As the budding nerd community grows in Memphis, one of Memphis Game Developers’ (MGD) founders has been working with the University of Memphis to create a welcoming home for game developers here in the Midsouth.
Ernest McCracken is a professor at the U of M in Computer Science, and one of the classes he teaches is Intro to Game Development. McCracken’s course teaches students the basics of game design in the Unity game engine, one of the multiple free games and widely used engines on the market. Students in his class learn how to make games in a creative space where McCracken encourages learning programming with the allure of gaming.
As a leader in the MGD community as well as a teacher, McCracken promotes game development through workshops and game jams at the U of M. A game jam is when developers get together to work on a theme for making games. Depending on how members want to do it, game jams can be solo endeavors or developers can collaborate on an idea. The workshops offered by the MGD are often directed at middle school and high school students because the demand for individuals with coding knowledge is growing every year.
The MGD community is a group that supports local developers and provides a space to create traditional games as well as virtual reality (VR) games. Currently, MGD is sitting at 10 to 15 active, core members, including local studio Digital Precept, who work under the MGD umbrella.
Recently, the MGD community opened a workspace on Union Ave., and if you want access to their resources, visit their Patreon page to become a member. With certain levels of membership, you can gain access to their space, and begin to create your very own games including VR games. Oculus sent MGD two headsets and two sets of touch controllers to create games for VR, and the U of M gave them space for a VR lab.
As part of his professorship at the U of M, McCracken wrote a grant that was accepted by the City of Memphis to take VR technology, and apply it to the real world to control small robots like rovers. This tech could be applied to dangerous scenarios like firefighter training or even construction on Mars. FedEx is also looking into the technology to teach their mechanics how to work on planes without actually decommissioning a plane.
If you are interested in indie games, the University of Memphis is hosting the Midsouth Indie Game Expo at the FedEx Institute of Technology, 365 Innovation Drive, Memphis, TN 38111, on July 22. MGD will have a booth, and Digital Precept will be showing off their game. Several developers from Texas will be attending the event. Check out the expo for a glimpse into the indie game industry, and spark an interest in game development.
If you have an interest in creating your own game, McCracken has some advice. If you want to make a 2D game Unity is a great engine for you to use, but if you are going 3D both the Unity and Unreal engine are great choices. McCracken urges those with an interest to try game development out, and check out the Memphis Game Developers.