Mind Games

by Mary Martialay on April 20, 2012

Students in the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) program labor over the course of an entire academic year (and sometimes longer) to build the video games showcased at the annual GameFest at Rensselaer. Every year, it seems, student-designed games break new ground for GameFest, introducing emerging technologies like augmented reality, real-world applications in education, and sophistication that is—frankly—wrecking the curve for the rest of us.

Building these games is not without intense hours of planning, writing code, and trouble-shooting. As likely as not, students will be putting the finishing touches on the entries for GameFest 2012 right up until the day of expo on Saturday, April 28.

It’s down to the wire suspense. Which is great for cinema, but not necessarily for blogging.

The full list of entries and their descriptions is still forthcoming, as is a video of this year’s student-created games. (The above video is from the 2011 GameFest). But here’s what Rensselaer professors and GSAS co-directors Lee Sheldon and Ben Chang have to say about the event:

Here’s a brief list of things you can expect to see: educational Kinect games; new cutting-edge realtime rendering techniques that’ll knock your socks off; new takes on rhythm and music games; Greek mythology, Paul Revere’s Ride, mobile games about moustaches; brain-control interfaces (that’s right, there’ll be a game you play with the power of your mind); the moral choices of the afterlife; one naval strategy game with realistically modeled battleships and another with fantastical undersea creatures; multiplayer networked games; and a vibrantly colored mashup of rollerblading, 90’s ‘zine culture, and the dangers of mobile casual game addiction.

This year’s GameFest is bigger than ever, with both Champlain College and Rochester Institute of Technology submitting entries into the annual competition sponsored by Vicarious Visions, founded by Rensselaer alumni Karthik Bala, and his brother Guha Bala. Champlain will be showcasing nine games, RIT will be showcasing five, and Rensselaer will have a total of 27 games on the floor of the Armory, for a total of 41 games, 15 of which will be entered into a juried competition.

Here also is a schedule of the day’s events:

  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m., The Armory – Judging and open viewing
  • 2:30-3:30 p.m., The Biotech Auditorium – Keynote speaker, Richard Vogel
  • 3:30-4:30 p.m., The Biotech Auditorium – Game Industry Panel discussion
  • 4:30-5:30 p.m., The Biotech Auditorium – Student Award Presentation

Keynote speaker Richard Vogel is the executive producer of Star Wars: The Old Republic, a production of LucasArts and BioWare/Electronic Arts. He will be joined for the panel discussion, following his keynote address, by Frank Lantz of Zynga New York, Jennifer O’Neal of Vicarious Visions/Activision, Richard Rouse of Paranoid Productions/UbiSoft, and Rensselaer graduate Tobi Saulnier, founder of 1st Playable Productions.