Students Create Video Game in PixelFest Competition

Norfolk Collegiate students Kenneth Hargrove ’18, Laura Marin ’17, Max Golovsky ’19 and Kadin Benjamin ’18 demonstrated a video game they created. It was a hit with the students and faculty, many of whom were surprised to learn that it was developed not in the course of a semester, or even over several weeks, but during a two-day competition.

The contest was part of PixelFest 2.0, Norfolk’s first dedicated gaming festival, which took place April 7-9 at Slover Library in Downtown Norfolk. The event’s creators, Jeremy Alessi and Henry Meredith ’11 of a local development company called Midnight Status, also teach “Introduction to Computer Programming” At Norfolk Collegiate.

The competition, called Game Jam, challenged teams to create a complete video game from start to finish in just two days. They were partnered with a mentor, who was able to assist the teams with components, if needed. Collegiate’s students were the only high school team to compete in the competition. The provided theme was “wind” (ironically, a tornado warning temporarily disrupted the contest on day two) and Norfolk Collegiate’s team called their game “Huracan Shuffle” after the Mayan god of wind.

“It’s sort of like Guitar Hero with a dancing character and original music,” said Charlene Loope, Norfolk Collegiate’s director of instructional technology and communication arts, who attended with the students. “At the end, they decided that, instead of controlling the character with the arrow keys, they wanted to incorporate a dance pad, as in Dance Dance Revolution. After a mad rush to a local game store to get the dance pad, they got it to work in time!”

In addition to the Game Jam competition, Max and Kadin even helped to teach one of the programming classes on Unity, a development platform they learned in the programming class at Norfolk Collegiate, as well as helped with PixelFest activities, which included a wide range of programs, events and activities for gaming and programming enthusiasts.

“PixelFest provided wonderful, real-world engagement for our students,” said Loope. “It’s really great to have a class where the students can actually go and participate in something like that, which their instructors are launching.”

“I loved it, it was a great experience,” said Kadin, a junior. “We met a lot of people and made new friends that we wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

Max, a sophomore, added, “I liked the problem-solving aspect of it, plus the pressure to get it done on time made it fun.”