Putting Video Games to Work

Since March, Urban Arts Partnership Academy Teaching Artist Akshai R. has taught New York City public school students to love coding and game design. The Academy Coding and Game Design program, made possible by a grant from The Heckscher Foundation for Children, teaches students about the technical disciplines of computer science, programming apps and games in C#, creating graphics and designing sound effects using the actual tools employed in the industry. One student, Akbar S., is putting the finishing touches on a game he designed, tentatively called Chubby Dash. Collaboration has been essential in this class and Akbar has worked with his fellow Academy students, Abel O., Eram M., Mikael H., Wray C. and Rameses B. on his game.

So, we sat down with Akbar to learn about his experience in the class:

How are you liking the class so far?
“The class is…I’m trying to say something better than ‘fun.’ Akshai has a good sense of humor, but knows how to implement that humor into teaching the class. He has a great method of teaching, and can make the most complex things seem almost easy. He expects the class to do a lot of work, which is reasonable, he has high expectations it might seem, but has a great way of getting us to that goal.”

What was your design process for this game?
“I wanted to make something that was simple, yet complex. Also, I wanted to create a game that kind of reminded me of Mario. Because Mario’s a really fun game to play and it doesn’t have a lot of violence like other games. Shigeru Miyamoto [the designer of Mario] says violence is just a shortcut to making a game fun, and that violence is not needed in every game. I also wanted to make a game where there was a subliminal sense of humor.”

Is there a reason you are opposed to violence in games?
“One of my friends got jumped recently, right before school ended. That’s another reason why my friends want to move out of the Bronx, because of the violence. You can’t walk around a corner without seeing or experiencing some sort of violence. I feel like where I’m from, a lot of people are afraid to express themselves and show who they really are because people are judgmental and don’t give people a chance to be who they really want to be. And that’s what’s different in the Academy. I feel like I can be more of myself when I come here. And other people can too.”

What has it been like being able to work with other students in The Academy?
“It’s been exciting, it’s been fun. It’s been a good atmosphere where I was able to learn and unleash my creativity, and witness and experience other people’s creativity, which gave birth to more ideas. Plus, they get to fill the areas in which I’m not so strong, and I get to support them in areas where they’re not so strong!”