Game Development Camp demystifies video game creation

Chris Forrester • June 15, 2018

Throughout the month of June, students ages 13 and up are learning the basics of game design through The Media School’s sixth annual Game Development Camp. The camp, offered in three weeklong sessions, introduces children to the basics of game design concepts and teaches them how to program and develop their own games.

Campers range in skill level from those taking their first crack at game design to seasoned game creators. The camp is directed by Chabane Maidi, manager of The Media School’s game lab.

Isaac Williamson creates his own game in the Franklin Hall multimedia lab. (Ty Vinson | The Media School)

Camp counselor Gabbie Benninghoff, a junior majoring in game design, said that in addition to covering the basics of game programming, the camp also teaches students about different formats and styles of games. So far, the campers have been introduced to “top down” games, which refers to the player’s viewpoint, and gameplay styles like the classic “shoot-em-up” and “RPGs,” or role-playing games.

She said students made multiple games throughout the week, the last of which would be entirely of their own design.

“They’re basically learning whatever they want to prioritize learning,” she said.

The camp also teaches students the logic behind game design and programming, Benninghoff said. Campers in the 2D camp work with a design program called Construct 3.

Students Adam Mhedhbi and Brady Christiansen talk about the games they are creating. (Ty Vinson | The Media School)

“They’re learning how to design games with really simple logic, and then they’ll make stuff with more complex logic,” she said. “A lot of them are already pushing those boundaries.”

Students who signed up for the camp could choose between a 2D-focused program or a 3D-based one, depending on their interests and preferences. Although the complexity of the camps differs, beginning students are welcome to try their hand in either. Some students choose to take a week of each.

Game camp attendee Isaac Williamson, who will be a high school freshman in the fall, said he’d learned a lot from game camp. He said he came into the program an avid gamer, but was happy with what he’d learned about how they work.

“I was really interested in how developers make games,” he said. “Before I came here, they seemed really complex.”

Williamson said he’d learned a lot about different types of games, and in really fun ways. To illustrate the concept of multiplayer gaming, he said, they’d worked with a game about zombies making s’mores.

Sophomore Ellie Goldstone and junior Jasmin Herzig help each other on the games they are creating for the Game Development Camp. (Ty Vinson | The Media School)

But most of all, he said he liked the chance to design a game of his own.

“I just really enjoy making my own game,” he said.

Williamson said some of his personal favorite games are “Super Smash Brothers” and the mobile game “Soul Thief.” He said the latter was a big inspiration for the game he’d been working on at camp.

Adam Mhedhbi and Brady Christiansen, two campers in the 3D game development camp, said they were amazed at how much they’d learned. Neither entered the camp with any programming experience, but both had designed their own games from scratch.

Christiansen’s game, a “creepy” game set in a series of dark rooms, was inspired by a few Stephen King novels he’d read, he said. Mhedhbi’s was a parkour game, in which players had to jump around a series of platforms without falling off.

Christiansen said his favorite part of working on his game was the middle portion. Initially, he said, he’d felt a bit confused, and at the end of the process most of the work was in fine-tuning. But he said he liked the program they’d been using, and once he got the hang of it he had a blast working on his game.

Mhedhbi said he’d really enjoyed the challenges of learning to program. He said there were a few tough spots, but once he worked out the kinks he was really proud of what he’d made.

“I could do so much,” he said.