Becker College has successful PAX East weekend
Becker College “PAXed” a punch with its booth at PAX East the weekend of April 11-13 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Becker showcased the talented young entrepreneurs enrolled in the college’s five-time nationally ranked game design program by allowing visitors to experience and interact with the students’ work.
At the booth, visitors were able to play Bümbardia, a mobile infinity run, reverse tower defense game developed by brothers Jonathan and Andrew Niemi and Ali Swei (’14) as their second title from their company 80HD; play A.E.G.I.S., a tabletop game developed by Becker alum Breeze Grigas (’13), in which players build teams of powerful and combinable robots; play El Chicle, an iOS title focusing on a challenging mechanic balance of speed puzzle solving developed by Cotey Cerasale, John Lebron, and Bradley Reinstra (’14); watch Becker student Will Parker (’14) design characters live in ZBrush on a Cintiq, a graphic monitor; and try the Oculus Rift—the main attraction—with Becker student Scott Tongue (’14) who demonstrated Becker Professor of Game Design Terrasa Ulm’s virtual museum space project for which he was the lead engineer and Unreal 4 developer.
“While I knew the appeal of the Oculus Rift would be a draw, even I was impressed by the sheer numbers as well as the excellent feedback we received on the project,” said Professor Ulm. “While every user had a positive response, there were certain participants who offered a whole new perspective for my future research into VR. One of the most interesting user experiences was that of a legally blind, near-sighted individual who was able to see depth and distance in the virtual space.”
“The PAX East 2014 experience was undeniably an unqualified success for Becker College and its game design students,” said Dr. Paul Cotnoir, department chair of Becker’s game design program. “It provided an unmatched venue for exposing students to the development and marketing of consumer digital and table-top games, as well as giving both the students and the college an incredibly wide exposure for their programs and game properties. This exposure will surely lead to job opportunities for students and wider awareness for Becker. As the only college at the event with a full-featured booth, comparable in many ways to the majority of the commercial studios present, Becker College proved that it was out to beat average.”
Also at Becker’s booth, PAX East participants printed out photos they had posted on social media using #bcpax2014 on Twitter and Instagram.
Throughout the weekend, faculty and students from Becker’s game design program participated in panel discussions. Tim Loew, executive director, and Monty Sharma, managing director, of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI), and Dr. Cotnoir were invited to sit on panels at PAX East 2014.
Loew’s panel, “Game Devs: The Next Generation,” took place on Friday morning. Five college students (including Becker’s Mike Flood ’14), all of whom were challenged to learn the art of making a game in eleven weeks at MassDiGI’s Summer Innovation Program, were on hand to discuss the process. The panelists described how they met their goals, overcame challenges and technical bugs, as well as how they worked as a team during the process. Sharma moderated the panel presentation.
Dr. Cotnoir participated in a panel discussion focused on employment in the game design field on Saturday afternoon. The session, titled “What to do with Your Game Design Degree: Employment at Social/Mobile/Indie studios,” featured top academics and social/mobile/indie developers who reflected on the virtues and difficulties of preparing students for a career in game design. In a market flooded with graduates holding game design degrees, these professors advised the audience on how to stand out in the crowd and portfolio tips that go beyond the basic resume.
Becker’s undergraduate video game design program has been top-ranked by The Princeton Review for five consecutive years, and is one of only two institutions in New England, and one of five nationally, to maintain this longstanding distinction. In 2011, Becker was designated by state officials as host of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI), a statewide center for academic cooperation, economic development, and job creation in the Massachusetts digital games cluster.