What will my member be learning?
We have completely rebuilt our program for a more robust and empowering learning path while also retaining the fun factor. Previously, we just taught game design skills- 3D modeling, audio, coding, etc. But not everyone will become a game designer. So we have pivoted to a career-focused pathway that uses the same game design skills but also teaches STEM/STEAM careers.
The entire curriculum is online. They can technically work on some of it at home if they want but most members are busy and there is ample time to complete the activities in a session. Some things may be difficult and they will need an instructor. That’s why in person is important. Believe me, we tried online during COVID…
All of the learning progress is tracked in this website. They will have a login and also access to a social forum/chat and gaming servers for fun. Behavior rules in a session apply to their behavior in the website. We see all chats so make sure they understand this.
What is the age limit? Are there age groups?
We suggest that they start at 10 years old up to 18. We have taken 8 and 9 in the past but some of the math or tasks might be intimidating. It’s up to parents if they want to do that young. Eight is as young as we are willing to go.
We have a pretty wide range of youth and age doesn’t really matter to this stuff. Kids who like video games and are passionate about them tend to get along well regardless of age. Given the way the program works, we do not separate them by age. We have had 12 year old who build and host their own servers in games and 17 year olds who know very little about coding at all. Therefore, we do not separate at age.
And since it has come up a lot, we do eventually want to offer advanced game design programs for those who already have been designing but we need to build this core program first.
What is the cost?
Membership costs $195 per month. This is built like karate or dance class, monthly attendance to build skills long term. An additional member from the same family is $155, another is $135.
That’s up to 8 hours of STEM, 3 hour party, normally $20ish in paid software, 24/7 access to Minecraft server, and a secure social learning website. We believe that’s a pretty good deal! And we are always looking to increase the value to our members.
If for any reason the membership is unobtainable for your family at this time, we understand and want everyone to have access. We are still working on a scholarship program, but that’s getting a nonprofit and corporate sponsors lined up. It will take time but it is being pursued.
What is required to be a member? What do they bring?
First of all, no previous game design is necessary. They should know how to operate a computer but almost all children have done so by age 10. That’s one of the reasons we bumped the age up. We found that several 8 and 9 year olds had not had enough computer classes and had only iPad or console experience. It is also important to have basic math, grammar, and typing skills. If you believe any of these might be hard for them, please let us know so we can be aware.
Your member will need a good working laptop that can play Minecraft without struggling. It doesn’t need to be a $2000 gaming laptop. Bring what you have and we will evaluate if you need to invest in something better. IT MUST HAVE WINDOWS. A Mac without windows or a Chromebook will not work because the software we use is all Windows based.
Your member will also need a corded mouse and headphones. Some lessons or software have audio. We do not let them listen with their audio speakers. We have a few headphones for borrowing temporarily.
They will be given a VGDC notebook to write down any passwords. Young people lose things so its best if you make a copy or take a photo of their passwords page.
Is this laptop good enough?
Just to reiterate, we don’t know until we look at it. If it’s hanging by one hinge or take 15 minutes to boot up, you need a new computer. Otherwise, bring it in and we can evaluate it. Worse case scenario, you can leave and get them a new computer. That session would then not count toward your total for the month. Most people over estimate what is necessary to start off with. They may borrow your laptop but you will see in the rules that we are not responsible for it, your member is. Leaving cords or other materials will be held in a box to pick up during normal session times.
Here is a page with some suggested computers with good specs- NewEgg.com SHOP
What do they need to install?
You need to have two things installed.
Minecraft Education Edition
Just have it downloaded and ready. The member will receive a username and password from us.
Do not worry about putting a payment information in. They will receive game licenses from us.
Loss of passwords can result in them having less time in session. Stress the importance of keeping their passwords safe.
When can they come? What track do they join?
First of all, this is NOT A SCHOOL. Throw everything you know about that out the window. There are no tracks, no grades, no pass/fail. Complete the activity, earn the badge. Progress is 80% self governed with 20% adult guidance.
You may come up to 4 sessions per month. If you are busy and can only fit 2 in, that’s fine. Or one month you can only come 3. If for any reason you don’t get 4 in and they didn’t complete the activity, you can register an extra session in the next month if needed.
As of right now, sessions in Huntsville with be 6 to 8pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday. Sessions in Athens will be 6 to 8pm, Tuesday, Thursday. We may increase session times as the membership grows. As an example, a Huntsville member could come a Monday then a Thursday and then two more Tuesdays after. You can pick whatever day works for you as long as the session has available space. If you will be out of town during some of a month, you can even come to more than one session per week to get your time in. Once your member starts coming, you will see how our curriculum is so flexible.
Sessions are scheduled through a calendar. Once you have a log in, go to the Main page. Click the City name and it will pull up all of the information of that location, including session registrations. Refresh the page to register another session as it all works on the Calendly software (we can’t register multiple days at once).
