Gaming and Celebrities

Photo by Duane Zehr

Matt Hawkins
January 14, 2019

Luke Piazza couldn’t believe his fortune. The sophomore game design major from Wall Township, N.J., had wandered across the Atlanta convention hall to watch professionals battle on “Super Smash Bros.,” and one of the players sat beside him. He did a double-take as he recognized it was “Salem,” an internationally recognized gamer.

Never did Piazza think he’d be at an international convention like DreamHack, much less casually chat with an industry celebrity as a college student.

“It’s like sitting at a basketball game and LeBron (James) sat next to me,” Piazza said. “I freaked out a bit, but it was cool being around someone I’d seen on TV.”

Celebrity sightings aside, the international gaming and esports convention gave Piazza and his teammates a platform to show off “Match-Ride Rescue,” an arcade game they designed over the summer. Surrounded by thousands of competitors, fans and professionals, the mid-November convention highlighted a dozen American and Canadian college groups chosen for a student showcase. Bradley’s team, the youngest there, displayed their work beside schools like top-ranked University of Southern California and Georgia Tech.

“It was a big deal they acknowledged we did something good and deserved to be on the global stage,” said Keziah Yarnoff. “We were overwhelmed to be around so many people who love video games.”

The team also included Paris Geis, of Louisville, Ky., and Jake Hyland, of Blooming Prairie, Minn.

Conversations with players, designers and fellow college students sparked team members’ imaginations as they returned to campus. Though they still have two-plus years of college left, their careers appeared closer than they realized.

“We’ve all seen big games and thought we never could design those, but now we know what it takes to get there,” Piazza said. “When I got back to Bradley, I wanted to keep working on games so I could see the people we met again, as a professional.” 

“Match-Ride Rescue” will go through improvements and become part of the interactive media department’s spring show, Fuse, at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.



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