Microsoft Tech Gives Computer Science Students Game App Creation Crash Course
This fall, Sacred Heart University’s Computer Science & Information Technology Department welcomed Microsoft Technical Evangelist Joshua Drew to its Fairfield campus to teach a short course on how to develop a computer game for the popular Microsoft Store.
The course was made possible by a grant from the tech giant, which also paid the relevant fees for participants to become developer members of the Store. With membership, students are able to publish their games and apps and make them available for download through the Store. Microsoft also made an equipment donation to the University’s new gaming lab and provides students with “swag” and other motivational incentives.
A 2010 graduate of Sacred Heart majoring in Computer Science, Drew explained, “it’s my job to work with students in the New England region and get them excited about developing apps for the Microsoft platform – Windows 8, Windows phone. The applications are social media and game-oriented typically.”
Weaned on such video games as Pacman, Super Mario Brothers and Pitfall through systems like Atari, Super Nintendo and the original Xbox, Drew has long been excited about the design of games. “You can be really creative,” he said.
Drew began his college stint at UConn initially, pursuing illustration. That was a springboard into combining computer programming and design. Fresh out of SHU, he worked for digital design agencies like Modem Media and, more recently, Match Weld, a division of Match Marketing, as director of Technology.
Now, as an evangelist, Drew “preaches” Microsoft’s good news on the streets, to hopefully convert people to, or at least make them more aware of, the Microsoft platform. In his view, Microsoft offers one experience through all platforms while Apple is a little different between devices.
Collaborating with Robert McCloud, associate professor in SHU’s Computer Science & Information Technology Department, Drew created the short course to focus on teaching game design and how to publish final work to the Windows Store. He developed a free game app called “Alien Onslaught,” taking students through all the steps from concept to download. He showed how to spawn enemies, detect collisions and build functionality in the “space shooter” game.
Sacred Heart has positioned itself as a leader in this new arena and been recognized by related industry publications. In October 2010, Gamepro magazine named SHU “One of Six Game Design Schools to Watch For.” The Princeton Review, in 2013, also marked SHU as one of the top 16 graduate schools across the country for video game design. SHU offers a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a gaming track. Its program began in 2009, so the first class is poised to graduate.
Besides on-campus study, McCloud, a two-time Fulbright Scholar and 15-year veteran of SHU, has faciliated such exclusive opportunities for his students as travel to Köln, Germany, this past summer to a conference attended by professional game developers. “We attended seminars and met with game developers from around the world. As a result, our students returned with a greater understanding of how the international gaming industry functions,” he said.
With regard to Drew and the program, McCloud remarked, “Josh is a great model for my students. He graduated from here and is now working for Microsoft. That’s a good place to be. Our students are very good at developing code. The Microsoft grant gives them one more opportunity to build their skills into complete game creation.”