Rensselaer, in partnership with Games in Education, hosted the fourth annual Teen Game Workshop on campus Aug. 14-18. Aimed at high school students ages 14 to 17, the workshops were led by Rensselaer game studies professors and local games professionals who taught the students games-related programs including Python, Ren’Py, Photoshop, and audio creation.

According to organizers, the Teen Game Workshop is a free, weeklong workshop for local teens who may not have the resources to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. “By the end of the week these teens will gain confidence and excitement in seeing this as a potential career available for them to pursue in upstate New York,” said Tobi Saulnier ’84, CEO of 1st Playable Productions and president of Games in Education.

This year’s workshop included 14 new students and nine returning students, according to Amanda Kirk ’06, lead designer and producer at 1st Playable Productions, one of the workshop’s organizers. “Most of them have never created a game before,” she said.

“Every year I’m amazed to see what these students are able to create in the course of the week, and how excited they are to learn about technology,” Kirk said. “Many of these students haven never programmed before. This year, we had a student who doesn’t even have a PC in their home and they were able to use their creativity to build a project that expresses themselves. We hope by being able to provide this program, we can get these students excited about pursuing STEM careers.”

Besides learning how to program and use various art tools, the students learned how to seek solutions on their own, express their thoughts in a narrative story, work with others on a team, and to share knowledge and persevere when met with technical challenges.

In 2016, Empire State Development announced three new Digital Gaming Hubs in New York state—at Rensselaer, New York University, and Rochester Institute of Technology. The Digital Gaming Hubs, selected through a request for proposals process, received $150,000 each per year for three years.

“The Capital Region and New York state are home to tremendous talent in game design, and the students just starting out today will be the ones bringing new visions and stories to the future of the industry,” said Ben Chang, associate professor and director of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program at Rensselaer.

Video games represent one of the largest and fastest growing entertainment industries in the world, and the Capital Region is positioned to be a growing location in digital gaming. The Digital Gaming Hub brings together partners in the game development community, including the nonprofit organizations Tech Valley Game Space and Games in Education; local studios including 1st Playable Productions, Vicarious Visions, Velan Studios, and Warner Brothers; the Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship in the Lally School of Management; and the Emerging Ventures Ecosystem at Rensselaer.

Games in Education, based in Troy, is a nonprofit volunteer organization with the goal of creating opportunities for educators and students. “We seek to enable and empower forward-thinking educators as well as inspire local youth to engage in STEM,” the organization states.