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Monday, March 31, 2014

PCT Open House - Spring 2014 (Gaming & Simulation)

     My college's open house happened on Saturday and some students and I volunteered to help with the Gaming and Simulation presentations and represent what BGS majors are capable of. I had a lot of fun and got everything I wanted and more out of the experience. Get the details of that experience below.

     A bunch of students volunteered to help out with the open house to leave a good impression for the major. Despite me hating classes with a passion I really do love everything else about school and I'd do anything I can to help someone interested in games to follow their dream. Especially when it comes to convincing their parents to let them chase that dream.

    I set up my laptop and tablet on a table to demonstrate, trademarkia, App Annie,, and all the apps I made. I showed potential students and parents the things we learn to do in class (namely Unity, team projects, and web development). Another student was doing the same for his website while the rest demonstrated the Sphero robot balls and approached wandering visitors. All three of the teachers in charge of the major were there to present information on the school and curriculum while the students were meant to fill in the blanks.

    We talked about life on campus, which classes to prepare for, what clubs are like, how LAN parties work, and what projects students do outside of class. We talked about the different minors and resume building, career fairs, and how some students have already formed indie studios. I was glad to see so many people interested in the Gaming & Simulation program.

     The teachers weren't kidding when they said the room is full every time, multiple times throughout the day, every semester. It's a popular new major and many visiting parents are skeptical about the gaming industry so they stick around too ask a lot of questions. It felt good reassuring them that their kids are going to have a safe and happy future thanks to the skills they will develop as programmers.

    There was quite a bit of diversity going on too. A majority of the 60 plus BGS students are white males and I saw a lot of girls and a few black high school students come to the presentations. What stood out to me even more were the younger siblings tagging along. The kids were dressed with video game characters front and center on their shirts and hoodies. I wonder if seeing how games are made has inspired them.

      I also had the pleasure of meeting the world's coolest 10-year-old. A family of 5 came in and their 3 kids were curious about how games were made. The dad worked at the school in the language arts department and decided to bring his family over toward the end of open house. The boy and his two sisters watched the last presentation for the day and afterwards the girls played with Sphereo and the boy was talking to Anita, the program's co-founder, and was drawing his idea for a game on the board.

     After he was done Anita sent the kid my way so I could show him the program Scratch and what I've done. I showed him my scratch projects (video) and how easy it was to make games for phones with Unity. The projects I demonstrated were my old Sonic, Pac-Man, and Pokemon prototypes and animation tests from high school (you can play with them here). He honestly understood everything I was talking about and he quickly grasped how to do sprite animations in Scratch. I told him how to find the program so he could start playing with it at home.

     The greatest quote I got from him was "I never thought making games was this easy! I didn't know how to make one work." which absolutely made my day. I seriously hope I get to shake his hand 15 years from now when the world is at his feet. I always imagined my own future kids turning out just like him. Excited and eager to learn, quickly grasping computer science and exploding with creativity.

     I was surprised how all of the kids that showed up were interested in Unicorn Quest despite me not mentioning it. When they saw the app icon on the tablet or the open Unity project they asked to play it immediately. I really think I'm onto something here. If I can get to the top of the app store for even just a little while, I think I can hit a big audience.

I can't decipher it, but it's the work of a child genius.
     Open house is held every semester and I look forward to helping out again every time until I graduate. I met interesting people, ate donuts, showed off my stuff, talked with junior game students, saw what they were working on, and I feel like I genuinely affected a bunch of people's lives.

     I played a role in easing parents worries about letting their child pursue a career game programming. I see myself as an example of what college students are capable of with enough passion. Now I know others see that as well. It feels pretty good and I could use the confidence boost. I'll need a healthy ego to start a company someday.

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