Sessions will have a max out number. If a session is maxed out, it will not let you register.
How do I measure their progress?
All of their progress is in the website. Some assignments require our manual review so it may take a day or two for us to look at all of it. Let the member know we must “check” it like a teacher would, but again, this is NOT A SCHOOL.
You can have the member log in and show them what they are doing. If they complete a badge, it will show up on the bottom of the MAIN page (when they are logged in). They will also receive a physical badge to take home.
If you are homeschooling, you may take an earned badge as an “A Grade”. Incomplete badges are up to you, but a badge can be completed outside of the month we are working on it. But we do not file paperwork or any other grading measure.
Members will also have a LEVEL. Each time they earn a badge, it gives them experience points. They can do additional challenges to level up.
What will they learn?
Don’t tell them, but they are learning all kinds of useful adult skills, wrapped in a sneaky layer of fun!
They will learn collaboration, documentation, how to fail, how to critique, how to take critique, obvious computer skills, and more.
A badge with the name of a career shows them something important- “I can be anything, but I have to start somewhere.” That little badge is the potential start of a lifelong journey. Who knows how many amazing professionals the world doesn’t have because a child didn’t get exposed to the thing they are really good at or the thing they really love?
We don’t force learning. We are an environment for growth, they must choose to grow.
That being said, we have had parents tell us that a child’s speech therapy improved dramatically coming to our club. One parent told us their therapist said this was one of the few places that (member) felt like he belonged. We even had two members get too old to come and attributed VGDC as a factor in choosing Computer Science as their college degree.
We strive honestly be a safer, happier, more productive place than other institutions. We want to be a place of belonging, a place they look forward to going. We may have as many rules as school, but it is for the benefit of their ability to comfortably learn and have fun.
What else is included?
They will have 24/7 access to the website. They only can have regular instructor access in a session. They can ask questions in the forum but it depends on our time and ability to answer.
They will have access to a casual Minecraft server. We cannot add anyone but members. Their friends can join if they become members. We are not responsible for what happens to the stuff they build in servers. But again, we do keep logs of the chat even if we aren’t on. So be nice!
Once per month, the members get to attend what we call The Network Party! It will be held at DiVRgence of Huntsville, even if that’s not the location you attend. They will get one free VR ride and you can buy a pass for them if they want to do more. We will have plenty of non-VR games for them to play. They should also bring their laptop and can play games with others nearby.
What is expected of my member? Behavior?
As they say, pobody’s nerfect. However, this is a paid program that we must retain the highest of quality for our members. They need to come in with the intention to learn AND have fun. You can’t just “have fun,” especially when it is at the expense of others’ learning.
It will be clearly stated to the member if they are misbehaving. If they continue to do the act they were asked to stop, the instructor will announce, “Failure to listen to instructors results in a reduction in your behavior level.” No further warnings will be given if the behavior continues. We do not discipline your child unless their behavior is so poor that we must call you. That’s not happened yet.
However, inside the website, they have a behavior level – Excellent, Good, Needs Improvement, Insufficient. An instructor may change this level at their discretion. A repeated, unheeded offense merits a drop in level. You may receive an email about this change.
We understand that you pay to be in the Club, but if a member’s level ever drops to Insufficient, they cannot attend the Network party. That is an earned privilege. Better behavior in session(s) will allow it to recover. Your member’s Behavior level is not publicly but if they log in, you can see it on the MAIN page once logged in..
Only two times has a member been asked to skip a Network party in the 4 years previous. Most members coming are great, well-behaved kids.
How do they interact?
We create a really relaxed atmosphere. We may occasionally go off on a tangent, discussing a subject or even chatting about a game. Members can talk to each other and how each other work. We have had many members become friends as our normal social circles are incredibly limited in modern society.
They can also interact online and have discussion or talks in the game server.
Our only major rule is that EVERYONE is allowed to feel comfortable. Flirting is not allowed in the Club or on the site.
We tend to have less girls in the Club, and this is not school. This rule applies to all genders or identities, no exceptions. Everyone should feel welcomed.
We also have zero tolerance for insults. Fun banter is ok. But we do not address people’s looks or video game ability. AND you might be picking up on this, but any boy who says girls aren’t good at video games will be warned immediately and asked to apologize. Part of Video Game Design Club is a mission to increase diversity on all levels.
Again, this has not been an issue yet. We aim to keep it that way.
How do they login?
To keep our website safe, no one but administrators can make accounts. Once you register, we will make a profile based on the information you gave.
Since we will be starting in September, you may not get an email about your account until around or just after the open house.
Ok, I want to Join NOW! How do I lock in a spot?
Wow, really? That’s great! I’m glad you are excited and we know your member is going to learn a lot!
It’s actually really easy to officially join. You will fill out the official registration forms and read all of the rules. Once you complete that application, you are an official member. No money is due upon registration. Please bring a card number for us to put on file or a blank check to your first session.