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Boot camps and Hackathon to teach business of game design

September 30, 2016

This article was written by Sean Roney

By Sean Roney

Past Startup Tech Boot Camps have focused on the business of mobile app design, but this year will focus on game development. Photo provided by IIED.

Past Startup Tech Boot Camps have focused on the business of mobile app design, but this year will focus on game development. Photo provided by IIED.

Two Tech-Boot camps in October and a Hackathon in November are on their way to provide local students a chance to learn about the business of game design. The Institute for Innovation and Economic Development (IIED) will host Startup Tech Boot Camps on Oct. 7 and Oct. 21, meant to introduce students of all backgrounds to game design, including the business end, while the Nov. 4-6 Hackathon will center around a weekend-long game design competition.

“The two boot camps are definitely open to non-computer science majors,” said IIED Program Specialist Mary Jo Zenk. “Anybody who is into it, interested, and has a game idea. But you need to know how a basic game is put together.”

“It won’t be directly coding, but it will be very similar, a high level,” said IIED Executive Director Brad Barbeau. He explained participants will learn the game creation platform hyperPad.

The nature of the boot camps will guide people through learning how to design games. “The first is an overview of what constitutes a good game and walking you through how to put a game into hyperPad,” said Zenk. “The second one is on more advanced features of hyperPad. All the bells and whistles.” She added, “You’re not going to be creating your own game over those two boot camps. You’re learning a tool for that. It’s a basic tool, but it’s a way to get some introduction to it.”

“They’ll figure out a game, then over the weekend they’ll have to build a basic prototype of that game.”

The Hackathon this year will focus on those game creation skills, a new direction from previous years, which have focused instead on mobile apps.

“The theme is creating fun digital games that solve community problems,” said Zenk. The selection of problems could range from parking on campus or saving water. Then, Zenk said, participants will use their skills to answer: “Can we create a fun game that also addresses that?”

The Hackathon will include computer science students, but the aim of IIED is to get participants from other backgrounds, as well. “The artists, the designers, the people that kind of are into games and understand the user interface and user psychology,” said Zenk. “They’ll form a team with techies and artists and gamers and they’ll figure out a game, then over the weekend they’ll have to build a basic prototype of that game.” The Hackathon’s final day will end with an afternoon display of games before the community and a panel of judges.

The boot camps will be free for CSUMB students, but the Hackathon is still in the process of funding collection. Students from other area colleges are welcome to attend. Zenk explained the Hackathon, being a three-day event, will require food, beverages, and caffeine for the participants. Prizes for the winning team of the Hackathon have yet to be determined, and while the judges haven’t yet been finalized, Barbeau said, “Typically it’s some representation from the faculty and some representation from tech people in the area.”

The shift to game development rather than mobile app development was inspired by more than just industry interest. “It’s the application of principles to games.” In noting an industry standout, he said, “Duolingo is an online and app for learning languages, and it uses game principals to engage you in the process of learning a language, rather than sitting there and memorizing.”

Additionally, CSUMB has a new game design major in computer sciences and a game design lab.

“Hopefully some of the community college students that come will transfer here and get into our majors,” said Zenk. “We’re making a strategic effort to work with the community colleges.”

Students interested in participating in the boot camps or Hackathon can visit csumb.edu/iied to learn more and view slide shows of past events.

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