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Arlington library teaches kids to build video games

ARLINGTON — Jocelyn Redel is the first to admit that she’s no expert video game programmer.

So when the teen librarian for the Arlington Library shared with a room full of about 15 students a basic video game she created using a Microsoft program called Kodu, she got a lot of laughs and giggles.

“In my game, when these trees see something, they throw apples,” Redel told the group of students. “Unfortunately I put the trees too close together and they are constantly throwing apples.”

Redel gave students a quick lesson in video game creation and let the teens make their own on March 11 at the library.

In addition to providing Arlington residents with a place to check out books, get on the Internet or research a school project, the library also offers a number of after-school programs and events for children, teens and even adults.

Because March is teen technology month at the library, Redel decided to offer a class that would give students a chance to use their creativity and work together on something most teenagers love — video games.

For an hour and a half, Redel demonstrated on her Xbox 360 the game creation program which is designed to be used by children and adults. Using a game controller, users of Kodu can create colorful worlds, zany characters and strange sets of rules that govern how their video games work.

“It basically allows you to create a world,” Redel said.

Redel admitted that her knowledge of how a video game works is limited and encouraged teens to laugh at her homemade game.

After giving the students a crash course in how the program works, she one-by-one let them take control.

Post Middle School sixth-grader Jordy Goodridge, sporting a Super Mario Bros. T-shirt, created a green, hilly land mass using the Xbox controller. He then added water around the base of the mountains and a main character — a giant turtle.

Goodridge got advice from fellow Post student David Lawrence, Haller seventh-grader Gavin Britton and home-schooler Connor Tilley.

About 45 minutes later, the teenagers had a working video game in which the turtle traversed the game environment and shot white dots at its adversaries.

After testing out the software, 16-year-old Melissa Drgemeier said Kodu took some getting used to.

“It takes a long time to figure out how it works,” Drgemeier said. “I have ‘Spore’ on my computer at home, but I’ve never really thought about how it works.”

In ‘Spore,’ game players take control of a species from the beginning of its life cycle into a creature.

Redel said overall she was pleased with how the short class went.

“By the end, everybody was getting a turn and they were suggesting different things to make the game go forward and programming better so it actually made sense,” Redel said. “Which was good, because there were some weird things in our game.”

For a list of other events and programs being held at the Arlington Library, visit www.sno-isle.org or call 360-435-3033.

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