New CS club brings game development to JMU

Students in Dukes Dev club

“Work hard and play hard” is a philosophy embedded in the Computer Science major and many of its clubs. For many years, most clubs focused on the “work hard” aspect until a group of dedicated students decided to establish JMU’s first video game development club, DukeDevs.

CS majors David Navia, Leo Torrijos and Andrés Parra van-Arcken founded DukesDev after recognizing a gap in JMU’s offerings. “I searched for any minors, majors or classes related to game development — but I found there was nothing,” Navia said. Surprised by the absence of game design programs, the co-founders began brainstorming logos, names, and ideas. Under the guidance of CS professor Isaac Wang, they debuted DukeDevs in the fall of 2023, combining CS topics with the fun of gaming.

During the semester, the founders-turned-presidents learned the intricacies of managing a club. DukeDevs grew with each meeting as the officers established a weekly routine and clarified their vision. Torrijos and Navia prepared resources such as coding examples to illustrate game design concepts and utilized the free, open-source Godot engine for demonstrations. 

These demos provided hands-on experience and practical application, empowering club members to develop their own games in a low-stakes, casual, and cooperative environment.

With 2024 heralding in a new year and semester, DukeDevs embraced innovation by hosting its inaugural boot camp on Jan. 27, attracting more than 40 attendees from diverse majors. “We had CIS, SMAD, Physics and even Biology majors who attended our event,” Wang said. “Game development involves art, music, design and writing, in addition to programming, so it’s open to a wide range of skill sets.”

Regardless of their major, students learned programming and game design concepts using the Godot engine in just five hours, resulting in a simple platformer they could refine independently.

Continuing the momentum, the club organized a game jam from Feb. 20-27 — a week-long event dedicated to making a video game based on the theme “One.” Participants used the theme as a springboard for inspiration, resulting in submissions ranging from a sidescroller action game featuring an army of one to a fighting game inspired by Uno. Throughout the week, the club held brainstorming sessions and provided guidance.

DukeDevs plans to host additional events, invite guest speakers to complement their weekly meetings, and aims to build a student community. The officers’ dedication to the club and the excitement they’ve garnered underscore the impact that special interest clubs can have on JMU’s culture. “With a special interest club, it’s nice to commit to a niche interest that few around you likely share. Being able to enjoy these interests and not have to push them to the side because of academics is great,” Torrijos said.

Dukes Devs can be found on Instagram and BeInvolved.

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by Dorian Crawford (’27)

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2024

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2024

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