All Fun and Games

by Mary Martialay on June 22, 2011

This spring, Rensselaer saw the first full class of students in its Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) program (20 students) cross the dais and take their degree. It’s a milestone worth celebrating and, as if on cue, GSAS has been generating a buzz of activity of late.

Today, the Berkshire Eagle reports that RedCandy Games, founded by Rensselaer student Julian Volyn, has just released its first video game, Tic, on XBOX Live Indie Marketplace. The article focuses on Justin Burdick, a Rensselaer graduate, and Volyn’s former RPI roommate, who contributed to the graphics of the game (Rensselaer students Zach Lynn, Trevor Zettersten, Ivy Kwan, Jeff Danis, Evan Weinberg were also on the team that created the game).

Burdick was on the student team that created Tic (pictured above) and Yamada Box Legend, the top two prize winners at this year’s GameFest.

Last week, Lee Sheldon, co-director of the GSAS program and a professor of language, literature and communication, released a new book on the lessons game design can lend to education. The Multiplayer Classroom, Designing Coursework as a Game lays out a classroom based on principles of game design created to motivate and lead players through the game. Students in the “multiplayer classroom” solve “quests,” work in “guilds,” and rack up “experience points” (which are translated to a grade) as the semester progresses.

It’s more than just theory, Sheldon runs his own multiplayer classroom in his work as a professor at Rensselaer, and says that the results speak for themselves.

“The average class grade went from a C to a B, using the same materials. Attendance is now near perfect. People come early and work – even if they don’t have an assignment – on various quests before the class.”

GSAS will keep rocking through the summer as Rensselaer hosts high school students in a two-week residential enrichment program on the fundamentals of video game creation. Students in the program learn about the technical and creative sides of games, and then have a chance to brainstorm game ideas and ultimately, design their own game from start to finish.