Glitchbusters and their teacher at the 2013 National Awards Ceremony at Carnegie Hall! From left: Ashwin Datta, Kyle Hiebel, Chitra Datta, Justin Mellott and Andrei Blebea.

Glitchbusters and their teacher at the 2013 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Ceremony at Carnegie Hall! From left: Ashwin Datta, Justin Mellott, Chitra Datta, Kyle Hiebel, and Andrei Blebea.

What makes a video game not just fun, but addictively amazing? We asked Glitchbusters, a team of 4 high school students from Hillsboro, Oregon whose game earned a 2013 Gold Medal in our Video Games Category and a $1,000 AMD Game Changer Award. Almost as impressive as this recent achievement is that fact that they designed it as a team: they’ve been studying and designing games together for 4 years—and they’re still friends! Check out our Q & A with them below.

What is Glitchbusters? How did the group come together?
We’re Ashwin Datta, Andrei Blebea, Kyle Hiebel and Justin Mellott. Besides being friends and avid gamers ourselves, we have been programming for about 4 years. Our original games were all made in Game Maker while our latest game, Modern Health Care, was made in XNA, which is a programming framework based on C#.

What’s your 2013 Award-winning game about?
Building Spree: Mars Edition is an intricate tycoon game in which you must build and manage a colony on Mars. You must balance population and jobs, and keep your people happy to maintain a successful colony.  The goal of the game is to build 3 government Buildings to secure your independence from the United States of America. We came up with this game when we were asked to create a game based off of the theme “Urban Planning”, for The Oregon Game Project Challenge (OGPC) a state-wide game programming competition here in Oregon.

Tell us more about OGPC.
The Oregon Game Project Challenge is a competition that brings together teams of 4 to 7 students from all across the state. The OGPC competition season runs from December to May each year, concluding with the statewide competition in Salem. Both high school and middle school teams compete by presenting original computer games to nearly 30 judges and panelists.

How did this help you learn more about game design?
OGPC gave us a great opportunity to create our own games. We took classes in game programming and started building our own games, starting with Mine Mayhem: Trapped in Darkness, and moving on to Fast Food Fight: Death by Calories and Modern Health Care: Call for Aid. Making a game includes many challenges, starting from the design stage to the implementation stage, such as: creating the art, implementing complicated algorithms, debugging etc. In our case, the hardest part was, surprisingly, coming up with the name for the game!

Brainstorming Glitchbusters!

Brainstorming Glitchbusters!

What were some of the challenges of working collaboratively on this project?  
There were a few challenges, for sure: We needed a lot of coordination to make sure the game progressed in a smooth and seamless fashion. We had trouble agreeing on some of the features of the games, implementing all of the different ideas we had. The hardest part was just figuring out schedules. The way we did it, only one person could work on the project at a time, and we had to coordinate that. It was pretty much trial-and-error until we figured it out, but we think we’ve got a better idea for next year.

Why do you think you make a good team?
We make a good team because we do not always agree on everything and we end up with more ideas to make a better game—and we compromise if needed. Also, we each had our own area of expertise, like Kyle was the best at graphic design. Also we just got along together well!

What are some of your favorite games?
Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy and our favorite, Star Wars Battlefront. We enjoy dynamic gameplay, socialization, winning, and annoying other players. We like dynamic gameplay because once you get good at a game, the game gets harder and more interesting.

What advice do you have for aspiring video game designers?
Start out simple, with programs such as Game Maker, and gradually increase the complexity of the games.  Learn how to use and implement all the capabilities of the programming software you are using before moving on to new software. And do your homework! You can find great information on the internet in the form of blogs, downloadable files, and even YouTube tutorials. And most of all, HAVE FUN BUILDING YOUR GAME!

Ready to design your own video game for the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards? Check out past Scholastic Award-winning games here, and learn more about this trending category here. Registration for the 2014 Awards opens September 16!

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