3D Artist

How Thirsty Minds is using game design to teach at-risk youth

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Joe Lee Mans III

Founder and Executive Director Joe Lee Mans III tells us about his duty to help change at-risk youth’s mind via the medium of game development

How Thirsty Minds is using game design to teach at-risk youth

The idea of Thirsty Minds Design & Media came from remembering my time as an impoverished, minority youth who wanted to do more than just play games but to build. Unfortunately during that time, the local information on how to gain the skillset and where to go was not readily available.

Similarly, today’s issues with access has evolved to become a problem with the ability to siphon through good/bad information as well as the crazy high-priced education to get into industry.

I’m pretty much an aggressive and an outside-of-the-box type box type of guy. So I reached out to entities such as CG Elves who gave us access to all their training for Marvelous Designer, Jaime Labelle with Pixologic, Ben Mears with Houdini and Karen Arnold with the Foundry. They have extended their hand with resources to get our programming going in the right direction. But in order to make use of the said resources I would have to acquire the necessary hardware.

That is an ongoing battle in itself.

I knew that if I was going to make a claim that the gaming companies actually cared about these underprivileged youth and that they support us, as far as, mentoring/teaching, I would need to go to them. Our gaming tour took us to Frisco, TX to visit Gearbox Software where we took a tour of the facilities with Aaron Thibault and his team.

That turned into a long-term relationship, with pizza parties sponsored by Gearbox for the kids and a speaking engagement (by Aaron Thibault) at our first Technology Gaming expo.

Austin, TX opened the door to meeting the member of the Film Commission, ArtCraft Entertainment with Gordon Walton (an industry icon and legend in the area), Chris Binky Launius of Amazon, and QC Game developers with Dallas Dickson and his team. Finally in Houston, TX we met with Josh Maida and Sean Bellinger (board member of Thirsty Minds) of Six foot Games. There we got to sit down and chat about our initiative and offer any support from their team when it comes to any instructional purposes.

How Thirsty Minds is using game design to teach at-risk youth
Aaron Thibault of Gearbox and Thirsty Minds at one of the sponsored pizza parties

We started off with teaching the youngsters some basic 3D modelling, using Blender as the software on a Disciplinary Alternative Education Placement (DAEP) a at Pine Tree P.A.C.E. in Texas. I later acquired a partnership with another non-profit call Thrive360. They are an after-school programme for youth activities and have allowed me to use their facility to further my classes.

Three of our board members are in the gaming industry and we are lucky to have them on board for guidance and consulting.

One particular board member is Owen Ratliff whose company is a partner that is working on a new urban fighting game called Black Salt Corruption, a game where Tekken meets Devil May Cry. They have currently finalised their demo with the expectations of the fighting game becoming the next esports hit. We plan on using this game as part of our city-to-city league competition.

This year we have concentrated more on getting funding and in-kind to better serve the youth that we are aiming to cater to. Our first event this year will be an esports gaming camp.

We are putting on a raffle, with the event link here, and reaching out to sponsorships for this event and have recently started partnering with ReadyUP for our tournament/event needs.

We are also in the process of getting our city-to-city esports league started this year, so gaining the funding and the equipment needed is vital for our cause. CG Society has expressed interest in helping our cause as well, so we are looking forward to seeing how things will blossom from the development side of the industry.