When I was a kid, video games like Nintendo and Atari were thought of as time wasters and brain drainers. Since then, they have developed into amazing pieces of creative art.
What hasn’t changed are parents wanting their kids to do something in the summer besides playing video games.
If a compromise can’t be made, or you want to focus your child’s interest towards something productive, I recommend Game Worlds.
What Do Kids Learn at Game Worlds?
Game Worlds is not another daycare camp that lets kids play video games all day long. It’s a new, week long camp for kids ages 10-18 that teaches them how to develop their own software and video games.
Each session is composed of about 20 inherently likeminded kids who are divided into groups of 3-5, depending on age and experience. From there, each group creates a prototype. This can be something as simple as an example of a video game level, or an entire game if time allows.
Each group of young learners start by pitching their ideas to a group of developers, similar to how pitch are made to publishers and investors in the real world. Following their experience in public speaking, they learn all the software in a week, with different days devoted to different aspects. Their subjects include: art, programming, design, audio, and a little bit of business.
Finally on Friday, they give their presentation to a panel of judges and conclude the week with a pizza party where they get to play their games.
Students can start their day as early as 8 AM, but the camp gives parents about 45 minutes to show up, letting the early kids play games to start off the day. Around 9, they start their hour long lecture with an industry professional. They go on to do their lab, completing a milestone for that day. After lunch, they go back to their labs and the afternoon is filled with tutorials and some gaming time when a break is needed.
Valuable Skills for the Future
The camp was founded late last year by developer and art director, Alicia Andrew. Originally she was involved with another camp called Game Camp. It was a lighthearted camp to get kids to play games. “I wanted to do more,” Alicia explains. “I thought the kids could do prototypes, could build their own games in the time we had, because the kids were already asking for more than we could give them.” Her goal with this camp is to “not produce baby developers or baby software developers, but really promote fluid intelligence.”
As explained by Alicia, “Crystallized intelligence is when you repeat an action and memorize it. Fluid is a different subset where you are tasked with problem solving new and novel problems, finding the right solution for you. Those skills are the ones that are being most utilized by most industries right now. And the types of jobs there being created. But there’s a big gap in education with the type of skill set being taught. What I wanted to do was create a program that really works at promoting that type of intelligence and that type of problem solving.
“And software development and video game development naturally does that. It’s the perfect marriage of science and creativity. Also because the kids are super interested in video games, it’s an easy sell. We teach them skills that the software developer would use, but underneath that it’s the idea of creative problem solving.”
While talking with Alicia, I could tell that she had a great passion for teaching kids and expanding their minds. She also stated she wants to expand Game Worlds into an after school program and not just a summer camp.
All of the people who come to do lectures or join the judging panel have been game developers or have had at least 5 years of experience in the game industry. The counselors are junior game developers or game development students in university level programs. Each counselor serves as team lead. Their job is to control the kids scope and help them if they get stuck, but not to control their ideas or control the way their game is going.
Inspiring Invention and Creativity
After one of the sessions this summer, one of Game Worlds’ ten year old students went on to build 3 or 4 different games at home, using the software engine, Construct 2. He learned all of this at the camp in one week. Game Worlds has even had returning students already, though they haven’t even been running for a year yet.
Game Worlds is a unique opportunity for kids to learn programing and game developing skills, work in teams, and have fun without realizing they’re learning a whole new aspect of the video games they play. They’ll probably never look at video games the same way.
For more information, including scheduling, prices and enrollment, check out Game Worlds’ website at GameWorldsCamp.com. You can also check out their Facebook page, which includes daily updates on the camp, a weekly recap with pictures and examples of the work the kids made. The website has also become a resource for game development articles, development sites, and anything a young developer would want to look up.
Game Worlds will also be creating a blog at the end of the summer that includes all the work the kids made, so they can visit and play their creations.
Do you wish something like Game Worlds existed during your long summers as a kid?