Students learn work can be a game

From left, Joshua McField, Cristhian Sanchez and Randa Witter work on changing the rules for Connect 4 during a gaming workshop on Friday at UCCI. - Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

Cayman Prep student Randa Witter was surprised to hear that creating a computer game was far more complex than she thought it was.

“I thought gaming was just programming and you draw,” she said.

She’d just listened to Joshua Kanies, a professor with Art Institutes based in Florida, talk about the ways in which such subjects as history, anthropology, physics and storytelling play a part in game development.

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“I didn’t know there were so many aspects of it,” Randa said.

That was one of the primary messages for 40 students attending a workshop Friday at the University College of the Cayman Islands. It was put on by the organizers of Gamers Bay along with the Youth Services Unit and the Ministry of Education, and was inspired by the Gamers Bay computer game competition that took place Saturday at Camana Bay Arts & Recreation Centre.

Lance Jefferson is co-founder of NetGeekz, which produces the Gamers Bay event. He said the idea of using the competition as a springboard to talk to schoolchildren about careers in gaming rose out of last year’s event.

“This particular year, we wanted to focus on the technical side of it,” Mr. Jefferson said. “The kids of the Cayman Islands have the skill set for this particular industry. It’s just a matter of guiding them.”

Originally, the workshop, which was promoted as a STEM-oriented event, was limited to 33 students who were identified from a series of school visits earlier in the week. There was enough interest that 40 students were invited to attend. They learned about career possibilities in gaming, game structure and the social media aspects of the gaming world.

Organizers said more students wanted to attend.

“We’re already in the planning for next year,” Mr. Jefferson said. “We’re probably doing a workshop in the Brac as well as enhancing this one.”

He said they may hold the workshop in the gym at John Gray High School to accommodate all those who are interested.

Michael Myles, dean and program director for Hope Academy, was attending the workshop with some of his students. He said more events like it are needed.

“We seem to have a one-track idea of what our kids can get into,” Mr. Myles said, referring to Cayman in general. “Making a living is more than the tourist industry or the financial industry.”

Computers, he said, offer another avenue for students to pursue. Other subjects should receive attention as well.

“I think workshops like this are going to be critical for our children,” he said. “I’m hoping it’s going to broaden their horizons.”

Mr. Myles said he is amazed how much his students already seem to know about the different aspects of computer gaming, which is, for many, a big part of their lives.

“These kids could be programmers, but we don’t push it,” he said, acknowledging that even his school doesn’t offer a coding class. “I’d like to see careers like this pushed to the forefront. They’re all plugged in, why not push it?”

Dreshaun Barnes is a student at Wesleyan Christian Academy. He’s not sure about gaming, but it’s close to what he would like to pursue.

“It involves the career path I want to get into, which is IT and programming,” Dreshaun said. “I like the programming aspect (of gaming) with the textures, the environments. That’s what I’d like to do, or writing the rules or the physics.”

Speaking before the start of the workshop, Youth Services Unit coordinator James Myles said this is the first workshop on video gaming to be held in the Cayman Islands.

“It’s the next big thing,” he said. “I think it’s time we have young Caymanians maximize the information age.”