Class creates edgy game for Apple App Store

School of Communication professor Clay Ewing and several of his students recently released a game to Apple’s App Store. In “Keep Your Edge,” squares are your sole chance of survival and circles are the death of you.

Following six months of fine-tuning and a two-week-long Apple approval process, “Keep Your Edge” was made available for a free download. The objective of the game is to avoid circles while collecting as many edges as possible to become the “dominant” square.

“Some students really want to make games, but others are just curious about the process,” Ewing said. “After teaching game design for two semesters here, I realized I needed an activity to be more rewarding. Now students can come out of the class saying, ‘I have a game in the App Store.’”

Although Ewing created the coding for the game’s template, he had his students in his undergraduate Introduction to Game Design course design their own levels for submission. This was done to create a stimulating classroom experience in a course offered to a diverse student body.

After spending a day teaching students how to use the program, Ewing gave his class the opportunity to experiment. Students Sean Wilkinson, Patrick Corcino, and Max Minkowitz are among those who created the different levels.

Max Minkowitz, a senior majoring in film, had not worked with game design before taking Ewing’s class as an elective last semester. But he found a lot of value in the assignment.

“Only one kid in the class was actually majoring in the program, but to get a job today, you need to have experience in a lot of fields,”  Minkowitz said.

Although “Keep Your Edge” was created mainly for entertainment, many of Ewing’s past games address serious issues. Ewing has partnered with humanitarian organizations to create board games and apps that bring awareness to vector borne diseases, the cost of health care and labor practices.

Ewing is currently working in conjunction with UM’s School of Public Health on Zoo Rush, a game intended to increase understanding of sickle cell anemia.

Since Ewing joined the SoC faculty to teach game design, a new graduate program has already been created. The launch of the Interactive Media graduate program last semester has provided Ewing with greater access to students specializing in the game design field.

“The goal of the new program is to develop a network of designers in the Miami area,” said Nancy Molina, office manager of the Cinema and Interactive Media department.

He plans to use these resources to complete the Zoo Rush game by February.

This past weekend, Ewing also led a workshop for Geeki Girl Gathering, an organization welcoming women of all ages who are interesting in learning about technology and digital media. Using “Keep Your Edge,” he helped explain game design fundamentals to aspiring teens.

“Developing games is not about making money for me. I learned in graduate school that I really liked teaching,” said Ewing about integrating game design with real world applications.