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.
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!