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Imagine what it would be like to enter a new and unfamiliar world—and start learning a complicated new technology. That is what Anthony Botelho, of Dighton, Mass., did when he enrolled as a game development and programming student at Becker College.
A straight-A student in high school, Botelho was new to computer programming as a freshman. Nearly four years later, Botelho says, “Programming is more of an art than a science. Art can show you what a world looks like, but programming allows you to create what the world is.
“I like to create challenges,” says the graduating senior. “I like to feel that I have accomplished something at the end of a game.”
His final year at Becker has taken Botelho on a series of all-nighters, leading up to a serious accomplishment. In March 2013, he showed his senior project to more than 80,000 game enthusiasts at PAX East—the largest games show on the East Coast—alongside leading-edge releases from top video game companies and independent developers.
After being recruited as the only underclassman on the team of seniors who developed the game, “Shadow Walker,” for PAX East 2012, Botelho found himself lead developer on “Pressure Switch,” the student-developed video game that Becker College featured at PAX East 2013. Botelho built the game engine “from scratch,” instead of using pre-existing program tools. He collaborated on “Pressure Switch” with three 2012 Becker game program graduates who currently work as adjunct faculty at Becker.
Not a typical first-person shooter game, “Pressure Switch” was created with a unique philosophy in mind: the game features a super soldier who shoots to heal. His mission is to reverse a viral infiltration in a military complex, and the purpose of shooting enemies is to “recode,” or cure them, not to kill them. Yet each shot from the prosthetic arm weapon with which surgeons fit him exacts a price in his own life energy.
Professor of Game Design Terassa Ulm describes, “The game play focuses on the inherent choices gamers face often unconsciously – risk and reward—but in ‘Pressure Switch,’ the choice is dramatically demonstrated with the very balance of life and death constantly being juggled. Rather than develop your character as a hero through moral choices, you must make strategic choices that reveal your nature as either a live-for-the-moment or more defensive creature.”
In addition to tremendous commitment to his senior project, Botelho is a teaching assistant in three interactive media classes, and he has been accepted into a master’s degree program in computer science. He estimates that he has worked on six complete games during his degree work, and he created numerous “mini-projects” to help himself learn and strengthen new skills. He is developing an online portfolio of his work, with an aim of becoming either an independent game developer or an educator.
One of Botelho's student teaching experiences is a partnership project between Becker College and the Worcester Youth Center. The project is in its second year, and Botelho and adjunct faculty member Adam DeZago '11 teach elements of programming design, art creation, and level design–introductory game development skills–to youth in their early to late teens.
Botelho believes that games have the power to teach. “Games put us in another’s shoes and teach moral lessons—similar to a story or a movie. They allow players to really become a character and have more confidence to handle challenges,” he says.