WILKES-BARRE – An in-depth discussion on violence in video games would be a common experience on any college campus, but Saturday the discussion developed among 12 Boy Scouts attending a game design class during the 16th annual Merit Badge College at King’s College.
The event, hosted by The Boy Scouts of America Northeastern Pennsylvania Council and King’s College, provides Scouts an opportunity for a hands-on learning experience in a collegiate atmosphere.
Adviser Dave Srebro said participants had to pre-register and had to be a First Class Scout or have finished seventh grade.
“We had 275 Scouts register,” he said. “Some are from New York, New Jersey and southern Pennsylvania. About 90 percent are from NEPA.”
Thirty-two different classes including Architecture, Chemistry, Dentistry, Personal Management, Robotics, Emergency Preparedness and Veterinary Medicine were available to Scouts at the event. Classes varied in length from two to four hours.
The Merit Badge College is designed to help the Boy Scouts on their path to earn the Eagle badge. Srebro said the Scouts must earn 21 merit badges to be eligible for the Eagle badge.
One of the new merit badges on game design focused Scouts on the thought process of game development and the many aspects of gaming objectives. The class was taught by Chris Corey, of Troop 166 of Avoca.
Corey guided the Scouts through discussions on the history of video games and whether violence in video games could create violent thoughts and actions in gamers.
Matt Fino, also of Troop 166, assisted Corey and said he was impressed with the critical thinking skills and creativity of the Scouts.
“Critical thinking is made to be fun in Scouting,” Fino said. “Critical thinking skills are needed through life and this is just one application of this.”
For one of the requirements of the badge, the Scouts had to develop their own game and test it among peers and family.
Vince Vespico, 13, of Boy Scout Pack 155 of Trucksville, developed a board game called “Tell Us Something”.
Similar in design to Monopoly, the objective for players was to make their way around the board. Each square had an adjective such as scary, dumb or sad. They would have to tell a story in 15 seconds involving an adjective they landed on. If the story was accepted by the other players they could stay and advance to their next turn. But if the story was not acceptable, they would need to return to the nearest corner space.
Vespico said it took him about an hour to develop the game idea but a little longer to draw all the squares.
His gamers, Paul Smith, 15, and Alex McCarthy, 16, both of Boy Scout Troop 281 of Dallas, enjoyed the game.
In a separate building across campus, a group of 27 boys were learning Emergency Preparedness.
Instructor Jim Widenor, of Troop 134, said Scouts must have already achieved the First Aide badge before taking his course. He said his class touches on everything from emergency response agencies on the local, state and federal level, aide from non-profit groups and what the boys can do to help in emergency situations.
“They will put together a personal and family emergency kit which will include food, water, radio, batteries, flashlight,” he said.
During a lunch break, Chris Peet, 15, of Boy Scout Troop 160 of Clark Summit, said he enjoyed learning how to perform a water rescue and stretcher safety.
“I will know how to help during an emergency situation,” Peet said.