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New Class Introduces Scholars to Programming through Game Design

When IDEA scholars walked into the new computer programming class offered this semester, they probably didn’t realize they would be learning a modified version of a master’s level class in video game design. But that’s exactly what T.A.G. Labs’ Che Rose, who teaches the class, is providing to the 15 scholars enrolled in the course.

“The scholars are learning to code, but using games to make it interesting,” Rose explained. “Everyone is learning a core language. By the end of the class they will be C# developers. From there, they can easily pick up C++. Eventually, they can be functional in any computer language. The only language that’s hard to learn is your first one.”

The idea for the class was inspired by the video game design club that T.A.G. Labs has offered at IDEA since last school year. “The club is half work and half play,” Rose said. “They’re using coding logic, but they’re not making real games from scratch. The club is designed to spark their interest.”

In the class, scholars will learn a programming language as well as become proficient in the Unity game engine, the most popular platform for developing video games and apps, so they will be able to create their own games or apps by the end of the school year.

Rose also hopes to educate his class about the diverse skills that go into video game production. “Gaming is very interdisciplinary,” he said. “There are programmers, artists, writers, designers, sound designers, and others who collaborate to create the big picture.” With this knowledge, scholars who may be interested in game design but do not choose to focus on programming can find other ways to enter the field.

With a master’s degree in video game design from American University and three of his own games currently in development, Rose brings a wealth of practice experience to his role as instructor. Before graduate school, he spent five years in the US Navy, where he worked as a multimedia journalist. He produced a daily radio show and embedded with service members on missions to record video stories of their activities, either for Navy leadership or for military news outlets.

“I’ve been a video game junkie since I was a kid,” Rose recalled. “When I was an undergrad, there were no programs for video game design, so my bachelor’s degree is in literature.” That foundation has helped Rose in developing his own games. “I’m working on narrative driven games,” he said. “One of them is a space shooter game that mixes old-school 2D with new-school 3D with a feminist back story. Another is a road trip game about four guys who get caught in a time loop, and comedians and actors from DC are doing the voice work.”

Rose is excited to help motivated students get early exposure to the field, including connecting them with paid internships. “I’m also looking forward to seeing their portfolios—the two big games they will each create by the end of the class. It’ll be cool to see what they make.”

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