Class is not just fun and games

Senior studies computer game development

Senior studies computer game development

April 20, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Editor's note: What are your best memories from your senior year of high school? Was it prom? Making the basketball team? Did you get your driver's license that year? This school year, The Herald-Mail will talk with seniors from each public high school in Washington County about the memories they are making. Each month through their graduation, the eight students will talk about the moments that are making their senior year special.

HAGERSTOWN - He doesn't even like bugs, so Alvin Missouri said he's not sure how he came up with the idea for his latest computer game.

The 18-year-old is creating a game that follows the adventures of the smallest spider in the world, which is trying to reclaim a fly that was stolen by the biggest spider in the world.

"You have to go through mazes to get it back," he said. "You have to ward off other spiders."


Fly Napped is just one of several computer games that Missouri has created in his computer game development and animation class at Washington County Technical High School.

The senior said he transferred there from North Hagerstown High School during his junior year.

"I always dreamed of doing this, but I never knew how to get into it," he said of game development. "I saw an opportunity, and I took it."

Missouri is one of 12 seniors in the class taught by F. Martin Nikirk. There also are 15 juniors enrolled.

Students study everything from generating the idea for the game to the art, music, concept, character development, story, engineering and marketing of the game.

"(Alvin) can do it all," Nikirk said. "It's unusual that you find someone strong on the art side and other aspects. That's a very special gift."

Missouri, who moved to Hagerstown from Baltimore when he was in eighth grade, said he enjoys all aspects of game development.

He began computer game development with an interest mainly in using computer programs to draw. However, Missouri said he is colorblind, which causes him to confuse some of the colors he uses for characters and scenery.

"Occasionally, I will kind of mess up some of my colors, but some people let me know if it's not that color I'm thinking it is," he said.

Now, he has found that he enjoys every part of developing the games.

Missouri also enjoys playing computer games, and has a particular interest in war and strategy games. In class, he is able to create only games suitable for children.

"When I play the games now, I think about what (the creators) told it to do and how they would tell it to do that," Missouri said.

The class also creates educational computer games used by faculty members, Nikirk said.

Missouri said he hopes to make a career out of computer game development and design. He plans to go to Hagerstown Community College for a year or two before transferring to DeVry University, where he would like to major in computer game development and animation.

If for some reason that doesn't work out, Missouri said he could start a career in graphic design.

"I could make movie posters or ads," he said. "The possibilities for a graphic designer are unlimited."

Nikirk said when his students graduate, they have a digital portfolio to show potential employers during a job interview.

Missouri also has about five ideas for computer games that he is ready to pitch to companies.

"I try to do things to get me noticed (in the gaming industry)," he said.

If you go

What: Tech Show '08, featuring computer game development and animation

When: Wednesday, May 21, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Washington County Technical High School, 50 W. Oak Ridge Drive, Hagerstown

For information, call 301-766-8050 or send an e-mail to

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