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There may be a large amount of college students who like video games, but there are some who do much more than play these games: they design them.

GameDev Knights, a club established to give students the chance to pursue their interests in game design, started last fall, and has already grown into a huge organization.

Last year, the club had more than 100 members, and even more are expected to join this year.

Every month, the club hosts events, including development sessions, speakers and the popular game jams — which are events where students receive a theme and assemble a team to create a game in 24 to 72 hours. The teams are assembled based on the members’ skill sets, such as art, design or programming. After some brainstorming, the teams must try to create an original game in just a few days.

“By the end of the event, you present whatever it is you have,” said GDK member Shanan Dalton, a senior computer science major. “It’s surprising how much you can get done in one weekend.”

The game jams do more than just offer a fun way to test members’ skills: they’ve been the genesis of two new indie game studios, one being Hamhock Games.

Christopher Ross, the studio’s programmer and project manager, said going to these game jams allowed him to meet other designers that could share their talents with him.

“Up until the point that I joined, I had been working in more or less isolation,” Ross said. “But as an individual there’s a limit to what you can do. I wanted to meet people that had skills that I didn’t have.”

Hamhock Games is currently working on a game called Catfish, which features a cat that sails the seas in search of fish. The game is still in its development stages, but has already gained attention through a Kickstarter campaign that managed to gain more than $6,000.

The studio is currently staffed with five members, four of whom are UCF students. And it’s not surprising that these students have done well.

Orlando is quickly becoming the new hub for game design across the country. Game studios are popping up, and universities like Full Sail and UCF are flooding the market with talented graduates.

Usually, students have to find jobs in other parts of the country, such as in Arizona where game design has a large market. Now that there has been more interest in Central Florida, Ross said the talent pool is staying closer to home.

“Game design is going to be a very big thing in this area very quickly. And everybody is just trying to ride that wave as it happens,” he said.

Students looking to become involved with this burgeoning industry can start with the GDK, Ross said. The club accepts anyone, no matter their major or level of experience.

“It can be scary at first. Especially when it feels like you don’t know anything and that there’s someone better at it than you are,” Dalton said. “But if you just come out and meet the people and introduce yourself, you’ll find someone else who has the knowledge or wants to learn right alongside you.”

The first GDK for this year will be held on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Student Union, Room 316 AB.

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Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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