Largest ever GameFest 2011 kicks off

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 Science (GSAS) program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “it features games of all kinds including ones that stretch the boundaries of what we think games are.”

The annual GameFest event, now in its seventh year, brings together 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, FrontierVille and Vampire Wars.

GameFest 2011, sponsored by Vicarious Visions, Zynga, Champlain College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as well as 1st Playable Productions and Agora Games, takes place over two days. The expo of student-designed games on today, 6 May and a symposium with industry speakers and panels on Saturday, 7 May.

“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,” explains Lee Sheldon, associate professor of Language, literature and communications and co-director of GSAS. “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.”

Student Game Demonstration and Competition

The games expo is being held today from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Alumni Sports and Recreations center on the Rensselaer campus. Among the more than 30 games being showcased are 20 student-designed games competing for cash prizes in an exhibition juried by Vicarious Visions.

The competitors include:

  • Feast, a mobile-phone based augmented reality game for the Android OS
  • Dream Catcher and Rail Brawler – 2 games for the Microsoft Kinect system
  • A Night in Twistwyck Manor, already available through UnPossible Games (We’ve played this one and it’s a bit choppy with blocky graphics but still entertaining)
  • Yamada Box Legend, which explores a universe on the nano scale
  • Tic, a game poised for release on the XBox Live Indie Marketplace

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

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

In Tic, the game designed by Rensselaer student Julian Volyn, gamers take the role of an industrial robot on a valiant quest to save robot-kind from EvilCorp. The game’s intricate graphics, including the unicycling, wall-drilling and helicoptering main character, draw users  through a fantasy landscape of swirling shapes and marvelous creatures.

Both today’s games expo and tomorrow’s symposium go beyond conventional video games to include the technology and uses that are broadening the field of games and simulations. Augmented Reality, Microsoft Kinect, mobile apps and so-called “serious games” are all part of GameFest 2011.