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This past week, thirty-three local children gathered at Rockwood Library for Pixel Arts’ second youth game camp. The camp, which spanned five days, brought kids of all ages to the library to flex their creative muscles while learning cooperative teamwork practices.
Under the wing of 18 volunteers, campers explored both the artistic and technical side of game creation, such as making their own trading card games and game levels with dioramas. These activities also taught campers basic game creating language, as well as roles and jobs that are needed to create a video game. “This was a good entry point for learning about the gaming environment,” said Megan Pixley, a senior at Reynolds High School who aspires to become a game designer and story writer.
Campers were also given the opportunity to learn basic programming to help them bring their stories to life. Utilizing programs such as Twine, an open-source storytelling tool, and Snap, a visual programing software to bring their ideas and stories to life.
Besides offering user-friendly experience for beginners in programming, Twine and Snap help teach basic coding skills useful to more advanced programs. These programs provided an easy onramp for exploration even if no previous game experience, and many kids plan to attend future events with us.
Bringing our camp to Rockwood Library is a significant achievement and step forward in our mission build bridges across the digital divide for underserved youth with game design. Located in North Gresham, Rockwood is a neighborhood with a higher poverty level in Multnomah county and lower percentage of adults who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to a study done by Greater Portland Pulse. The unemployment rating in Rockwood is 11.2%; almost 3% higher than the rest of Oregon.
Violetta Garza, who works with bilingual youth at the Rockwood Library, first discovered Pixel Arts at a Rosewood Community event and thought it could be a great opportunity for children in the area. Grown-ups are at greater risk for unemployment if they experienced more than one of these as a child:
child is raised by a single parent
parent(s) has/have less than a high school education
parent(s) is/are on food stamps
parent(s) speaks/speak a language other than English at home”
Garza noted, “This sounds like Rockwood all the way. In fact, I know several kids who fit all four of the above descriptors.”
The goal when reaching out to these children is to not only make sure they have a positive experience with the volunteers, but by showing them that subjects such as math, engineering, art and science can be fun. Working with their peers and mentors promotes positive team building and communication skills. Seeing that they have the ability to think up a game idea and then create it helps kids build greater resilience and perseverance.
“In my years in non-profit and the public schools system, we often see so many of our little kiddos get marginalized and put aside,” says Youth and Family Program Coordinator Côi Vũ. “Thank you, Pixel Arts, for your efforts in serving our underprivileged youth.”