We are a gaming family. We like to play board games, lawn games, video games, you name it. Finding out that we could send Mason to a summer camp that focused on ‘gameplay’ was pretty epic. It’s a wonderful blend of indoor “gaming” activity, outside play and an in-classroom “maker” experience all rolled into one.
When I met Joshua, the man behind the camp, I asked if he would be interested in photography in order to help market his business. He was more than excited to have great images of his camp in-action!
Below you will find photos of the different elements of the camp along with an interview with Joshua so you can learn more about him and The Game Academy. If you’re looking for summer camp options and you have a “maker” or “gamer” child(ren) at home, this is a great way for them to be with some like-minded people, have some outdoor play, make something really cool and most importantly, have FUN in a safe environment!
Now, let me introduce you to…”The Game Academy”…
San Rafael, Berkeley
When I was young, I had dreams of being a game designer and developer. I spent many hours playing tabletop role-playing games, as well as early PC Computer games such as Ultima, Bard’s Tale, and all of the Infocom text adventure games, such as Zork. I was inspired by the ability to transport our consciousness from the mundane world to realms of imagination where anything is possible.
I’ve been playing and running tabletop role-playing games since I was a child in grade school. I didn’t pursue a creative career in tabletop role-playing games until after having a first career in software engineering and time spent running my own web design firm. I realized I was unhappy with my path, and took a sabbatical in which after much soul-searching, I identified my personal calling as combining my life-long love of role-playing games and collaborative storytelling, with my life-long focus on education. I started my first after-school enrichment classes through the San Rafael Community Center in 2011, launched my for-profit educational games company Iocari Games in 2012, and launched The Game Academy (our non-profit educational games company) in 2016.
The Game Academy primarily offers a year-round weekly enrichment gaming program occurring after school for children in traditional educational programs, or during the day for children raised in homeschool / unschooled environments. We also offer week-long immersive Adventure Gaming summer day camps in San Rafael and Berkeley which engage campers in tabletop role-playing games, “Maker” crafts and projects, and outdoor physical activities that all tie in with the theme of our sessions. In addition, we craft educational role-playing games for traditional classroom settings focused on specific learning objectives, as well as hosting birthday parties, weekend engagements, and other specialized collaborative storytelling experiences.
I must admit that I love so much about this work that it’s hard to pick a favorite aspect, but I think I most enjoy participating in creative exploration with others, working together to build a shared narrative and seeing both creativity and critical thinking applied to imagined situations through collaboration and common purpose. Through this engagement, I get to see personal, emotional, social and academic growth in our students, as well as seeing those points of growth in my own life through this activity. In our environment, we are educating one another through our engagement, and all of us are evolving into more capable, compassionate, and creative people.
While there are many summer camps and after-school enrichment programs from which to choose for your children, we at The Game Academy are engaging with the participants in our program at a deep level of immersion, where each of us takes on an identifying role in our shared narrative. This level of immersion in story and identity gives our participants a chance to self-create through imagined action, allowing them to attempt the daring and innovative in environments that are safe and within circles of trust. Participants in our program learn empathy through practice in assuming the alternative perspectives of the characters in our shared stories while gaining a unique opportunity to workshop aspects of identity that can be integrated when successful or rejected without harm. Participants in our program care deeply about their characters and the story they are co-creating, providing a deeper, more personally-relevant context not readily available in video games and passive media.
Believe it or not, I got the idea for our business from remembering my own childhood, and how significant being involved in tabletop role-playing games were in my own personal and academic development. Playing these games, and co-creating deep and involved narratives fostered a love of many academic subjects in me, such as history, art, creative writing, and even math and science. I would study mythology and world history for hours, just to be more effective in my playing the game. In sharing a verbal as well as written narrative space with others, I overcame a crippling shyness and learned how to work as a member of an ensemble team, effectively working together to achieve common goals. The friends I formed through engaging in this creative activity over the years have become like family to me. I knew without a doubt that this activity, itself a fusion of many different art forms, was a key to my own personal success, and that it could serve to be the same platform to success for others.
We like to believe that The Game Academy’s primary goal is to create better people in the world: we focus not only on academic or creative success but on social and emotional proficiency, as well as empathy and compassion. I firmly believe that if we could introduce role-playing games to all of our children, we would significantly reduce the incidents of conflict, hatred, and fear in our world. To those aims, we do our best to provide scholarships for our programs to any family that may be precluded from our programs due to financial hardship, and this is a major driver for our fundraising each year.
We are offering discounts for those attending multiple sessions, or for families with more than one child in our summer programs. Send us a note or give us a call if you’re interested or want to learn more!