Code in the Schools brought students together for health and video games - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Nov. 14, 2018 6:21 pm

Code in the Schools brought students together for health and video games

At Game Jam 6.0, about 50 students gathered in Station North to make new games with a health and wellness theme.

The scene at Code in the Schools Game Jam 6.0.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Standing next to a board covered with the ideas that would become a video game in one day, a team of four eighth graders from Roland Park Elementary-Middle School stood over a computer and worked toward the finished product.

“I look forward to this every single year, and I practice all summer,” said Meira Berlow.

By “this,” she was referring to Code in the Schools’ Game Jam. The sixth edition of the event gathered 50 students at the computer science education nonprofit’s headquarters in Station North’s Centre Theatre on Saturday. The goal: to make a game in a single day (and learn something new in the process).

The returning participants like Berlow had some extra challenge in the form of a theme. The focus area for the event was health and wellness, as announced to the teams that morning by Dr. Leshell Hatley, a Coppin State professor of computer science and computer engineering who also founded STEAM-focused nonprofit Uplift, Inc.

Along with Berlow, Grace Johnson, Adrienne Stapleton and Sarah Patterson took the prompt and created a game that guides a player through a therapy session. They wrote a script, then turned the narrative into a game using Fungus. The open source tool works with Unity 3D, and the team found that it’s a way to take a different approach.

“Most of it relies heavily not on visuals but on story elements,” Johnson said.

Each team worked with a volunteer mentor who helped with the process of building a game. Many were part of a group of nearly two dozen volunteers from Big Huge Games, the Hunt Valley–based studio behind the mobile strategy game DomiNations.

Kayla Harris, a Big Huge game designer who organized the group, said it was important to help inspire and provide opportunities for the “next generation of game developers.”

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“They might play the game,” she said, but until someone talks to them and shows them the process, “they might not realize that someone makes the game, too.”

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