Viz students hit the road, win top honors in Feb. 5-7 KSU game jam

Andre Thomas

Andre Thomas

With fun-filled video games based on healthy eating, three Texas A&M student teams swept a Kansas State University game design competition, or game jam, held Feb. 5–7 in Manhattan, Kan.

Based on the competition theme, “diabetes management,” the three participating Texas A&M student teams composed of seven visualization majors, two computer science majors and one business major, had 45 hours to create games that challenged players to make healthy eating choices and stave off diabetes.

In one of the games, “Too Close, Glucose,” two players compete to gather food while trying to maintain their virtual blood sugar levels.

“Players must be careful with what they pick up, because if you eat something high in carbs, it might push you out of a healthy eating limit,” said Anne Lynch, a graduate visualization student who was on the game’s design team. “We also included exercise and insulin boosts in the game to help players stay healthy.”

The Texas A&M graduate and undergraduate students, who made the 11-hour trip to Kansas in a bus provided by the Department of Visualization, won four of the contest’s six award categories: artwork, audio, narrative and use of theme.

“Coming home with 4 trophies after a long bus ride is a testament to the quality of our students and I couldn’t be more proud,” said André Thomas, founding head of the Department of Visualization’s Learning Interactive Visualization Experience Lab, where students create game prototypes, learn game theory, the art and science of the visual image and game history. All of the Texas A&M competitors are current or former LIVE Lab students.

Students enjoyed the trek and the game-creating experience.

“Everyone was impressed with the work we produced and it was fun to interact with other game developers,” said Lynch. “Spending the weekend road-tripping and creating awesome things with my best friends was an added bonus."

It was the first game jam for another visualization student, Chelsey Gobeli.

“I learned more than I expected to in such a short amount of time, not just in game design but by collaborating with others in the development process,” she said.

Another student, Kyle Purser, a computer science major, was proud of the Texas A&M students’ showing.

“Having every Texas A&M team win at least one award, and combining to win four of the six possible awards, reinforced in all of us that we are good at making games and constantly getting better at it,” he said.

The four categories that Texas A&M students captured first-place finishes were:

  • Best Art - Justin Bloomer, Daniel House, Ben House and Anne Lynch, for “Too Close, Glucose!”;
  • Best Sound - Emma Mercado, Kyle Purser and Justin Steptoe, for “Burger Blaster”, and
  • Best Narrative and Best Use of Theme - Joshua Aoki, Chelsey Gobeli and Spencer Rawls for “Crunch Crunch, the Game.”

Texas A&M’s LIVE Lab hosted successful game jams in October 2015 and November 2014.

posted March 2, 2016