Dave Binkard’s love for video games started with the old classics: Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt on Nintendo, Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis. Then came Chrono Trigger and Earthbound for Super Nintendo, the first truly compelling storylines that he had ever experienced.
“Looking back from where I am now, it’s the ability for the player to solve problems that makes video games compelling and so mesmerizing,” Binkard said. “With video games…we take an active role in problem-solving and plot progression. That’s something that really interests me today.”
Now, after a childhood filled with hours of gaming, Dave Binkard wants to share his passion for game design with a rising generation of young gamers.
In February, he and his wife Sammie decided to offer game development and design classes through Minnesota State University Moorhead’s College for Kids and Teens course this past summer, and it quickly became one of the most popular classes. By the time classes began in June, they had far surpassed the maximum enrollment of 40 students with 108 total students. They were even featured in a recent KVRR report.
In order to continue offering these classes, he and his wife created PODS Game Design: a program that will offer classes in designing video games to children ages 10 to 18 in the Fargo-Moorhead region. Starting in September, classes will be offered on a Saturday basis, and in January 2016, they plan to offer classes after school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
The Binkards already have a venue secured, and are currently raising funds via a Kickstarter for $2,500, which will go towards classroom tools like flash drives, programs, and laptops for the students to use in class.
Fostering Fargo’s growing game dev scene
Dave Binkard has been a part of the Fargo game-makers meet up since February, and has since noticed an incredible growth in the local game development scene. Teaching, he said, is the next step to sustaining that growth.
“We’re seeing Fargo’s game development scene transform before our very eyes,” he said. “We have a growing group right now, but with this business in place, doing successfully…we could see an explosion in the local development scene.”
Jake Schnase, younger cousin of local game designer CJ Schnase, was a student in the College for Kids class. He created a game where an old lady’s grandchild is stuck in a dungeon, and the player must rescue the kid.
“I think it’s cool because it gives you a head start if you want to become a game developer,” Schnase said.
Schanse is just one of an increasing number of kids who show an interest in game design and development, Binkard said. His classes filled up quickly, and students enjoy the multi-faceted aspects to a designing a game: from graphic design, to creating vivid scenes in games, and creating a compelling storyline,” Binkard said.
“These children take pride in what they’ve created,” Binkard said. “Lots of kids are interested in design and development because they’re interested in pursuing those kinds of careers when they graduate high school and college.
It makes sense that the next generation would be drawn to the gaming field. A 2015 survey by Entertainment Software Association (ESA) showed that over 150 million Americans play video games – and 26% of that number are under the age of 18. More than ever, kids are being exposed to video games and spend a lot of their time immersed in gaming worlds. Like Binkard, they want to be part of the creating process.
In essence, it’s a prime time for starting a game design class.
“I want to create an entire generation of developers in the Fargo-Moorhead area,” Binkard said. “With PODS Game Design, I want to make a long term investment…by having students who move on to become local designers themselves. What we’ve seen so far is inspiring.”
Binkard said he also hopes in the future to offer a wider variety of game design classes, in a broader expanse of cities.
“Eventually, we’ll offer classes focusing on some of the more advanced game making software and app development,” he said. “I also want to be able to take PODS to smaller cities and towns in the region, such as Grand Forks, Wahpeton, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, and more. I would like to even expand our permanent presence to other cities, including Minneapolis, Bismarck, and Sioux Falls.”
“But we need to get established in Fargo first,” he said.
Come see Dave Binkard speak this week at 1 Million Cups! See you at 9:15 AM at the Stage at Island Park.
Check out PODS Game Design Kickstarter, here.
Photos courtesy of PODS Game Design and Pixabay.