by Alana J. Mauger
Students in Montgomery County Community College’s Electronic Game and Simulation Design program showcased their capstone project in the Science Center lobby during spring semester finals. The project represents two semesters of collaborative work, during which students must design and produce a video game using skills they learned in the program.
This year’s students – Moises Carreras, Travis Carter, Mike Covert, Brian Watson and Jesse Whitworth – were the fourth cohort to complete the program since its introduction in 2008. As a team, they chose to develop a vampire survival game after each pitching three ideas and discussing the pros and cons of each.
According to Computer Science Assistant Professor Jason Wertz, the game development process is extremely collaborative – debunking the stereotype that video game designers work in isolation.
“Teamwork is the most important aspect of the program – even more so than the game itself. So is time management and experiencing the development process from start to finish both as an individual and in a group,” said Wertz.
Students complete the capstone project during their third and fourth semesters in the program, which also includes courses in media studies, computer programing, scriptwriting, acting, pre-calculus and physics. The program also includes five electronic game/simulation design courses, during which students learn technologies like 3-D modeling.
“The program strives to expose students to as much as possible to help them make career decisions,” said Wertz. “Many students in the program don’t even know what possibilities are available to them in the industry.”
For Moises Carreras, a STEM Scholar who graduated in May with an AAS in Electronic Game and Simulation Design, the capstone project helped him to prepare for his next step.
“I hope to start a small company and make games for Android; there’s a good market,” he shared. “I’m using the [capstone] game as a learning experience. There’s a lot I would do differently.”
Jesse Whitworth, current student and one of Carreras’ teammates, said a process was “a lot harder than we thought.”
“If we could go back, we would pick a less complex concept,” he said, explaining that their plan had many levels with a lot of detail. “We started out thinking that something would take two days, and it took two months. It was that far off.”
Wertz explained that the program enables students to make and learn from their mistakes to become better programmers and designers.
“It’s important that students recognize that the program gives them a foundation, but they’ll need to do a LOT of game making on their own time to build a portfolio,” he said. “Art students that only draw in/for class probably won’t get jobs as artists; same for game developers. The program provides students with a local, low-cost, option for exploring this career option.”
For more information on the College’s Electronic Game and Simulation Design program, visit www.mc3.edu/academics.