When I think back to the first game system to enter the scene, the Atari System in the 1980s, the games were fairly gender neutral. I never got one as a kid, because my dad thought my sister and I would play too much and that it would hurt our eyes. But my cool aunt and uncle, who were much younger than my dad, would let us borrow theirs for a week at time. The first time we had an Atari System in the house, it was my mom who stayed up all night playing Pac-man.
I remember fondly the first home video games – Pac-man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Asteriods and Centipede. I remember my cousins making me cry when they wouldn’t let me play Frogger. And I remember that it didn’t matter whether you were a boy or a girl – Atari games had the power to draw in both audiences.
In my opinion, more current systems, like the Nintendo DS, the Sony PlayStation systems or the XBOX, and the games that go with them, have not had the same gender-neutral appeal. As a girl, I do not find myself drawn to the most recent NFL Madden game or the latest battlefield simulation. While I know many boys (and grown men) who find re-enacting WWII to be quite enjoyable, it just does not have the same appeal to me. Those who have studied the content of video games more closely have argued that compared to boys, girls “encounter fewer powerful, active female role models in computer games or software.” Because these systems and games dominated the market for many years, it makes sense that girls who spent most of their impressionable years with these systems on the market would be less drawn to a course on video game creation.
The latest game system to enter the market, the ever-popular Nintendo Wii, has the potential, I believe, to swing the market back to video games being gender neutral. I see more and more girls drawn to the more physically active games that are popular with the game system, such as Wii Sports and Rockband, just to name a few. One of the dads in our office was actually just telling me this morning how his two girls (ages 9 and 6) find Wii Sports (especially bowling and tennis) to be engaging, whereas they did not have much interest in earlier game systems.
So perhaps as more girls take an interest in video games with the newer game systems,we will see the percentage of girls in these classes rise. We are also starting to see more well-designed video games that are engaging to a female audience. I recently came upon a article from KidConfidence with some specific game suggestions for girls. Click here to check it out.
As for me, when the Atari left our house for the last time, I took a twenty-year hiatus from video game playing, except for the very occasional attempt to please the video game loving people in my life. I did find myself enjoying RockBand for several hours on one recent occasion. Who knows … maybe this older gal will find her way back into the video game world.
On the surface, the Game Design class may look somewhat straightforward. But it’s much more than simply creating fun games with our students. In our classes, we also teach important programming concepts, which can be the foundation for a future programming career.
Game Building can be frustrating for somebody who has never done it before. As games become more and more complex, the instructors are there to help them understand how to build their games well. Programmers call it “extensibility.” Here’s an example of how students encounter this in DMA’s Adventures Game Design class:
A few days into the week, we usually start working on an RPG game. The player controls a character who interacts with bystanders in the game to get information or collect items. The students quickly discover how frustrating it is to program actions for every single bystander in the game individually. The same goes for other objects in the game, such as allies, enemies, keys, coins, and projectiles. It’s much easier to group them together, and make a rule saying, “Whenever the character talks to any bystander, run this action.”
Extensibility is not the only programming concept that we teach to the kids. They learn the importance of game planning, bug testing, and proper pacing to effectively meet deadlines. They also develop an understanding of variables, and an introductory understanding of object-oriented programming. Instead of lecturing to the students, we let them discover and understand the concepts by themselves, with guidance.
Most importantly, we teach the kids programming concepts without them even realizing it! If they pursue a career in computer science or game design, they will already understand the importance of extensibility, testing, planning, and pacing. Though it may seem like just another fun summer course, every student gets much more out of it – skills they can use for the rest of their lives.
See you in the Summer!
In our Summer Digital Media Adventures Program for kids (9-13), we offer two Video Game Creation Programs. We cover several media and game-creation tools, and spend a lot of time in Multimedia Fusion 2. In this video, I’ll create a Pong Clone to show you the basics of MMF2′s interface. Unlike computer programming, MMF2 is more graphical and straightforward, and you can see direct results as you shape the game. Computer programming is much more abstract, but the basic concepts of programming are present in MMF2. In our Video Game Creation class, we teach students about game balancing and collaboration, and how to reach a deadline with a glitch-free game. In the advanced course, we go into how to manage games that quickly get very large, and how to build them well from the start. We look forward to seeing you this summer!
News from HQ by Philip Harding
By Dave Bittorf – Lead 3D Modeling, Animation & Game Design Instructor
I’ve always been passionate about art and also curious about how games are created. If you ever wondered how artist create the amazing 3D images you see on your favorite video game then check out the game creation classes at Digital Media Academy! I’ve been working in the 3D industry for about 5 years now. The software that we are using for these classes are the real deal. Maya, 3D Studio Max, Z-Brush and Unreal have been used to build games such as Gears of War I and II and Unreal Tournament III. Click on the image below to check out a video that gives you an idea about what a career in game creation is all about.