PINEDALE – As a seventh-grader, Zoe Griffin was the person all of her classmates came to for help with computer code.
Last year, Griffin continued writing code in Cheryl Travis’ technology class at Pinedale Middle School. The class was focused on building an educational video game in Adobe Flash. While Griffin might have been one the class’s top coders, she said she spent so much time working on the art for her game, Owl Adventure, that she was actually behind her classmates, forcing them to seek help elsewhere.
When Griffin caught up to her classmates, completed her game and submitted it into Globaloria’s annual contest, Globaloria named it the best action game in the nation.
“I was honestly amazed and honored,” Griffin said.
In Griffin’s game, players control six different owls that are trying to collect mice to feed their babies. To survive, they must help each owl catch its prey without being caught by a fox that’s also looking for food.
In the first level, the players use an Elf Owl, the smallest in the game, to try and catch six mice.
As players progress through the levels, they have to use bigger and bigger owls to catch more and more mice.
In between levels, Owl Adventure presents players with “Fun Facts” to teach them about the birds. One fun fact, for example, says “Owls swallow their prey whole and can consume up to 1,000 mice per year.”
Four schools from Wyoming, and 3,000 nationwide, competed in the coding challenge.
“The whole class knew it was something special – it stood out from the get-go,” Pinedale Middle School’s technology teacher, Cheryl Travis, said about Griffin’s game.
Just because Griffin’s game stood out doesn’t mean she didn’t have to work as hard as her classmates. In fact, Griffin often came in after school to work on her game. On Fridays, Griffin said she sometimes would spend three hours working on Owl Adventure.
The hardest part about building the game, Griffin said, was “trying to get the characters to change through the levels and getting it all to work and cooperate like I wanted to.”
Griffin’s game ended up taking 1,240 lines of code to build. One extra space or a period instead of a comma would have crashed the entire game, but Griffin was able to add a scoreboard, running clock and birds chirping into her game.
Students also had to build the game from scratch.
“There were some basic instructions about what we could do, but I had to code it myself,” Griffin said.
Some basic code was provided, but Griffin went beyond the code that was suggested, searching online for code and then tweaking it so it would fit into her game.
Her favorite part about building the game was, “seeing the end product after all of the difficulty I went through,” Griffin said.
“Coding is cutting-edge technology,” Travis said. “That’s the next thing they need before college, and I’m tickled we can offer that.”
All seventh graders at the middle school are exposed to coding. The students then have the option to continue learning about code in eighth grade. Griffin, who’s now a freshman at Pinedale High School, finished programming Owl Adventure last May.
While Griffin’s game stood out, Travis said all of her students were able to complete their games.
“I could not be prouder,” Travis said. “It’s a cool program. It’s neat to see kids take a basic idea and just run with it.”
People can play Griffin’s game online at https://globaloria.com/globaloria-game/owl-adventure/
“I thought it was a great experience in general,” Griffin said. “It’s one of the few opportunities to do what you want to do – whatever pops in your brain.”