Playing video games comes easy for most teens. But one class of Surrey secondary students is learning that creating those games takes time, talent and a little teamwork.
The class of Grade 10 -12 students at Frank Hurt Secondary School has been enrolled this spring in a digital game development pilot project, taught by their teacher and instructors from Simon Fraser University. The course, based on game development camps led by SFU since 2004, is designed to teach students to develop an idea through its design and programming stages – and produce a full-fledged video game.
“The idea is to get to students who show an interest in this area early, and include these skills in middle and high school education,” says David Milam, a Ph.D student in SFU Surrey’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology and visiting instructor.
Milam focuses on game design, critique, user experience and industry knowledge, while grad student Katie Seaborn teaches technical artistry. Together they took over the camp from SIAT professor Magy Seif El-Nasr last fall and work with students at Frank Hurt. The course is taught by the school’s computer and IT instructor Darren Yung. He says SFU’s direct involvement in the classroom has made a huge difference.
“We’re grateful for the expertise and the exposure the students are getting,” says Yung.
The school plans to offer the course once again in the fall. Students work in teams of three to build games using tools that apply concepts they learn in class. Each team is responsible for creating three games, allowing the students to take on the role of artist, programmer and designer.
“The students get to try out situations in each role – similar to what they would find in game or software development industry production environments – with the task of developing an interactive media product from concept to final product, then demonstrating them to parents, friends and others from industry,” says Milam.
Reaching the final stages of their project called Fast Cash, student Josh Dominquez shows how scalpers selling tickets race around searching for Canucks fans to be potential customers, avoiding police along the way. The player is given a time limit and tries to make as much as cash as possible.
In the game Yung’s Island (poking fun at teacher Darren Yung), students created a colourful Polynesian-style setting, based on intricate drawings, for a game of cooperative play, looking for uninhabited islands in the Bermuda triangle.
“These kids show a lot of promise,” says Milam. “It’s great to be able to encourage that enthusiasm.”
Principal Gloria Sarmento says the connection has given students an opportunity to work with and learn from staff and students at SFU and provided them with an experience currently only available at Frank Hurt.
“We’re hopeful that we can continue this partnership and expand the opportunities provided to our students,” Sarmento says.
The project is funded by SFU, SIAT and GRAND (Graphics, Animation and New Media), a federally-funded network of excellence