Nov 24, 2008

SparkArts 2008

This weekend Tracie and I attended a bit of the Spark Arts Festival at the Salt Lake City Library. This is the second year for the Spark Arts Digital Festival, a program to help beginners and wannabes like me learn ways to build and design video games.

I first heard about it when my Writing for Mass Media teacher, Shana Hamilton, told our class we could receive extra credit going to the Festival and writing an article on our blogs about it.

I have both my History classes on Saturday, and in Art History I had a test. So I emailed Clarissa Helps, who is in charge of the Festival, a few of my questions.

My questions were:
Would I still benefit from going about half the day?
Would I be interrupting anything?
Would I get totally lost?
Would I be able to possibly buy the software for building games on CD-ROM or get them installed on a flash drive?

Clarissa responded promptly:

"You would still benefit from attending Saturday afternoon. If you are able to attend Friday evening as well, I encourage it, but the main events on Saturday will begin after 12 noon.

SparkArts is designed to welcome both the programmers who attend the entire festival and those who just want to drop by. You would not be interrupting by coming Saturday afternoon. I also do not believe that you'll be totally lost, no. If you get confused and wish to refute this claim, feel free to come speak with me Saturday. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

If your laptop has an Internet connection, you can obtain the software online. I will also have the software on a flash drive."

With this new information, I eagerly awaited the festival, as well as my promised extra credit.
As some of you may know or at least have guessed, designing and making computer games is a secret dream of mine, and this seemed to be the universe opening a door a crack for me. My love of making video games stems from my love of making games, my love of video games, which stems from my over active imagination and desire to one day be paid for having fun.

Saturday class and test came and went (Look forward to these, and more, in an upcoming blog) and Tracie and I drove up to Salt Lake City.

I'm not sure if Ms. Hamilton, my teacher was testing our resolve, but Saturday was the day of the big game. As in BYU vs. U of U. Fortunately, we didn't run into any real traffic (Unfortunately for BYU, U of U doubled their score) and arrived at the Library in good time. After asking information where the Festival was held (and the sign in front of our faces) we entered, and I was a bit surprised at what I found. We got there around 3:45, and most of the attendees were playing Dance Dance Revolution (very very well, I might add) but there weren't a bunch of elite computer programming geniuses dispensing wisdom; there were a gaggle of folks hanging out with friends.

I shortly learned that the Festival was the brainchild of siblings Adam Helps and Clarissa Helps, (siblings of my teacher, Shana Hamilton. If the family resemblance didn't give it away, an interview with Adam did).

Everyone was very friendly, Adam showed me a few websites I could go to in order to download free software for programming a basic game, XNA Game Studio and the language C#, as well as a website with all kinds of tutorials even someone like me could understand. In interviewing Adam, he told me he works designing 3D models and is a BYU graduate, recommended things like GIMP for images, Audacity for Sound effects, and Modplug for music. About 80 or 90 people have attended the Festival at the time I spoke with him, and there were two "almost" entries in the design a game contest, down from last year's two. Adam said that next year they hope to be in Utah County for the Festival, and I look forward to attending next time, hopefully earlier, and with more game designing know how.

One darn good-looking guy learning a bit about designing games.

I also spoke with Michelle, a friend of Clarissa, who was nice enough to stop sketching some amazing drawings to talk with me a bit about the art and visual aspects of game design, something she hopes to do (and I would LOVE to do). I felt very inferior to her (and everyone's) skill and knowledge, but she offered some encouragement, that most of her teachers and professors didn't start drawing or designing until they were in college. So there's still some hope for me after all! She showed me one of the coolest things an artist or graphic designer would love: a Wacom Tablet, where you can basically draw on computer. Reason enough to get into this stuff. One piece of advice she gave me that I may look back on and agree: "Digital Painting is easier= lies."

I learned a lot at the Festival, not so much about HOW to design a game (we were only there for about an hour, after all) but I learned 1) that it's still possible, 2) where to go to learn and 3) that I can do it! And you can too!


Heather said...

I want a Wacom Tablet! It is just one more cool tool for digi scrappers!

Ross & Amanda Goodman said...

I use gimp for my digi- scrapbooking and book cover designs, and I love it! I don't do anything as complicated as what you are talking about, but I find it to be very user friendly and well worth the price! :)

HailerStar said...

That made me laugh. Digital Painting and Drawing I think is harder than doing it by hand. I've got a Wacom and I love it but it's not as easy to use when you start out.
Plus I want the newest Wacom. Unfortunately it's like a thousand dollars but it's the closest thing to digital paper you'll ever find. Current Wacoms you draw on the tablet and have to look at the computer screen while not looking at drawing on a blank tablet. Sort of dual focus. The NEWEST Wacom moves the screen to the tablet so it's like drawing on the tablet itself. Digital Paper. Very very awesome.