- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - It starts with designing and selling video games, but Aiden Worshek’s end game is building an all-powerful robot.

First, he needs to know how to program computers. And the whole video game design thing has proven to be tricky.

“I haven’t really made one,” said the fourth-grader. “It’s so hard.”

The ambitious 10-year-old from Luverne, Minn., is attending a video game-making summer camp in downtown Sioux Falls, learning the skills he needs to complete his master plan.

Students learned a stripped down version of programming at Gaming Bootcamp, a weeklong crash course in digital game development.

Campers use a point-and-click interface to create or modify games, instead of tinkering around with lines of code and stressing out about tiny syntax errors that can easily complicate things for any programmer.

“The concepts are there,” Bootcamp co-creator Josh Stroschein told the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/1Eri8Vz ). “They don’t have to get hung up at the point of actually writing the code.’”

The weeklong camp is the first of its kind in Sioux Falls. Stroschein and his partner Will Bushee also co-created Code Bootcamp, a 12-week program for adults interested in learning web design.

The Conquest 2 program used by students has allowed them to create block-breaker games and a game similar to the mobile hit Angry Birds. They also modified the first stage of the old Nintendo classic, Super Mario Bros.

Each time, the kids’ creativity takes over and leads to outlandish and unique game creations, including an Angry Birds stage that automatically spawns thousands of pigs, Bushee said.

“They just went all over the place,” Bushee said.

Aron Nelson, 15, tried to create some video games on his own before coming to camp, but learning from the experts has opened the door to greater opportunities.

Nelson feels like he has a better understanding of the art of video game making, thanks to the hands-on lessons and daily quizzes on animation loops, object spawning and adjusting the heads-up display.

“You have a mentors and a teacher to help you out when you’re stuck,” Nelson said.

Nelson will be a ninth-grader next year at Lincoln High School, but he’s already hoping his newfound prowess with making video games can be channeled into a career.

The camp give pre-teens early exposure to a growing field. The number of computer-related jobs in the United States is expected to increase by 18 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, including an additional 28,400 jobs in computer programming.

Bushee is vice president of development at BrightPlanet, a deep web intelligence firm. But his coding skills are translatable to any field, he said.

“I can pick up anything,” Bushee said. “It’s just a matter of understanding it.”

Bushee said there are no plans for another Gaming Bootcamp, but job hunters interested in building their web development skills can still register for Code Bootcamp’s fall session, which starts in September.

Making video games allows kids to start thinking about the basic logic and rules of coding, even if the coding itself comes later, Stroschein said.

Like other kinds of programming, video game design boils down to if-then statements and a series of conditions that ultimately affect gameplay.

“I think it’s very important for them to learn that type of thinking,” Stroschein said. “The future belongs to the programmer.”

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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