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July 20, 2013

Camp lets kids make video games

TERRE HAUTE — Put away the tents, fire-wood and S’mores for this camp because eBASH is offering a Create and Play summer camp for the first time in Terre Haute.

Kids ages 10 to 14 can experience a week of video game development, as well as blogging and social interaction  from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Instead of spending the summer in the stereotypical dark room playing video games, we look to create an educational atmosphere and a social environment,” said Zack Johnson, owner of eBASH.

Over the course of the week, mornings consist of participants learning how to use Microsoft Research Labs’ Kodu to develop a video game of their own.

“We teach them how to develop the landscape and how to create and control characters — all using Kodu,” said Rebeka Arrojo, a camp counselor.

After lunch time, participants use WordPress to blog about their experience and specific game details.

Johnson said this gives them hands on experience in website design, writing skills and being able to maintain a neat blog.

The afternoons are filled with a more “laid-back” gaming session where participants have to work as a team while playing Minecraft and Team Fortress 2.

“Leaders usually emerge in trying to complete the objectives,” Johnson added.

Fridays consist of the finished games being sampled by each of the participants and then voting on which one is their favorite.

One of the participants of the camp, Bruce Kearschner, 14, enjoyed developing a game of his own.

He said his game presented a choice to the player — either to play through the level and save the mother or the ex-girlfriend who cheated on him. Choosing the mother reunites the player with his father who died. Choosing the ex-girlfriend triggers a boss fight where the player must defeat her real boyfriend. All this must be completed in five minutes or the map will collapse — ending the game.

Fellow camp participant, Brody Boyll, 13, took an entirely different approach on how to develop his game.

Boyll’s game starts by seeking a particular apple to level up, if the player fails to find the correct apple, the game ends. Upon leveling up, the player is pitted against aliens and flying saucers that they must shoot. The last section of the game is more of a movie scene than an interactive video game. The player is approached by their mother who explains she had missed them and as the player makes their way home, they are presented with a bonus level that plays like Pacman.

He said he thought it was a great aspect to critique and give feedback on other participants’ games.

“I loved some of the games,” he said. “I didn’t understand some of them, but overall it was a really fun experience.”

eBASH’s Charleston, Ill., and Indianapolis locations have held the camp for four years, Johnson said, so it was natural to bring it to Terre Haute.

“The first year in Carmel we booked 33 campers over the summer,” Johnson said. “This year in Terre Haute, we have booked 34 campers with two weeks still remaining.”

Johnson said the second summer in Carmel produced 151 participants who attended the camp.

If the camp becomes popular enough, Johnson hopes to establish a college scholarship program and to send weekly game winners to competitions in Indianapolis to present their product.

He said there are still plenty of spaces open for the final two weeks of camp. It costs $225 to attend a camp and people interested in registering can visit www.ebash.com and click on the Create and Play Camp button.

Reporter Dustyn Fatheree can be reached at 812-231-4255 and dustyn.fatheree@tribstar.com.

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