SIERRA VISTA — If you like video gaming, The Mall at Sierra Vista has the place for you. If you want to pass your love of gaming on to the next generation, even better.
It’s the great idea of Anthony Sanders.
“We’ll do classes; we’ll hold tournaments,” he said. “From 7 to 10 in the evening we will open just for high-speed gaming. That will tend to be more of an adult kind of crowd.”
No need to worry about inappropriate content, however. Sanders said the business will downplay the graphic stuff, so no Grand Theft Auto or the like.
“We’ll keep it to the tame games,” he said. “If you want a GTA, you can do that at home. This is going to be family-friendly space.”
Mall League Gaming has taken one of the last spaces available at the mall, and what a space. Sanders has taken an empty store and by the time it opens, he will have turned it into a combination classroom and high-speed gaming lounge. He has some interesting plans. The store will not only sponsor its own gaming league team, it will feature classes for kids in the seventh through 12th grades in how to create their own video game from start up to publication.
To teach gaming design, Sanders is using the Game Maker Pro program, which he says is a great way to introduce game creation.
“(The programs) are really simple but they give the kids the foundation to understanding game theory and putting the whole project together,” Sanders said. “This is more of an entry-level tool. This is where you cut your teeth.”
Basically, it’s a drag-and-drop program. Later, if students want to continue, Sanders will introduce Unity, a more advanced platform.
The space looks bare now, but Sanders is in the process of creating a comfortable a spot with larger monitors, actually television screens, for several players who wish to engage others in the high-speed, online game of Fortnite. It’s a first-person shooter game. There will be other multi-player competitive games, like Mario Kart, as well. Sanders is sponsoring a league, and students may compete for ranking and scholarship money.
“I’ve been out of school for quite a while,” Sanders said. “Apparently, now they have e-leagues and these are competencies that kids are learning by playing but they are now able to get college scholarships based off of this play. Several schools have their own professional teams.”
Sanders said it’s not unlike college sports, with teams that play everything from electronic football to racing to game development.
On the other side of the room is a long counter with plush office chairs where students will be able to learn the nuts and bolts of what exactly goes into creating a video game. There is also a green screen with which students may do some filming and superimpose their own background into the game.
“We hope the green screen provides them with some options for backgrounds and different environments as they build their rooms,” Sanders said. “(In case) they want to use a terrestrial, real-type space versus a fully animated space.”
Otherwise, Gamemaker Pro provides backgrounds and icons a creator may use.
Sanders will cover everything it takes to make a game, from inception to actual animation. Students will write their own story line and create a storyboard to actually publishing the game. Cost for the class is $400 and includes nine hours of instruction a week — three hours a class, three classes a week for eight weeks, all after school. It’s a lot but at the bottom of it, Sanders wants to introduce to young people another aspect of how to make a career in computers.
“A lot of kids will say, ‘I want to work in computers’ but they can’t really define what working in computers is,” he said. “With this we’ll be able to introduce various pathways into computers. It’s programming, application development and theory. It’s the same theory that the military uses to protect its networks.”
Sanders’ storefront neighbor, Mountain View Pottery owner Don Watkins, sees that the mall is becoming more lively with new businesses that are about entertainment, his included.
“I’m glad to see stuff coming in here,” he said. “(The mall) has become a more active place, and more of the places are becoming a destination.”
In fact, all of Watkins’ fall pottery classes are full. However, he expects to offer them again in January.
Meanwhile, Sanders hopes for a Dec. 1 opening but as with much of the world, he is having difficulty getting equipment. Right now, he cannot seem to get the monitors he ordered. He has the processing units, the keyboards, the Wi-Fi connections but no monitors.
“I’m having all sorts of supply-chain issues that everybody else is suffering from,” he said. “I went to Walmart the other day to buy monitors, and there are no monitors. I ordered monitors online and ... they cancel your order ... It’s been a bit of a challenge this year, trying to open a business during the pandemic.”
Sanders is hoping for the best, however. He sees Sierra Vista as very interested in digital technology.
“The community is one of those IT communities,” he said. “We are probably as densely populated with technicians and programmers as any block in Silicon Valley.”