Nampa kids go from gamers to creators

NAMPA — It took Conor VanWey a month to create a video game that allows four characters to battle in an underwater arena. Conor turned his love of playing video into programming his own.

“It’s very complicated,” said Conor, an eighth grader at Lone Star Middle School. “I thought it was going to be easy.”

The game enthusiast is among 20 seventh- and eighth-grade students who are learning game design and programing at Lone Star Middle School.

“Programing is harder than I thought,” Conor said. “One mistake can ruin the whole game.”

Conor and his classmates take their education into their own hands while in Aaron Moiso’s computer programing class. They create their own version of a dream game and spend time learning and applying computer codes and drawing designs.

“My class offers a creative space for students to work,” Moiso said. “This allows the kids a chance to do something they are interested in and take a break from the everyday hustle and bustle in the classroom.”

Students use ‘Scratch’, a programming language website developed at MIT, which provides kids with an easy way to create basic programs and games. It allows users to program their own interactive stories and games with animated content.

“Creating video games is persistence and problem solving,” Moiso said. “Coding should be like learning another language.”

This is Moiso’s second year teaching the project-based class. Students don’t take exams and are graded based on requirements their games must meet — for example, a character must fall to the floor when activated to jump.

“I allow my students to go beyond from what they’re learning in the classroom,” Moiso said. “I want to have an environment where my students go research skills that I don’t have.”

Students are introduced to basic coding and graphic design skills. They are creating a digital game and designing a board game. Eighth grader Megan Edgerton has an interest in design and taught herself Adobe Illustrator to make her board game realistic.

“My biggest challenge is problem solving,” Megan said. “It’s nice to be in a class that isn’t structured and allows you to produce creative work.”