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Next-generation learning
by: May 10, 2010 Print

Halifax-based Artech Camps is looking to train the next generation of game makers, and will soon be making inroads in Toronto as it continues its expansion across the country.

Owner and founder Ronnie Scullion and Artech Ontario director Chad Veinotte were on hand during the recent Sprockets film festival giving local teachers a crash course in making video games, a skill they'll be bringing back to their classrooms to pass along to their students.

Of course, they're doing more than just teaching them how to make the next shoot 'em up, as there are some real educational benefits that can come out of the teach. For example, one of the workshop participants, a history teacher, was interested in building a game that progressed through historical time periods.

The beauty of the program they use for the camp, Game Maker 8 from YoYo Games, is that it allows the user to make the game as simple or as complex as they want. It integrates an icon-based, drag-and-drop user interface for beginners, but also has the option of switching to advanced coding.

"There's a skill improvement that comes when kids are making these games," says Scullion. "At first, they just want to make things work, but then they gain the confidence in their own abilities and start to add more complex features."

The camps, which target kids in the eight-to-12 age range, launched in 2005 in Halifax. Just last year, Artech launched a chapter in Ottawa and will be coming into Toronto to meet the growing demand. Its schedule offers a range of programs, from RPG design, creating space games ( la Space Invaders), stop-motion and computer animation, even robotics.

"Kids will get a better understanding of cause and effect," Veinotte adds. "Learning how to build a game uses science, math and also teaches logic. The great thing is that they don't realize it at first. It's one thing to play a game, and another to go behind the scenes and have control."

The teacher workshop Artech ran as part of Sprockets was the first time Scullion and Veinotte had worked with adults, but they received such a positive response that they would definitely consider teaching adult classes.

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