Designing the video games of tomorrow - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Education

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Designing the video games of tomorrow

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Posted: Monday, June 18, 2007 11:00 pm

There's a related alternative to letting your young video game enthusiasts play games this summer: enroll in classes where they learn how to make them. Through the end of July, a program being held at Arizona State University will help kids do just that. "What we do with video games, it's not really something you can learn in a book," said 3D game instructor Sam Deiter. "It's perfect for parents who have kids who don't want to do much else, but when you put a video game in front of them they just spark up. So parents love it." The program is run by iD Tech Camps, a company that develops, staffs and manages a series of technology-related summer camps. From 2D and 3D video game design courses to Web design and computer animation curricula, there's something for any tech-savvy teen. But it's the game animation camps that are the most popular draw. "Campers explore the world of technology, tap into their creative juices, create a final project by the end of the week, get exposed to a prestigious university, learn from vivacious instructors who act as positive mentors, and invest in their future," says iDTech's Web site. Deiter, who holds a degree in video game design, said that sounds about right. He's been subbing as the 2D design instructor, teaching kids as young as 7 how to fashion their own classic-style games. To start, he says conceptualization is the important launch pad. "I basically have them come up with an idea for some kind of 2D video game they wanted to do, an updated Space Invaders, for example," he explained. "There's such a different range of students and general knowledge of game design when they first come in." After gauging a student's familiarity with the software the class will use, Deiter says day two is spent gathering art resources, day three is spent scripting the game, and days four and five are spent designing them. In all, most time is spent in actual creation and game design. "We usually get in one-and-a-half, two-and-a-half hours of instruction time" per day of the eight-hour class time, he said. And if the child really invests himself or herself, Deiter said the results can be staggering. One of his wards in the 3D classes wanted to make a game in the vein of controversial Grand Theft Auto series. "He had never used the software before, but by the second day he had four levels, intro and credit screens and all kinds of rooms you could go into," Deiter said. "Toward the end of the course I would say he knew just as much about this program as I did." Tuition for the classes vary, depending on how much time a parent wants their child to be at ASU during the weeklong course, but the average appears to be about $850. Deiter said the program is well worth it, since it teaches a hard-to-reach subculture more than just how to design a game. "Kids have the ability to meet other kids who love to do what they do," he said. "It helps them open up and develop social skills, because they're around kids who totally understand where they're coming from. These are the kids who don't want to go outside and play sports. These are kids who want to sit in front of their computer and do something analytical." Deiter's familiar with such kids: he used to be one. In fact, he says he loves what he does so much he can't help but be a workaholic. "I was here until 10:30 last night," he laughed. "I work 14, 15 hours a day, because I'm getting to do what I want to do." For information on the program and to see where space is still available, visit www.internalDrive.com or call 1-888-709-TECH (8324). Jason Ludwig can be reached at (480) 898-7916 or jludwig@aztrib.com.

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