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(Top) “Kelekona,” created by Andrew Bradley, Arthur Chen, Diane Perdomo, Nick Steel, and James Zhao. (Bottom) “Virus Slayer Nitros,” created by Mary DeVarney, Jim Dux, Nick Korn, Will Lassen, and Matt Nebel.

GameFest 2011 Celebrates Games and Simulation

Augmented reality, Microsoft Kinect, mobile apps, and so-called “serious games” were all part of GameFest “Transitions,” held May 6-7. The annual festival, now in its eighth year, was larger than ever, drawing on three collegiate game design programs, an exhibition of more than 30 student games, and appearances by industry leaders including Brian Reynolds, chief game designer at Zynga, developer of FarmVille and FrontierVille.

“GameFest is a showcase of creativity in games and electronic media — a public event to talk about how games and simulation are evolving,” said Ben Chang, associate professor of arts and co-director of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) program. “It features games of all kinds including ones that stretch the boundaries of what we think games are.”

The expo and symposium go beyond conventional video games to include the technology and uses that are broadening the field of games and simulation, and opening opportunities for students, said Lee Sheldon, associate professor of language, literature, and communication and co-director of GSAS.

“One of the things that we like to do with GameFest is show that all games don’t have to be guys in metal suits with big guns,” Sheldon said. “In fact, thanks to the iPhone and Facebook, the days of expensive AAA titles are pretty much over as the dominant form of game. Our students are making games that can reach an audience and make money outside that narrow form.”

GameFest was hosted by the GSAS program, named this year among the top 15 out of 150 undergraduate game design programs in the United States and Canada, according to the Princeton Review. This year, the expo also included entries from the game design program at Champlain College, and representatives of the graduate game design program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The games expo was held on Friday, May 6, in the Alumni Sports and Recreation Center. As part of the expo, 20 games competed for cash prizes in an exhibition juried by Vicarious Visions, an Albany, N.Y., company founded by brothers Karthik Bala, ’97, and Guha Bala.

The competitors included:

Tic, designed by Rensselaer student Julian Volyn. Gamers take the role of an industrial robot (a “unicycling, wall-drilling, helicoptering” robot at that, according to Chang) on a valiant quest to save its kind from the plans of Evilcorp. The game’s intricate graphics draw users through a fantasy landscape of swirling shapes and marvelous creatures.

Feast, designed by Rensselaer students Yuting Lian, Nick Coppola, Chris DiPastina, and Paul DiPastina, is a mobile phone-based game for the Android Operating System that employs augmented reality, a new horizon in gaming that combines the physical world with the virtual world. The game is layered onto video captured through the phone’s onboard camera.

Marc deStefano, a clinical assistant professor of cognitive science, said he was pleased to see Dream Catcher and Rail Brawler, two student-designed games building on the Microsoft Kinect platform.

“It’s a new and exciting computer interface, and it could change the way we interact with machines in general,” said deStefano. “It’s only been out for a few months, so I considered it notable that we have two entries this year that use it.”

A Night in Twistwyck Manor, designed by Rensselaer students Sheila Porter, Josh Elliot, Jesse Natalie, Kevin Todisco, and Erin McQuade, revolves around a boy who is dared to spend the night in a haunted house.

Yamada Box Legend, designed by Rensselaer students Thomas Astle, Justin Burdick, Ben Esposito, Yuliy Vigdorchik, Russell Honor, and Allie Johnston, takes users through the concentric worlds inside a nesting series of magical cardboard boxes.

The second day of the event featured a series of speakers and panel discussions in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

GameFest 2011 was sponsored by Vicarious Visions, Zynga, Champlain College, and Rensselaer, as well as 1st Playable Productions and Agora Games.

To learn more about the teams and the winning entries, visit

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 9, May 13, 2011
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