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Vote for best game design by newly launched MonRiverGames

Written by Joseph Rather, a senior in WVU's Interactive Design for Media program

MonRiverGames students work on project
Students in the Interactive Design for Media capstone work on game design. Vote for the best game by visiting www.monrivergames.com.

In lieu of cramming for final exams, a group of capstone students put their energy elsewhere. Instead of writing lab reports, they write code and script. Instead of drawing up graphs, they draw concept art. Students in the Interactive Design for Media capstone course had a unique challenge this semester: create a video game from the ground up.

The course, which is part of a cross-disciplinary major between the West Virginia University Reed College of Media and College of Creative Arts, operates similarly to an actual video game studio, working quarter to quarter, which in the students’ case, are four-week periods. In the first three quarters, teams of students worked through the creative process and programmed demos of game ideas. The fourth quarter is reserved for polish and final adjustments.

“The course is designed to take each student’s expertise and passion, and apply it in a group setting,” said Heather Cole, teaching assistant professor and primary manager 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-rounded in the discipline. But in the end, they have an opportunity to focus in a niche area.”

During two separate “pitch days” early in the semester, the general public was invited to share game ideas for production and each capstone student was required to give a game pitch. Games were chosen for development by class vote, and then 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 on each team also acted as a project lead to ensure coordination.

Teams had one week to create a rough prototype, which included concept art, a completed storyboard, a basic website, a rough script, and the framework of a first level. The students then built upon these concepts, creating original artwork and giving weekly progress updates.

“Being able to learn how to construct and code and build all those fun games – I feel like I got a lot out of learning all of that stuff,” said capstone student Sean Neaville. “I came into college not knowing how to do digital work, and now I’m building games on tablets and laptops and other tech. It’s very rewarding.”

The course culminates with a public vote on the best game design. Visit https://www.monrivergames.com/ to view and play game prototypes and cast your vote for best design, sound, writing and play. Winners will be announced during an event on December 7 at the Media Innovation Center at Evansdale Crossing.

Public “pitch days” will occur again during the spring 2022 semester on Tuesday, February 15, and Tuesday, March 8. Both sessions are at 11 a.m. in the Media Innovation Center. Membership in the Mon River Games studio is open to any WVU student, faculty or staff member passionate about game development. Email info@monrivergames.com or explore the studio’s website www.monrivergames.com for more information.