Many students become interested in computing because they like video games. With funds from an AccessComputing minigrant, the Texas School for the Deaf hosted a weekend Discovery Retreat called What’s Your Game? An Introduction to Video Game Development. The retreat provided twenty-eight deaf and hard of hearing students from across Texas with a unique opportunity to learn the basics of video game development from professionals in video game and computer technology industries, including some who are deaf.

The participants spent a weekend learning how to design, program (using Scratch), and market their own video games. Professionals presented on a variety of topics including video game production, game types, and types of platforms. The programming activities taught students about the complexity of developing a video game, while interacting with professionals provided students with a realistic view of what it's like to work in the video game industry. Students reported being especially interested to learn that computing professionals did not spend all of their time coding. Through learning about the experiences of professionals who are deaf or hard of hearing, students saw role models they could relate to. At the end of the retreat, students presented their final projects to a panel of judges, consisting of professionals from the video game industry, who were deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing.

Students learned about the process of making video games.  One student reported learning about “how many roles and skills contribute to making [a] project.  [It] requires a lot of teamwork, patience and communication.  Not an easy field but if [you're] passionate, then it’s possible!”  Another student reported learning “that making a game requires lots of work, along with communication to make it successful.”

This Discovery Retreat is a promising practice for introducing students who are deaf and hard of hearing to professionals in the video game and computer technology industries who are also deaf and hard of hearing while teaching the students about computing fields and career options. The event shows how students can learn from the experiences of others about career paths and determine how to reach their goals. In addition, the weekend-long introduction to computing and programming can pique students' interest and encourage them to continue towards a computing career.

Find more information about this Discovery Retreat and other Discovery Retreats held by the Texas School for the Deaf on their website.

AccessComputing activities have been funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program of the Directorate for Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) (grant #CNS-0540615, CNS-0837508, CNS-1042260, and CNS-1539179).