When nineteen-year-old Max Elder finished his sophomore year of college, he reflected on the projects and animations he created through middle and high school as a source of the aspirations which brought him to the university level.
Even as a cyber security major, Max sees overlaps between his field of study and the creative motivations which initially inspired him. But the beginning of his success in cyber security began long before his college courses—it started back in 7th grade, when Max’s dad enrolled him in Video Game Design 101 with the Youth Digital Arts Cyber School.
Max’s portfolio of video game projects and digital animations is the product of his budding artistic aspirations, fully realized and fostered under the mentoring of YDACS. Through the VGD courses, Max learned that video game design, coding, and even animation wasn’t restricted to grown-ups with college degrees and expensive equipment; the tools were already at his fingertips. YDACS was there to streamline the learning process to twelve-year-old Max, who quickly programmed his first video game and set on a journey to fan the flame of his newly discovered passion.
Over the next several years, Max continued his YDACS courses to learn advanced game design, animation, and digital painting. Along with becoming proficient with different multimedia software via step-by-step courses, Max took part in many of the YDACS-hosted virtual gatherings of other YDACS students, fellows, and mentors. Dubbed “Cyber Jams,” these meet-ups with creative-minded kids from various digital art backgrounds provide a space to discuss one another’s passions, ideas, and enthusiasm for digital creation. Everyone gets a chance to show off their work and personal projects, leading to productive discussions opening the door to the artistic possibilities and team-ups between aspiring artists in a safe, positive environment.
One of Max’s fondest digital art accomplishments was when he created a video game for his high-school ancient history class project. While his classmates brought in pottery displays and information boards, Max’s “The Odyssey” video game proved to be a highlight with the other students. The teachers, especially, loved his innovation. Through the skills Max learned with his VGD courses and Cyber Jams, he was able to invest nearly 30 hours on a passion project which earned him a high grade.
“The game design and animation techniques I learned with YDACS carried my projects and grades through high school,” Max said. “I don’t know what I would have done without that learning. Bouncing ideas off of other creators was a great opportunity to get out of my shell and grow more comfortable.”
Max’s growth as a programmer and digital artist was matured by his participation in Cyber Jams. His creative confidence wavered in his early days of game design, but Cyber Jams taught him how to collaborate, share his ideas, and grow his skills with other young creators. The passion he cultivated and the abilities he learned by talking with other YDACS students provided confidence that helped bridge the transition from high school life to college life.
“Our Cyber Jams are a learning community where we all have fun sharing creative ideas and jamming together,” YDACS Founder Craig Davis said. “Everyone should dip their toe at the speed that they’re comfortable with in our classes. The learning is self-paced in a very natural cycle. Kids start out very shy and quiet, then they get their footing and become mentors and fellows.”
Max is now a YDACS Student National Fellow, answering students’ questions in YDACS course forums and, as always, sharing his ideas and projects with other young creators via Cyber Jams. As he keeps up with college, he still finds time to feed his passions for video game design and animation—both which started when he first jumped into the YDACS community at twelve years old.