02/06/11 — It's all fun and video games

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It's all fun and video games

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 6, 2011 1:50 AM

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Victor Pedro battles Hole Wilson during the Capcom vs. SNK 2 tournament at the sixth annual Carolina Games Summit at Wayne Community College.

Joshua Bevell bobbed and weaved to avoid the zombies rushing toward him. He was able to avoid the walking dead, but not the time limit that meant he had to turn the game controller over to the next player.

And there were plenty of them, with close to 1,000 people on hand Saturday afternoon for the sixth annual Carolina Game Summit at Wayne Community College.

The first floor of the college's Learning Center was devoted to vendors, speakers and some games, while second-floor rooms were packed with people playing any of 22 games and numerous tournaments. The highlight of the evening was the 8 p.m. awards program when the game tournament winners were announced.

There also was an educators panel with instructors that parents could talk with about what classes their children would need to prepare them for work in the gaming industry.

Bevell, 15, said he had been playing Gears of War 2, Left for Dead 2, Assassin Creed Brotherhood and Halo Reach.

He said that he is an avid gamer, but admits that he is "not that good."

"I am actually taking a software and game development class right now here (Wayne Community College)," said Bevell, a student at the Wayne County School of Engineering. "It is counted as an elective for me. Ever since I first started playing video games they looked cool and I kind of wanted to design them, too.

"It is mostly the design of the characters and the game play. I have not gotten into coding. I am using a simple design program now. It is a drag and drop called Game Maker 8. I would like to design mostly first-person shooters and some horror games maybe."

Bevell said that once he finished Left for Dead 2 he had about five more games he wanted to play.

"I am competing in some of the tournaments and so far I have been in a free-for-all in Halo Reach and I am going into a four versus four match," he said.

Carolina Game Summit was created six years ago as a fundraiser for the college's Phi Beta Lambda Club by its advisors Tracy Schmeltzer, business and accounting department chair, and Michael Everett, instructor for the information systems department that includes game design.

The first year they had hoped for 150 people -- 750 showed up.

"The original reason we got them here was the tournament, but now they understand there is more stuff going on," Ms. Schmeltzer said. "We have a lot of vendors who come here and tell us they sell more products and have more people talk to them at our event than they do at larger events. They like to come here so they can interact with the people."

Sponsors also provide items to give away, including prizes for tournament winners.

Time Warner Cable's "Connect a Million Minds" was the title sponsor of the event.

Connect a Million Minds is Time Warner Cable's five-year, $100 million philanthropic initiative designed to engage and inspire young people to become the problem solvers of tomorrow by pursuing education and career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The event attracts nationally known gaming luminaries from game developers such as Icarus Studios, Virtual Heroes, and RedStorm Entertainment, along with representatives from local colleges and schools who feature simulation and game development programs.

These examples of gaming professionals and education options enable students to learn how to pursue careers in the gaming industry, the two advisors said.

It also attracts local vendors like Adam Beeby, owner of Heroes are Here on Berkeley Boulevard.

"We have a lot of comics based off games and of course there are a lot of games based off comics," Beeby said. "A lot of it kind of goes hand in hand fans of games, comics and anime -- kind of that collective subgroup.

"One of the main reasons we are here is to raise awareness that Goldsboro has a comic book store," Beeby said. "We have been here for 25 years and to let people know about Free Comic Book Day coming up on May 7."

The crowd is about a 50-50 mix of people who come just for the games and those who come because of an interest in the gaming industry, Ms. Schmeltzer said.

"It has a little bit of everything here that is what makes ours different from most," she said. "It (Phi Beta Lambda Club) is a business leadership club. It is like the FBLA, but it is the college division of FBLA. Because of this event we have been able to add the simulation and game design program here so it is a recruitment tool for his (Everett's) programs. It (summit) has multi functions."

Organizers are hoping to clear about $5,000.

"This is more a community type event. It does benefit our club, but we really do it to help grow the game industry and bring awareness. Parents don't realize that their kids could get a job in the gaming industry," Everett said.

The money is used to help defray the cost of getting Phi Beta Lambda members to national competition.

"We do these fundraisers so that it is more affordable for our students to go," she said. "We try to take them to a fall leadership conference. Then we take them to state competition then if they win there we take a smaller group to the national competition every year. Every year it helps pay for those three events."

Wayne Community College's gaming and simulation program is in its fourth year. Currently students attend Wayne Community College for one year then finish up at Wake Tech.

However, starting next year the full program will be held at the college.

It is hard to keep up with the student demand and there is large demand in the gaming industry as well, Everett said. In most cases, students have a job after the first year.

Skills learned in the programs allows the students to do much more than just work in game development, Everett said.

"They learn a lot of skills they can use right here in Wayne County," Ms. Schmeltzer said.

There are engineering firms that need those kind of simulation skills, Everett said.

For more information log on to www.Carolina GamesSummit.com.