr and map), that kind of thing.
I actually find I tend to have an easier time in some ways working in PICO-8 than GameMaker and especially Unity (though I'm very inexperienced with the latter). PICO-8's iteration time is ridiculously fast and you there's almost nothing cumbersome getting in the way to slow you down when coding things. You've got full control over the implementation of everything, which I find easier to work with.
Something that helps some people is to take someone else's game, especially if it's a very simple, straightforward concept, and to pick it apart, tweak it, and use it as a way to get familiar with things while in an app that's already working. Every app posted to the BBS is in source format, so you can look at anyone else's code.
The other thing I often suggest is to try watching @Krystman's Breakout tutorial series:
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