Advancing the Game: School of Informatics and Computing gets its game on for Gen Con 2012
August 13, 2012
Every summer since 2003, thousands of gamers descend upon downtown Indianapolis for a four-day gaming marathon. Gen Con — one of the largest conventions held in Indianapolis, with more than 37,000 attendees in 2011 — is the largest gaming convention in North America. This year, Gen Con is August 16 to 19. And this year, Gen Con has an even closer tie to IUPUI than it did in 2009: an educational partnership with the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI, the first of its kind for either the school or the convention.
Mathew Powers, a lecturer in the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI, explains: “GenCon is committed to the advancement of play and gaming, and the Media Arts and Science program at Informatics takes the creation and production of gaming very seriously, with an entire program track devoted to game creation. So we felt it was a natural partnership. While the partnership is new and some of the finer points have yet to be worked out, we are proud to be the first university that Gen Con has partnered with.”
Both Gen Con and Informatics embrace all forms of gaming, from role-playing to board to collectible card to video games.
Over the years, the Media Arts and Science program in the School of Informatics and Computing has focused on website design, film/video, sound, animation 3D creation, stereoscopic creation, and, of course, gaming. This last category has grown rapidly over the past six years as gaming has become mainstream and accessible to more and more people. Educational and commercial enterprises have seen the potential and effectiveness that gaming has on its students and employees. Gaming has been shown to help retain knowledge and assist in critical thinking. All these aspects have drawn more and more students to this developing profession with solid results.
One such example is Justin DeCloedt, a graduate of the MAS program who studied sound creation and design. After graduation he was hired as a sound designer at the world-renowned game company Blizzard, which produces World of Warcraft. While gaming is fun, it is also a solid ticket to a real-world job, giving students the ability to take their own creations and affect millions of players worldwide.
The MARLA (Media Arts and Science Research Lab and Arcade) Lab
MAS’s new program director, Dr. Joseph Defazio, is committed to helping the gaming program and its gaming students with several new ideas and directions. One such direction is being pioneered by Powers and fellow Informatics faculty member Todd Shelton with the creation of MARLA-2. An addition to the original dedicated game lab, MARLA — the Media Arts and Science Research Lab and Arcade — MARLA-2 will explore the burgeoning world of mobile gaming. Students will be able to compete with their creations in the real-world market in a space dedicated to the creation of gamesexisting on all manners of mobile devices. New classes devoted to game programming and creation led by Travis Faas are currently being developed as well.
In future years, the partnership will include more events and activities at Gen Con itself, but this initial year is starting off relatively small. An event Friday afternoon will include a tour of the convention by Jake Theis, senior marketing director of Gen Con LLC. After the tour is a panel of gaming giants: Peter Adkison, former CEO and founder of Wizards of the Coast and current Gen Con LLC board member, and Larry Roznai, Mayfair Games CEO, will be presenting and answering questions for invited members of the Informatics and IUPUI community.
Gaming Groups at IUPUI
The School of Informatics and Computing sponsors several gaming clubs, focusing on a variety of the elements that make up the gaming world. These groups give students a chance to play to their strengths and produce works that could not be done in a classroom. All groups meet throughout the year on Fridays in the IT building. Those interested in joining any of the groups below should contact Mathew Powers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded more than eight years ago, the Gamers’ Guild is the longest-running student group in Informatics’ history. It draws 30-50 gamers every Friday during the school year when it meets in IT167 from noon until midnight. The group has well over 150 members and meets during summer as well. The guild’s motto — “If you bring it, we will play it!” — draws gamers who play everything from board to card to video games. The group has sponsored a tournament for the entire school almost every semester and even held a tournament to support Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. Additionally, they have absorbed the campus Magic the Gathering club as well as the LARPing society, which puts on annual workshops to help new students make their own weapons.
The Gamers’ Guild is run by President Jon Rick and Vice President Cassie Hopper. They have both strived to increase the reach of the guild while at the same time improving its internal workings for all members. Brendon Steele operates the Magic the Gathering group, while Will “Zigler” Robertson manages the LARPing sides of the group.
3DGDG: (3D Game Developers Group)
This student group was founded by Stacia Lowery to help gather all those students who wish to work on original projects outside class and to better their game-making and 3D skills. It is the school’s youngest group but has been meeting regularly on Friday nights in the IT computer lab from 6 to 9 p.m., even during the summer. The group has over 100 members and has put on workshops to help students in the realms of 3D modeling, game programming, texturing, creature creation, etc. The students are developing three original games and a bevy of assets for future students to use in their games. They have even had guest speakers share their ideas on gaming, like Zeb Wood from the Art Institutes and Jason Guy who worked on Sid Meier’s Civilization and the popular game Railroad Tycoon. They are all about helping fellow students reach their potential and are a shining example of where hard work can get you in the gaming field
Additionally, officers Kathryn Thacker, Dustin Ostrum, Kevin Trehan, Terry Gast and Cody Hansel strive to bring new content and challenges to their respective teams every week.
The Anime Club is a recent addition to the Informatics student group lineup. This group is all anime all the time and promotes all aspects of this artistic genre. The members regularly meet in the IT building from noon to midnight. Here they watch anime movies and TV shows, as well as discuss manga and various sub-categories of this genre. Their numbers have been steadily growing, and they are active at Anime Crossroads and GenCon. They are going to be holding many more events in 2012 and in partnership with the other student groups.
The Anime Club is guided by Courtney Pollard, Montez Harris and Ruendy Carrillo Gámez, all of whom regularly attend anime conventions to promote their group and their love of the art.
The Cosplay Club is a crazy hot-bed of creativity. This groups seeks to help fellow students craft and create costumes for fun and for conventions. It was started by Brat Conway, a serious Cosplay enthusiast and the winner of the Overall Cosplay Contest at GenCon in 2010. The club meets every Friday in the IT building; members bring all kinds of cloth, plastic, foam and other materials, along with their sewing machines, to help create original works. Everyone is welcome, and they are hard at work finishing their costumes for this year’s GenCon.
The Cosplay Club core council of Meredith Caudle, Stephanie Hii and Sam Hii meet every week with Conway to construct costumes with their own supplies. All are willing to tutor and train walk-ins on the finer parts of Cosplay.