Want to Discover the Next Shigeru Miyamoto?

After playing videogames most of their lives, can high school students jump behind the controls and make their own games? That’s the challenge for teens at four Peoria-area high schools.

It’s a lengthy process mentored by a handful of Bradley game design majors. Weekly meetings with mentors have nursed the process forward, starting with basic questions about storylines and scope. Questions like “Can we make a game about monsters?” and “How human should the monsters be?” dominated early discussions at one school. 

From there, technical questions arose, as groups worked through graphic design, music and basic coding. Each stage brought new opportunities for students to shine as questions touched their natural strengths — some enjoyed scripting the narrative, while others gravitated toward aesthetics or coding.

“They have a lot of ambition to learn, and that’s making it awesome,” said Peoria native Tavion Netters ‘20. “I’m really excited to work with them because of all the ideas they’ve come up with and developed over time.”

The game design contest, in its second year, is a collaboration between Bradley’s interactive media department, the Peoria Public Schools Foundation and the Illinois Math Academy. Teams are competing for a cash prize that will be awarded in May. This year, five Bradley students are mentoring 10 teams. 

While teens focus on the task at hand, college students leaned into the chance to grow as mentors. Nashville, Tenn., native Isabel Giordano Scott ’21, Netters’ partner at the Peoria Regional Learning Center, found herself in a tutoring role for the first time and discovered a passion for helping others. Her ability to connect with students led to a job as a tutor for traditional academic topics at the school.

“I didn’t realize I would have so much to teach others,” she said. “I’m grinning about it now, knowing I’ve never had the easiest time doing things. It’s nice being able to share my knowledge with the kids.” 

In addition, the game design majors enjoyed a new perspective on their younger gaming days.

“It’s valuable to meet people and see what they like, especially since the games I make in the future will probably end up in the hands of kids like these,” Scott said. 

— By Matt Hawkins

Some media in Bradley University's current print, video and online materials was acquired before the COVID-19 pandemic. Media acquired after the pandemic began was done so in compliance with Bradley's COVID-19 safety protocols at the time. The ongoing safety of our faculty, staff and students is of the utmost concern during these unprecedented times.