The glow of their computer screens lighting up their faces, three middle school-aged students typed, scrolled and clicked enthusiastically on a Tuesday afternoon recently, learning how to make the video games they love to play.
They were in the fifth class of an eight week introductory game design course in the relatively new business Youth Digital Studio, which offers classes to children 8 to 18 years old in video, Web and game design.
The students in the small class on Tuesday were learning to create their game’s final level. They sketched out scenarios in which their digital heroes had to jump between moving platforms while fighting the game’s ultimate villain. Skylar Fernandez, a student in the seventh grade, said he plays games such as “Call of Duty” on Nintendo’s Xbox, as well as other games, but had never tried to make one himself before. He said he hoped it could become a new hobby, or maybe a career.
Daniel Caruso, also a seventh-grader, said he’s interested in game design, and thought about taking it on as a hobby. He said he’s had a chance to learn some game programming in school, but his class used a different type of software, and devoted about three days to the subject.
“We’ve seen a huge interest because kids love computers, there’s no question about that,” said Molly Richards, one of the co-owners of Youth Digital Studio along with her husband, Justin Richards. “But then parents see this as something really valuable as well. It’s something that gives them real, practical skills.”
The couple originally launched the business in St. Louis, Mo., early last year, and relocated it to the Triangle. They moved because Justin, whose computer skills are self-taught, is a graduate student at Duke Divinity School. They had 85 students in their current session, they have several summer sessions planned, and they are opening to launching classes for adults as well, although there are none on their schedule yet.
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