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A new card game is in the making at the Albright-Knox's Getting Started in Game Design workshop. Photo: Jeff Mace for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.

Sparks Kindled in Game Design Class for Teens

January 5, 2022

As part of Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art the Albright-Knox hosted a series of game design classes for teens. This series, which ran from December 4 to December 18, 2021, introduced participants to the process of game design for both analogue (that’s board and card games to those of you born before smartphones) and basic digital games.

In classes led by guest teachers from the University at Buffalo, including Cody Mejeur, Joan Nobile, and Famous Clark, students with no required knowledge of technology were able to make their own games and complete working versions of them by the end of the class. The classes included workshops, tutorials, and hands-on activities such as playtesting and prototyping.

“Each student took initiative and creative liberty in making a unique game that was engaging, artistic, and complex. I am so happy to have been a part of this experience with them,” said Clark, a current graduate researcher and developer in the Department of Media Study, who is interested in developing and researching diverse, narrative-driven themes alongside human-technology interactions in modern game development.

Photo: Jeff Mace for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.

Photo: Jeff Mace for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.

Photo: Jeff Mace for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.

Photo: Jeff Mace for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.

“It always amazes me how even a small group of people can come up with such different games, and that was definitely true here—we had board games, card games, and character-based games that were all so fun and creative,” said Mejeur, an assistant professor of Game Studies at UB, who has published on teaching with games, identity in games, and video game narratives and player experiences. Mejeur is also currently the game director for Trans Folks Walking, a narrative game about trans experiences.

Difference Machines not only explores the way that technology has impacted our lives, but also shows how people can make interventions in technological systems. Game design is one way to do that.

“Seeing their comprehension and how they applied the foundations of game design to their projects was a joy, and frankly sparked my own creative interest again,” said Nobile, a Buffalo-based queer artist-scholar currently pursuing an MFA in a multidisciplinary practice that explores media theory, gaming, feminism, and mental health. “There’s something about working with people new to your discipline that revitalizes your own spark. I’ve learned as much as the kids have. Maybe more!”

Classes this year were fully booked, but Mejeur, Nobile, and Clark each expressed an interest in returning to the Albright-Knox in the future. We hope they do, too. In the mean time, check out our events calendar for upcoming classes and workshops with community partners and our very own Learning and Creativity team.

Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art is on view at Albright-Knox Northland Fridays–Sundays through January 16, 2022.

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