Video game design camps offer chances to play, learn

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Video Game Development Program logoInstead of tuning out this summer, video game players can tune into creating games by learning computer science, graphics, animation and logic.

NIU’s Digital Convergence Lab is offering summer day camps in video game design beginning Monday, June 22, and continuing through mid-August at Founders Memorial Library on the NIU campus.

Designed for boys and girls ages 10 and older, the camps include special sessions for different skill levels and one for girls only.

“The camps are what we call hard fun,” said Aline Click, co-director of the Digital Convergence Lab. “They can be hard at first, sometimes really hard, but as the kids gain experience they become increasingly excited and engaged, which is great to see.”

As campers design and play games throughout the week they are asked to analyze what they are experiencing.

Exploring how sound effects and animation are used and the ways challenges and goals are set up provides participants an engaging opportunity to continue developing the critical thinking skills crucial to academic and career success in the future. Teamwork, which requires lots of social interaction, is an essential part of the game development process.

Professional designers run the camp with the assistance of graduate students interested in game design, allowing campers to be introduced to the college experience at NIU and career choices as they develop new STEM and design skills along the way. Outside game developers are often connected with via Skype, providing campers with insight into what it actually takes to work in the world of video games.

Games Camp Just For Girls logoKicking off the camp season this year is the “Just for Girls” camp for students entering fifth- through ninth-grade.

In addition to learning the essentials of game design and exploring virtual worlds, girls in attendance will design a game interface, customize and animate their own avatar and meet professional women game developers.

Coed video game design and 3D video game design camps run through July, with more advanced camps, including a career-focused STEM camp for high school student entering 10th- through 12th-grade in August.

Attending video game design camp is not only a terrific way to spend a week during the summer, Click says: It provides participants with an entirely new perspective.

“Once you learn how to actually design and make a game,” Click says, “you will never look at video games the same way again.”

For more information, call (815) 751-3924 or email aclick@niu.edu.

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