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Young video game developers invited to boost skills to next level at Advanced Games Lab

February 23, 2012
In the Advanced Games Lab, students will get the opportunity to design and create their own video game characters.

In the Advanced Games Lab, students will get the opportunity to design and create their own video game characters.

From “Donkey Kong” to “Call of Duty,” video games have captured the imagination of generations of players, but what really goes into making Mario or a squadron of Modern Warfare soldiers come to life on your screen?

This spring, teens ages 13 to 18 are invited to NIU’s Digital Convergence Lab to find out.

The Digital Convergence Lab is hosting an after-school Advanced Games Lab that meets Tuesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. from March 13 through May 1. The eight-week class is for students who previously attended a games lab or have done some developing on their own.

Students will get to expand their skills by using a professional-grade software that is new to DCL camps, Unity 3D. Unity 3D is a game editor and engine that allows users to create and publish games for a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, iOS, and Android.

Eric Russell, the DCL’s Interactive Media Developer and camp instructor, hopes that working with the software will “demystify 3D games and give students an understanding of how many of their favorite games are made.”

Russell specializes in 3D modeling, animation, and virtual reality and has taught games labs for several years.

“Most of our game camps in the past have focus on creating 2D games, which is the best way to learn the basics of game design. With this advanced camp, we’re focusing on 3D game development, which is intrinsically more complex.”

Russell is looking forward to seeing the stories and game play his students will create with Unity 3D. “By adding to their skillset, students will be able to develop games that should only get better, which is very exciting,” he says.

Students don’t have to be hard-core coders to attend. The classes will explore the technical as well as creative side of game design. Russell and the DCL staff will guide students through lessons on animation, virtual worlds, character design, story development, logic, and even sound effects as they create detailed virtual worlds for their games.

The Digital Convergence Lab hosts game development classes and camps for junior high and high school students throughout the year.Aline Click, co-director of the DCL, sees game camps as a way to take interested students beyond what they usually learn in school with fun and challenging lessons.

She tries to expose them to new technology and innovative thinking while helping them exercise their creativity.

“Schools are limited in time and resources,” Click. says “They can’t often teach to individuals’ creative interests. Some kids are interested in music, some art and some sports. I think we offer a unique opportunity for kids who are interested in gaming, art and technology.”

The cost per student for Advanced Games Lab is $160. Space is limited, so sign up early.

Registration is available online.

The DCL also hosts summer camps for middle and high school students, including a game development lab just for girls.

For more information, email Click at [email protected].

by Gillian King-Cargile