Caleb Fowler, a video game design and animation student at the Salem-Keizer Career Technical Education Center, instructs Superintendent Christy Perry as she plays "Somebody," a prototype game a team of seniors built (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Last year, Rezi Galvan wrote a short story for her English class about a girl hiding from the world in a fort she built in her room.

That story is now the basis of the video game “Somebody,” which Galvan and a team of classmates created this year. It centers on a young girl trying to come to terms with her past trauma by searching through her own subconscious for repressed memories.

“The entire game is just a journey through her mind,” Galvan said.

Their game took home the award for best theme and story at the Oregon Game Project Challenge in May, competing against high school teams in Washington and Oregon.

Galvan and team members Max Johnson, Michael Glaspey, Jay Tellez Hernandez, Kaleb Lindon, Caleb Fowler and Logan Gould are all seniors at Salem-Keizer’s Career Technical Education Center, studying video game design and animation.

The team designed a five-level game where the girl, accompanied by her imaginary friend “Somebody,” goes deeper into her mind to find the source of a loud noise. The game begins in a happy setting, with pink clouds and rainbows. But as the girl travels deeper into her repressed memories, her surroundings grow darker while she battles monsters.

Game trailer for "Somebody"

The game competition’s theme this year was “resilience,” and team members said they got a crash course in the subject as they taught themselves everything from programming to music composition from scratch.

“A lot of trial and error was needed,” Lindon said.

They only had time to make a first level that’s playable for the competition. Team members plan to continue working on the game over the summer and hope to eventually release it publicly.

Their entry at the game challenge included a storyline for the full game and artwork for the monsters and settings still to be built.

Lindon and Fowler served as the game’s programmers despite having no prior programming experience. Both said they plan to continue their studies in computer science at Chemeketa Community College in the fall.

Fowler said designing the user interface was especially rewarding.

“It’s kind of soothing to get everything into the perfect spot,” Fowler said.

The group recently shared the game with Superintendent Christy Perry and school psychologist Chris Moore, who played through the first level.

Perry struggled slightly to master the game’s controls, but said taking an hour in the afternoon to see the team’s work was among the highlights of her time as superintendent.

“It was definitely suspenseful. I got to that place where I really got into it,” she said.

After watching Perry’s play, Lindon said it was clear the game needed better signaling to help players understand how to move through the world of the game.

“Watching someone play gives us a lot of insight into what we need to change in the level,” Lindon said. “I’m so excited to have some people test out the game.”

Denise Majeski, the English and social studies teacher for the video game design program, said it was rewarding watching each member of the team grow into their roles and take on new skills.

Majeski said one of the program’s goals is to help students take risks so they can get better.

“We want them to fail as many times as possible and feel good about that so they’re not afraid to start,” she said.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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