Game Making Classes

Last week was really crazy: I gave classes on Game Making for high schoolers from the american military bases in Japan.

This was a program between the bases’ administration and Tsukuba University. 70+ kids came to Tsukuba, where they divided into groups of 7 or so. Each group went to a different laboratory (medicine, biology, robotics, geology, etc). The group would then have some hands-on experience with the research activities done at that lab.

In my case, the University asked someone from the Computer Sciences department to offer a “Gaming Technology”, and I volunteered. I’m no experienced game developer, but I’m a firm believer on the “learn by doing” philosophy. You can’t go wrong doing something you like. Also, I was a bit curious about this whole “American Military High School” business. I don’t have a great image of the american military or their bases here in Japan (who likes foreign military in their soil?), but I was hoping to challenge that view a bit in this project.

The experience was great. The two-day visit was divided into: Game design class, GameMaker experience, AI class and Java experience. The kids were bright and interested. During the classes they would make many questions, going into all sorts of fascinating tangents. Then I let them loose at GameMaker. I showed them the basics: how to make a bouncing ball and a bat, and then left them to do whatever they wanted with the tool. It was really amazing to watch how each of them took a different direction — one guy worked hard at making the sprites work together, while another one concentrated on developing complex mechanics. In the last day, I showed them how to dive into code with an open source java game, and in no time they were finding out how to make themselves immortal, or shooting giant lasers. Even though they didn’t know a word of Java.

The accompaning professors were great guys too. One of them was already working with game design classes at the high schools, and we promised to exchange materials. The other was fascinated by artificial intelligence. We had some good discussions, and he recommended me a great book on Cognition: “this is your brain on music”.

It was quite a busy week, but it also felt a bit like a break. Which is good, because October and November will be super busy months, university-wise.

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