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These Milwaukee youth could be the future of the video game industry

Teen Game Jam

This past weekend, 88Nine Labs hosted a teen game jam at Mitchell Street Library in partnership with Milwaukee Public Library, Northwestern Mutual and Miltown Game Developers.

For those who aren't familiar with game jams, it's an event where designers, coders, artists and storytellers come together to create a video game in a short period of time.

The gaming industry is one of the fastest growing in the world. According to a report from market intelligence firm Newzoo, a base of 2.3 billion gamers worldwide will spend a total of $137.9 billion on games this year. Not only that, the industry pulls in more revenue than movies and music. This also means there are a lot of amazing careers young people can get into gaming.

The mission for the teen game jam was not only to get youth interested in programming, but also learning about all the components that go into making a game—from art to music to story writing. Game development is a perfect example of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education. What better way to get kids engaged than with something they already love to do? That's what this game jam was about.

The game jam took place on July 27 and 28. On the first day of the game jam, the youth formed groups based off a shared interest which was the basis for their game. Then, they worked with the professional volunteers to turn their ideas into a functioning game. During the first day, the youth worked on creating assets for their games, like graphics, sound and music. In addition to working on their own games, the youth got a chance to learn more about some of the games that the professional volunteers from Miltown Game Developers have created.

On the second day, the youth worked with professional volunteers to take the assets they created on the first day and build interactivity with code. The volunteers showed them the basics of Unity3d, a popular game development tool.

At the end of the second day, there was a career panel featuring Colin Hayes from Bucks Gaming, who talked about the opportunities in eSports, one of the fastest growing segments in the gaming industry. Following the presentation, the youth finished up their games and presented them to their family and friends, where everyone got a chance to play with each of the four games that were created during the weekend workshop.

It was so inspiring to see the youth present their games to their family and friends. I hope some of them will continue to learn more about game development and a pursue a career as well.

Here are the games:

"Infinity War" - a fighting game like "Street Fighter," featuring Sonic the Hedgehog and Thor. They used the Hoan Bridge as a background for their game.

"Ultimate Battles" - another fighting game, where the youth took photos of themselves on a green screen for the characters. They use the MECCA floor as the background for their game.

"Legends of the Demigods" - a "Zelda"-like game for two players. The goal of the game is to collect keys through a labyrinth.

Deceased - a 2D platform game where the character avoids chasing zombies.

Soon, the above descriptions will include a link for each game, where you can play each one of them.

Below, you can take a listen to some of the music composed and produced by Ray Toler, who of course had help from the young game developers.

Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee