Gaming Day

Children play an arcade game developed by Bradley interactive media students. (Photo by Matt Hawkins)

May 1, 2017

By Matt Hawkins

Digital entertainment’s past, present and future collided at the Peoria Riverfront Museum as Bradley interactive media students showed innovative games and projects.

The event introduced museum guests to virtual reality, video games, planetarium dome-formatted films, animation and even old-fashioned board games. Children of all ages joined parents, grandparents, prospective employers and museum patrons in the day of digital discovery.

“This is what it’s all about —the moment a kid picks up a controller and is smiling as he struggles with the level you spent late nights working on,” said Joseph Lax ’19, an animation and game design BFA major from Loretto, Minnesota. “It’s pure joy when they’re in awe as they play your project.”

A core team of 20 students produced the show, with work beginning in the fall. Students proposed projects to headline the event, then seniors and faculty picked which projects would be featured. Team leaders recruited classmates to assist the creative process. By the day of the show 135 IM students had played a role in the showcase.

Animation major Brianna Kastner ’19, of Hampton, Illinois, led the effort as showcase executive producer. As a sophomore, she appreciated how the show put freshmen in the spotlight beside juniors and seniors.

“I never thought I’d be so involved in something so important to the department so soon,” she said. “It’s fantastic that IM students can start working right away on portfolios or big projects to get exposure right away.”

The creative process mirrored what students will face in professional settings, in which teamwork and long development cycles will be expected. Experiences like virtual pinball, an app-based scavenger hunt and an arcade game required programmers, artists, music producers and storyline developers.

Students also learned the virtue of patience through game production, which could take two to five years in a professional setting. They worked through conceptual models and rough drafts — “alpha” and “beta” in game design verbiage. Children, college students ad adults tested these experiences through the process.

Samantha Concklin ’19, an animation major from Western Springs, Illinois, appreciated the challenge she faced as the virtual pinball team’s leader and music composer for several projects.

“There’s nothing like working together all year to make these things,” she said. “We grow so much through the process and see games differently because we know what happens behind the scenes.”

By bringing together students with diverse talents and interests, the fourth-year showcase has built a strong sense of family within the department. That bond made learning enjoyable and late-night work sessions worth the effort.

“We’ve built a community devoted to our passions,” Kastner said. “We encourage and learn from each other. I enjoy my responsibilities and work because I’m able to do it with like-minded people.”