Camp for gamers

Published 9:43 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Programming: Jacob Kinnear, 11, adds new components to a zombie game he created Wednesday at the introduction to game development summer camp at the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center. Kinnear said he decided to attend the camp because he loves playing videogames and wanted to learn how to make them.

VMASC summer program teaches game development

Jared Dorn has always enjoyed playing fantasy video games, such as World of Warcraft, on the computer at home because it offered him the opportunity to be a part of a new world.

But the 16-year-old wants to do more than just participate; he wants to be able to build his own gaming world.

In order to gain the skills to do that, Dorn is attending game development camps at the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center this summer.

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This is the third year the center has offered the camp, but for the first time, it was divided into three weeklong sessions — digital content design for game development, introduction to game development and intermediate game development — held in June, July and August.

The target age for the camps is 12 to 16 years old, and they only need minimal computer experience.

People can sign up for as many or as few of the camps as they want.

Dorn signed up to take all three camps because he said he wants to learn as much as he can before he heads to college next year, where he plans to study computer programming.

“Camps like these really help because I learn the principles of programming,” he said.

The second camp, which started Monday, introduces the attendees to concepts and software used to make 2-D games.

Camp instructor Yuzhong Shen, an assistant professor at Old Dominion University, said most of the attendees signed up because they like gaming, but the skills they learn can be used in more than just game development.

“The knowledge and skills are not only useful in game development,” he said. “They are also used in modeling and simulation.”

Shen said VMASC staff hope the camp will inspire some of the children to get into science, technology, engineering and math professions.

“We want to use the topic they are interested in to get them into the (STEM) field,” Shen said.

Throughout the week, the attendees will create anywhere from three to five 2-D games, and they will do it with very little help.

Shen said he does a short instruction at the beginning of the day, but afterward, he allows everyone to work independently on the day’s project because they work at different paces.

On Wednesday, the group created a game, called the Lazarus game, in which a character must avoid falling boxes before he can climb the stacks to press a stop button.

There are several different elements, including a hero character and four different kinds of boxes, used in the creation of the game.

“For this game, there’s quite a lot of work,” Shen said. “What they have is only the pictures.”

Every movement from the dropping of the boxes to the dodging of the character has to be created by the camp attendees.

Jermaine Brooms, 13, said developing the character has been one of the hardest things he’s done at the camp.

He had to manipulate seven different images of the character in order to get the movements perfect.

Brooms said he wants to be able to build his own games using what he’s learned this week.

“I’ve always been into playing games,” he said. “And I wanted to be able to make games of my own.”

The campers will give a presentation on what they have learned and created for their parents and some of the VMASC staff on Friday.

The next camp, intermediate game development, will take place Aug. 1-5 and focus more on 3-D gaming.

For more information, contact camp manager Tracey Vann at 638-7019.