BANGOR, Maine — By lunchtime Monday, a group of New England School of Communications and Husson University students had already made their own video games with the help of a Japanese company known for its smartphone and tablet applications.
About 30 students took a crash course at Husson from Ryo Shimizu, president and CEO of Tokyo-based Ubiquitous Entertainment Inc., during a one-day video game coding camp.
The software company creates applications and games for mobile devices, as well as free-for-use, open-source programs that allow users to make games of their own.
“We hope the students have taken away with them from the lecture the power of games and how it can benefit society as a whole,” said Brandon McInnis, a technology “evangelist” for Ubiquitous Entertainment who translated for Shimizu.
On Monday, students learned how to use Enchant.js, a free-for-use “programming environment” that provides a framework that saves a game creator from having to do a lot of the nitty-gritty coding that goes into creating a game.
Gary Giles, a 31-year-old WebMedia student at NESCom, said he wants to do Web design after finishing school, but having basic game coding skills could help him diversify.
Using the Maeda Block application, Giles built a “shooter” similar to arcade games such as “1942” and “Space Invaders,” in which a small tank at the bottom of the screen shoots at airplanes that fall from the top of the screen.
It took him about 15 minutes to create the game.
Ubiquitous Entertainment began holding game coding camps in 2011 in response to the April earthquake the wreaked havoc on Fukushima region. The economy and the overall mood in Fukushima are still struggling to rebound, Shimizu said.
In an attempt to help along the recovery, Ubiquitous Entertainment held a video game coding camp in the belief that “through entertainment, through teaching the value of game design,” the company might inspire a new generation of game designers, or at least cheer up some locals, McInnis said.
It had a Geiger counter on hand during a Fukushima game coding camp in August to show people that the city was safe.
Shimizu and McInnis were invited to speak at Husson University by the WebMedia program at the NESCom.
Lowell Davis, a 22-year-old audio engineering NESCom student from Medway, said he attended the camp because “I’m looking to expand my horizons … and become as well rounded as I can.”
Davis said he was surprised to learn how popular smartphone games are in Japan.
In the United States, consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3 dominate gaming, but mobile phones drive much of gaming industry in Japan, according to Shimizu.
Japanese workers spend much of their free time on trains and buses commuting to work in cities from their homes in the outskirts. To pass the time, they play on their phones. This has led to a hugely popular social and mobile gaming industry that rivals the popularity of console-based first-person shooters, such as “Call of Duty,” in the United States, Shimizu said.
“I definitely see a lot of people I know spending money on mobile games and stuff like that every day,” Davis said. “I can certainly see this blowing up over here.”