Written by Joseph Rather, a senior in the Interactive Design for Media program at WVU
Instead of cramming for final exams, a group of capstone students put their energy elsewhere. Instead of writing lab reports, they write code and scripts. Instead of drawing graphics, they draw concept art. Students in the Interactive Design for Media synthesis course took on a unique challenge this semester: to create a video game from scratch.
The course, which is part of an interdisciplinary major between Reed College of Media and the College of Creative Arts at the University of West Virginia, works much like a real video game studio, working from a quarter to quarter, which in the case of students is four-week periods. During the first three terms, teams of students worked on the creative process and scheduled demonstrations of game ideas. The fourth quarter is reserved for polishing and final adjustments.
“The course is designed to harness the expertise and passion of each student and apply them in a group setting,” said Heather Cole, assistant professor and senior director of MonRiverGames, WVU’s game production studio. . “In the beginning, students are trained to communicate in each area of game design to help them be well balanced in the discipline. But at the end of the day, they have the option of focusing on a niche. “
On two separate ‘showcase days’ at the start of the semester, the general public was invited to share game ideas for the production, and each synthesis student was invited to give a game show. The games were chosen. for development by class voting, then the students chose teams and roles. Each team worked on one of the game ideas, and roles included artist, writer, programmer, level designer, sound designer, and marketer. One of the students from each team also acted as project manager to ensure coordination.
The teams had a week to create a rough prototype, which included concept art, a completed storyboard, a basic website, a rough script, and a first level framework. The students then built on these concepts, creating original illustrations and giving weekly progress updates.
“Being able to learn to build and code and build all of these fun games – I feel like I learned a lot by learning all of this,” said Synthesis student Sean Neaville. “I came to college not knowing how to do digital work, and now I’m making games on tablets, laptops and other technology. It is very rewarding.
The course ends with a public vote on the best game design. Visit https://www.monrivergames.com/ to view and play the game prototypes and vote for the best design, sound, writing and game. The winners will be announced at an event on December 7 at the Media Innovation Center in Evansdale Crossing.
The public “showcase days” will take place again during the spring semester 2022 on Tuesday February 15 and Tuesday March 8. Both sessions take place at 11 a.m. at the Media Innovation Center. Membership in the My River Games studio is open to any student, teacher, or WVU staff member who is passionate about game development. Email [email protected] or explore the studio’s website www.monrivergames.com for more information.