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Game on! Students harness game design skills at camp

August 16, 2010

Creativity, technology and youthful enthusiasm were recently on display as young video game designers from Arizona State University’s CampGame demonstrated their creations for friends, family and fellow gamers at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center.

A video game production and development summer camp program offered to middle and high school students by ASU, CampGame teaches students the latest tips, tricks and tools in video game creation. Students showcased their full-functioning video game creations during a special reception at ASU SkySong, the home of the camp.

“Our focus is to teach state-of-the-art technology using games for middle and high school students so they realize the importance of learning math and science at school,” said CampGame Director Ashish Amresh, who is also a lecturer in the College of Technology and Innovation’s Department of Engineering at the Polytechnic campus. Amresh started the camp in 2004 at New York University and moved it to ASU four years ago.

"This year was a huge success as we expanded from two to seven programs and grew from 70 to 100 students,” he added.

The July 30 reception also featured advice and congratulations from former LucasArts President Jim Ward, Scottsdale Vice Mayor Suzanne Klapp and John Krieck, director of marketing for Adaptive Curriculum, one of the sponsors of the program.

“CampGame is based on the philosophy that students learn best by doing, which is also what we provide with our Adaptive Curriculum products,” Kreick said. "We are so pleased to be involved with CampGame and congratulate these young designers."

“Unfortunately the art of video games has not made its way into the level of mainstream entertainment around the world,” Ward explained to the audience. “The irony is they should because, as you all know, interactive video games provide infinite possibilities in terms of entertainment.”

Amresh and Ward agreed that story and character are important aspects of the video game industry. However, Amresh said that all games do not need story and character development, citing chess and most Wii games as examples.

Ward spoke about the critical importance of story and character in video games and why those two areas of the industry are currently suffering. He claimed that the reason that video games have not made it into the level of mainstream entertainment was the lack of story and character development within games.

“The world of video games has not yet gotten to a point where we’re all collectively developing compelling stories and matching them with characters that players are willing to get in to,” Ward said. “A lot of games have you simply whacking people on the head and then you’re done.”

The reception featured a 12-minute video game sequence, which showcased three games that were created entirely by three teams of CampGame students. There were two middle school teams and one advanced high school team.

“You learned how important and fun it can be to create something that is part of a team,” Klapp told the gamers.
High school camper Millan Singh agreed with Klapp, reporting that teamwork helped him enjoy his CampGame experience.

“Overall, the experience was great,” Singh said. “The most fun part for me was being able to work with other people with similar personalities.”

One of the middle school teams – "Team Pi”– showcased a game about the Periodic Table of the Elements. that proved video games can be fun while being very educational.

“Most students who take our programs get a renewed interest in science and math,” Amresh explained.

Ward left the CampGamers with some advice on how to become successful video game designers – be as well-rounded a possible, gaining education in a range of areas.

“Go out and get a skill set that is beyond simply what you’re focused on in video games,” Ward said.

“It is important to know about video games, the technology behind them, and how important it is to learn and expand this technology because it is the future,” Amresh said.

Klapp was especially impressed with the work of the young CampGamers, noting the significance of innovative technologies and the use of resources such as SkySong to further students’ endeavors.

“It just blows me away that students of this age can do this kind of thing,” Klapp said. “I feel the passion, creativity, teamwork and innovation.”

ASU, SkySong and CampGame have formed an unsurpassed “team” of innovation and creativity, she said, adding that SkySong offers countless valuable resources for young entrepreneurs and innovative minds.

“It’s the sharing of energy, creativity and imagination that we all had in mind when the City of Scottsdale decided to partner with ASU to create SkySong,” Klapp explained. “It’s a place where imagination shapes reality. The city was part of this creation and we are so proud to be known as an innovative city because of places like SkySong.”

One of CampGame’s high school teams produced the “most complete game over the past five years,” according to Amresh. The game is called Shadows of Windsor and is fully playable. Amresh believes it has the potential to be sold on the UDK marketplace.

“This is a great example of creating entrepreneurial pathways for high school students,” he said.

Amresh said that he wants CampGamers to leave camp understanding the ability to work together in teams and realize every individual is different and has unique abilities. He also wants students to be able to “tap into their unique ability and deliver to their maximum potential.”

Students left CampGame with new ideas, motivation and inspiration to pursue video game production and development as careers in the future.

“This camp definitely made making video games an option on my list,” Singh said.


Written by Beth Wischnia