Students design video games for contest

Konnie Duan

Middle and upper school students worked asynchronously for more than 48 hours to develop video games as part of the first annual HW Game Jam Sept. 25 to 27.

The event featured speakers, lectures about game development and a Discord server for students and mentors to collaborate. Head organizers Amaan Furniturewala ’21 and Lukas Seklir ’21 and organizers Kosi Nwabueze ’21, William Farhat ’21, Tyler Donovan ’22, Lana Lim ’22 and Rohan Madhogarhia ’22 were active on the Discord server throughout the event to offer guidance. Participants formed teams of up to five members and were given the task to create a game centered around the theme “running out.”

Teams submitted their game projects to a panel of four judges: upper school Mathematics Teacher Andy Stout, Todd Jackson ’99, Josh Glazer ’96 and Sameer Gupta ’99. Two groups won first place while another two tied for second place.

The two first-place games were “Trail to Maine,” which was developed by Chris Robertson ’24, and “GardenRun,” which was developed by Valeria Ruelas ’24, Sophia Zhang ’24 and Natalie Lim ’24. “Trail to Maine” is a resource management game in which players try to survive a drought. “GardenRun” is a two-player game in which one player, a dog, and another, a cat, try to escape a maze before the other player.

The two second-place games were “Escape the Dark,” which was developed by Rhea Madhogarhia ’22, Micha Rand ’22,Rohan Madhogarhia ’22, Alexander Su ’22 and Aiden Schiller ’22, and “Escape the Lab,” which was developed by Eric Yoon ’23. Players in “Escape the Dark” have to exit a cave while uncovering cave paintings under minimal light emitted from torches. Players in “Escape the Lab” try to leave a human testing center filled with evil robots.

“Escape the Lab” also won the award for the most advanced game because of its use of virtual reality. Yoon said he made the 3D game to challenge himself.

“I decided to make this game because I wanted to show off the fairly new technology of virtual reality,” Yoon said. “I’m also trying to work on my 3D modeling skills, which is not only useful for games but also other activities I do like robotics.”

The winners received prizes for their games

The winners received a year-long subscription to Wolfram One Personal Edition and a one-year subscription to Wolfram Alpha Pro. In addition, the first-place teams received a copy of Herman Electro, a game developed by one of the sponsors of the event.

Lana Lim said she applied to be an organizer for the event because of her positive experience at previous events like HW Game Jam.

“I’ve participated in similar past events and really learned a lot of practical skills in the short period of time offered,” Lana Lim said.

Yoon said he also enjoyed the conclusion of the event when teams presented their creations.

“I liked how every game that was made had a different style of gameplay and art,” Yoon said. “It really showed how diverse games can be.”

Students learn new skills from the competition

Yoon said the event taught him that there is much more to game development than just programming and that the Game Jam brought him closer to others who are also interested in the topic .

“The experience of making a game in 48 hours really teaches you how to budget your time and plan accordingly,” Yoon said. “I also now know a bunch of people at Harvard-Westlake who are also passionate about developing games.”

Attendee Kensuke Shimojo ’23 said he enjoyed the event because he improved his game development skills in a fun environment.

“It was a nice chance to exercise my ideas for creating game concepts and get creative with how to make them,” Shimojo said. “It was also great to have [a space] to collaborate with my friends in a higher grade since we don’t get to interact too often.”