Sacramento events aim to boost local digital game creation

Britton Green plays against Gerardo Mendoza at the Retro Console Gaming night at Cafe Colonial in 2015.
Britton Green plays against Gerardo Mendoza at the Retro Console Gaming night at Cafe Colonial in 2015.

Most kids’ video game cravings are limited to the universe of computer-generated worlds to which they’ve been exposed.

Not young Gabriel Gutierrez. At age 9, he was drawing the game he wanted to play and was sore that his dad couldn’t find it.

It would be decades before he was nearly moved to tears as his ideas were translated into game play. Now as head of a local International Game Developers Association chapter, Gutierrez is hosting one of two Sacramento events this weekend to help people – young and old – more swiftly manifest their digital dreams.

Starting at 3 p.m. Friday, Code for Hood aims to give urban students exposure to coding, programming and game creation. The teen hackathon will be held at the Urban League’s Del Paso Heights office, 3725 Marysville Blvd., and concludes Sunday with a team challenge. Youth admission is $10 and is open until 2 p.m. Friday.

Gutierrez and his team will host the Sacramento Indie Arcade Gaming Expo on Saturday in Oak Park. Attendees of all ages can learn the basics of video game creation, experience games built by local teams and participate in a classic console game tournament.

Code for Hood will be the region’s first tech “hacking” event aimed at urban youths, said Gina Lujan, who owns the Hacker Lab coworking space. She teamed up with mechanical engineer Alan Ware and received funding from Intel to form a nonprofit to run Code for Hood.

Lujan and Ware said sharing this tech training with urban youths was important to them because they’re both from “the hood.”

“That is a huge problem – that digital divide,” Lujan said. She said parents in many neighborhoods, including south Sacramento, are too busy trying to keep their kids out of trouble, so there isn’t much time for extras.

White men make up 55 percent of scientists and engineers (the vast majority) and white women 18 percent, according to a 2006 study cited by Asian men and women , at 17 percent, were the only minority group with significant numbers working in science technology, engineering and mathematics. Black men and women made up less than 3 percent of scientists and engineers, Hispanics were 4 percent and all other groups were 3 percent.

Ware, who grew up in East St. Louis, said he was lucky.

“I was lucky in that I had a very supportive family,” said Ware.

While most hack events jump right into the challenge, Code for Hood plans to bring people up to a common level with two days of workshops before Sunday’s challenge. The classes will emphasis free applications to ensure the students have access to the tools after the weekend is over, Lujan said.

In its second year, the Indie Arcade Gaming Expo is playing host to Kate Edwards, executive director of the International Game Developers Association. Gutierrez, who help found the IGDA local chapter, seemed both proud and shocked at his high profile guest. The event runs from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday, at 3250 Stockton Blvd. Adult tickets are $10.

“I don’t know why she said ‘yes’ to us,” Gutierrez said.

Sacramento is home to a branch of the gaming giant Electronic Arts and a handful of independent studios including Blade Fire Studios and 5th Planet Games, but Gutierrez said the vast majority of people trained locally in video game design leave the area in search of jobs.

Gutierrez, who is still working toward launching his first game – a sci-fi shooter named “Kinship” – said the region should be doing more to nurture game developers and encourage them to launch their ideas from here rather than moving away to try to catch on elsewhere.

The indie arcade will feature 10 locally created games.

Gutierrez said he was never more proud of his organization than when one of the developer teams said it was looking into forming a legal company to keep moving its game forward.

“We are at our infancy right now,” Gutierrez said. “We are going to have to have a greater presence here ... to give the great talent we have a reason to stay.”

Call The Bee’s Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @NewsFletch.

Code for Hood

Dates: Friday-Sunday

Admission: $10


Address: 3725 Marysville Blvd.

Indie Arcade Expo

Dates: Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

Admission: $7 (student), $10 (adult advance), $15 (at the door)


Address: 3250 Stockton Blvd.