Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university, held Qatar’s first virtual game development competition, Game Qode, hosting participants from middle school students to industry professionals.
The competition grew out of a series of workshops that CMU-Q held in partnership with GameDev Qatar. The first Game Developer Academy workshop was held for pre-college students in the summer of 2020. Students learned the basics of game development, including coding and design.
The participants were keen to learn, and they asked for more. The team organised more workshops, bringing in developers and other professionals, and opening the sessions up to anyone in Qatar interested in building a game. Saquab Razak is the associate area head of computer science at CMU-Q, and a co-director of the Hamad Bin Jassim Center for K-12 Computer Science Education: “We found the workshops were helping build a community around game development, and this community was very motivating to the students who were participating. They wanted a competition.”
Game Qode was organised by the HBJ Center team. The centre is collaboration between CMU-Q and the Jassim and Hamad Bin Jassim Charitable Foundation, formed in 2017 to promote computer science among school-age children in Qatar.
During the competition, participants were challenged to create an original game in one week: “We made it very flexible,” said Hanan Alshikhabobakr, Game Qode organiser and a research associate at CMU-Q. “We gave them the theme, which was ‘growing.’ The only rule was they had to use the theme somehow and submit a working game within one week.”
At the end of the week, 44 participants submitted games, and winners were selected in each of four categories: Bassam Merhebi, pre-secondary; Alex Kurian, secondary, Mohamad Alnass, university, and Mohamed Mahgoub, Mohammad Babikir, and Amir Suliman, professional.
During the competition, the team noticed a spirit of collaboration building: “The younger participants were asking questions, and the more experienced participants took on a mentorship role,” said Hanan. “Even though it was a competition, they were helping one another.”
Bassem Merhebi, who is a Grade-9 student and the winner in the youngest category, said: “This was my first game jam and I would like to thank the organisers and all of the community for this amazing experience.”
The team would like to build on the momentum of the event. Razak said, “Our goal is to help foster this community. When students see people creating games at a high level, they are motivated to learn. It’s nice to see this level of support and help.”