Teens Learn Video Game Basics from Schell Games

By Malyk Johnson – 12th Grade, Allderdice High School

Anyone who has ever played a video game has wondered what goes into making the colorful worlds on the screens in front of them. Some players, especially teens, have even aspired to one day make games of their own.

On Wednesday, August 12, Schell Games, a local video game developer known for their work on games such as Toontown, hosted a game design workshop at Carnegie Library – East Liberty.  The workshops, which teach aspects of video game development to teens, will continue on Wednesdays for the next two weeks.

When I attended the workshop, students learned how to use a simple game design tool from M.I.T. called “Scratch.” Game designer Michal Ksiazkiewic, who has worked in the gaming industry for ten years, taught the workshop. Michal has worked for Schell Games for two years and previously worked at Disney for four years. At Disney, Michal worked on games such as Pixie Hollow and Club Penguin.

“Scratch” uses a system of blocks of pre-written code which connect together like a jigsaw puzzle, and the program does not require any previous coding experience.

Using “Scratch,” Michal taught the attendees how to make a simple game called “Breakout,” in which a ball bounces off of a paddle and breaks bricks above it.   He guided the students through each step in programming the paddle, the ball, and the bricks.  For the students who stayed late, Michal showed some of the other projects that other users have made using Scratch’s tools, including Mario and Kirby games.

The Ball and paddle for a game of Breakout with the code for the ball

Coding a game of “Breakout”

During the break, I talked to Michal about the workshop and his experiences making games. Michal told me he enjoys the new design tools that are available to interested students: “I’m excited we have tools that we have today. When I was getting my computer science degree, it was dry. It just meant that you knew everything about computers.”

When asked what advice he would give to a student interested in game development, he replied, “Do things like make games, do things like this [workshop]. First ask yourself why you want to be in games. If you want to be an artist, find a programmer who will let you do the art. When you go to a game studio, you can show them things like projects in Scratch.”

With the world becoming more digital, computer literacy is an important skill to learn early on.  Although no coding experience was required to use “Scratch,” students also learned many programming basics, such as “if and then commands” and “forever loops” which will be invaluable if they choose to pursue a career in video game design.

The next video game design workshop will take place on August 26 at Carnegie Library – East Liberty.

Malyk Johnson 1Malyk Johnson will be a senior at Allderdice High School this coming year where he writes for the school newspaper. He enjoys playing video games and listening to podcasts.

Leave a Comment

Posting your comment...

Subscribe to these comments via email