Students go behind-the-scenes of video games

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By Kelly Richardson



By KELLY RICHARDSON krichardson@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN — Parents looking for an alternative activity to the video games their teenagers play lucked out with a camp offered at the local community college — there, instead of playing them, make them. Elizabethtown Community and Technical College held a video game design camp this week with the help of Geek Squad volunteers. Students spent the week learning techniques for designing their own video games. This same camp is offered at several other colleges around the country, including Duke, Stanford and MIT, according to an ECTC news release. The Geek Squad volunteers worked to come up with a curriculum and syllabus for the camp, but Mike Hans, deputy director of counterintelligence for Geek Squad, said that soon had to change. The students were familiar with a lot of the topics, so he and the other volunteers worked more advanced design issues into the curriculum, while still making it accessible for everyone. “You want to make sure you’re challenging them but not challenging them to the point of failure,” Hans said. On Wednesday morning, the students played with the disassembled parts of a game called “Chicken Wings,” learning how to place objects in the landscape of the game, add animation and other aspects of making the game function properly. This activity wasn’t something the volunteers originally had planned for the week, but the students’ quick progression made them look for other lessons. Volunteer Brian Williams, a data recovery specialist for Geek Squad, said the students’ knowledge kept him on his toes. “We were kind of shocked to see some of the stuff that they already knew,” he said. By the end of the week, the students will have designed their own game, which they can take home and play, Hans said. Mazie Beck, 17, of Wrightsville, Pa., traveled 11 hours to Elizabethtown with her mother for the camp, after originally thinking the camp was in Elizabethtown, Pa. After learning its true location, Beck said she still wanted to come. “Because I really like all kinds of video games and it would be a dream come true for me to design my own video games,” she said. She hopes to do this professionally. Hans said he hopes the students take away a few lessons from the camp. He hopes the students, about 60 in all, see what it takes to design a game. “I think for a lot of them it’s eye-opening,” he said. He also would like to see some of them, such as Beck, go on to design games for a living. Kelly Richardson can be reached at (270) 505-1747.