BILLERICA, MA — The Programming and Web Development shop at Shawsheen Valley Regional Technical High School is located in an area of the school referred to as the mall. Every Wednesday afternoon, right after school, the mall is packed with students eager to join their friends for the day’s action with the Video Gaming Club. The club, supervised by programming instructor Kelly Corrigan, currently counts 57 members.
“The club was originally designed to complement our programming and web curriculum which it does by further developing a student’s programming skills,” said Corrigan. “But now we also see how much the social aspect really kicks in.”
Some of the students, she noted, would be home perhaps playing video games by themselves, but here they’re working together, making connections and building friendships.
“We have thirty to fifty kids every week and they socialize and share their knowledge and love of gaming with each other,” she added. “I realize now just how important this is for these students.”
Three ardent members of the club took time from gaming to offer their gamer’s perspective on the culture of video gamers. Matt Boudreaux, a senior from Tewksbury, along with Derek Stevens and Aaron Preziosi, both from Billerica, have been gaming since childhood and each anticipates maintaining a deep connection to the gaming community personally and professionally.
Preziosi sees himself as a part of an open and diverse community of people who thrive on the shared experience of gaming, far different from the stereotype of the young video gamer as a socially awkward introvert.
Stevens, who is totally about sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the video game industry, supports that perspective while adding that the gaming community is one billion strong and growing.
Boudreaux, Stevens, and Preziosi were animated while they recalled a litany of their favorite video games, including many games that date back to the early days of the industry. Preziosi loves what he calls the “retro” games and relishes the experience of sharing his favorite older games with other club members. However, Corrigan, the instructor, pointed out that the goal of the club is to “bring tomorrow into the club today.”
Corrigan talked about bringing mixed reality technology, defined as the combination of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, into the video game world.
The vocational and technical teachers at Shawsheen look to industry representatives to assist them in evaluating the technology environment to ensure both relevance and rigor even in activities like the Video Gaming Club. Joe Warrino is a business owner and technologist who currently serves as the chairperson of the Employer Advisory Committee for the Internet, Web and Programming Shop. His company, Now Business Intelligence, is a Microsoft Partner and this relationship with Microsoft helps Corrigan and her colleagues stay at the cutting edge of digital technology.
Warrino is an unabashed supporter of the Video Gaming Club.
Gaming, he said, is important right now.
“It’s the way that technical people communicate,” he said. “The work of designing and developing video games requires teamwork, cooperation and leadership and this is what is an essential element of the Shawsheen program including the Video Gaming Club. It’s a fantastic program that helps students build confidence in their knowledge and skills which in turn will help them in their education and eventually in the workplace.”
The members of the Video Gaming Club intuitively understand the collaborative nature of the Video Gaming workplace that awaits them. Matt Boudreaux is headed to art school and then hopes to work as a video game designer. Stevens and Preziosi also see themselves working in the industry.
Here is how Stevens envisions the creative process.
“Here’s how it works. Matt makes the design, he makes the sphere, I code the sphere so that it bounces like a ball. Matt makes the lines on the ball and I create the physics so that when it hits the ground it reacts the way a basketball would.”
Preziosi builds on Steven’s point.
Everything sort of combines when you’re making a game. It’s not just writing code. There is a lot of creative thinking and design that goes into it.”
And while Boudreaux, Stevens and Preziosi all project themselves working in the video gaming industry, Corrigan explains that the knowledge and skills required to work on a team to create a new video game transcends this fast-growing video game ndustry.
“Gaming is at the beginning of most high-tech inventions. For instance, a lot of the mixed reality software is now integrated into the healthcare and medical industries. This technology has been adapted into these industries in many different ways, and the importance of these technologies for other industries will only grow,” Corrigan says.
As another Wednesday afternoon Video Game Club session wound down it would appear that the one question Corrigan will have to answer is, how to make room for many more Shawsheen students draw to the Internet, Web and Programming Shop and by extension the Video Gaming Club.
(NOTE: The above press release is from Shawsheen Tech.)
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