Youngsters are all kept ‘appy with project to develop phone programs

People who took part in and ran the Game On classes

People who took part in and ran the Game On classes

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VIDEO games are being used to keep youngsters on the straight and narrow.

Game On has seen eight young men aged between 13 and 22 from Leigh Park taking part in a 10-week project which saw them develop mobile gaming apps while investigating what they could do in the future, either as a career or in education.

The project, which aimed to raise their aspirations, was organised by the New Theatre Royal, and development charity Active Communities Network (ACN), funded by Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Artswork, and supported by the University of Portsmouth’s Creative and Cultural Industries Faculty. The Havant Neighbourhood Policing Team was also there.

Geoffrey ‘Tiny’ Turner from the University of Portsmouth said: ‘The purpose of the project was to show the boys that they can achieve higher, and be just like university students – do the same things they do. Having me as a leader in the sessions re-emphasises that because of the way I look and the way I am – I come from similar backgrounds to them.

‘We’ve been using an online software programme developed by a university in America. It has a graphical user interface which allows the boys to develop mobile phone apps for Android phones.

‘They engaged with it really well and they collaborated with each other and worked from templates.

‘For two hours a week they are sat down and engrossed, problem solving, chatting between themselves – doing the things schools are struggling to get them to do, and it’s really gratifying.

‘Their confidence has improved, especially in the classroom. You can see them light up when they start thinking, and they’re proud of themselves.’

Harry Hitchens, a 14-year-old who took part in the Game On project, said: ‘The opportunity has been amazing. Tiny has blown my mind with all the technology, and I love filming and games myself, so it’s been really good. The adults I’ve worked with understand I can’t always concentrate and they help to keep me focused.’

For the past three years, ACN has worked with university faculties and departments including criminology, child and youth studies, and sports development to provide placements, paid work, and volunteering.

The people who took part were from schools in Havant, or out of work and education. They were identified as having a range of vulnerability risk factors to do with crime, school, and so on.

Police district inspector for Havant, Andy Clinton, said: ‘Often the police come across those who could do with extra support and activities to keep them busy, ACN fits into that absolutely perfectly so whether it be sport or in this case gaming, it ticks lots of boxes.’

As national partnerships manager, Julian Wadsworth is thrilled. He added: ‘The project has been a fantastic experience. The young men, who had never visited the University of Portsmouth prior to this, are passionate about gaming and have benefited greatly from working with enthusiastic lecturers.

‘They have increased knowledge about their possible career pathways within the gaming sector.’

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