Video Games of the Umich/EMU Game Expo 2019
By Laura Cowan
Laura K. Cowan is a tech editor and journalist whose work has focused on promoting sustainability initiatives for automotive, green tech, and conscious living media outlets.
Professor Austin Yarger, left, poses with friends at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan student video game expo at the Betty Beyster Building on U-M's North Campus.
UMich + EMU Student Games Expo F19 : Game Trailers
This last week, we took the family out to Professor Yarger's student video game showcase in Ann Arbor, which highlights games from University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan students. Games ranged from multi-player space pirates Space Subterfuge to a game call I'm a Chopstick, where two chopsticks attempt to get dinner to the table. ("We are not responsible for any relationship troubles that arise due to gameplay!" the creators warn in their trailer.)
There were well over a dozen games on hand, many of them extremely cute or fun to play.
Gameplay from The Magic Hat, wherein a squirrel and hedgehog team up to return a magic hat to its rightful owner, a wizard, despite many obstacles.
"It's fun and it's difficult," the Cronicle kid says of the Chopstick game. "It was my favorite." Her ultimate token vote, however, went to The Magic Hat, a collab game where a squirrel and hedgehog team up to return a magic hat to a wizard.
"I heard people screaming when they played Dance of the Damned," Cronicle kid said. "I think when they missed the rhythm they got jump scared. I can't handle creepy stuff like that." It's true that this was one well-timed trailer and game. You can see the trailer below.
"No no, you can't leave," the girl says of her maze in which you're going to play a game with her friends. "Who is she friends with?" Cronicle kid asks. Eek!
Professor Yarger says the student game development program has been prepping students for internships at either game dev studios or in AR/VR companies locally and on the coasts, and has been successful in landing several students per year new internships.
We met one game developer from apocalyptic boss-fighting game Apotheosis who was already planning to apply to Spellbound AR locally, a company which creates augmented reality programs to distract children during hospital medical procedures.
Also present, one of the heads of the Michigan State game development program, now rated as #7 in the nation and working with industry to launch student games in places like SXSW.
The creators of Apotheosis met partly in the University of Michigan marching band. At least one plans to pursue a career in gaming dev or AR/VR.
"He has a real passion for what he does, you can see his eyes light up," said the creators of game Apotheosis of Professor Yarger. The enthusiasm is catching. There isn't much pretense around the event, which consists of several rows of gaming stations set up for people to wait in line to play and rank the games. It's super fun and everyone seemed to be enjoying the game dev process from beginning to end.
Co-creator of Space Subterfuge Michael told us he loved how creating the game, which was played on two separate screens in two teams, required a lot of communication. We asked him how they tested it.
Space Subterfuge co-creator Michael, pictured right, watches as teams test the game on one of two teams that play opposite each other on separate screens Battleship-style.
"It takes some getting up to speed on game dev," he told us, "so there is maybe 4-5 weeks of course content first, then a 7-week project to develop these games."
Creators got together and tested each other's games weekly every Monday, for a quick feedback process during development. Michael told us he isn't planning on going into gaming, but he does have a development job lined up at TD Ameritrade in town that he's looking forward to.
Some games were silly, some serious, but it was a great night, and we wish we could have stayed longer. There is a bigger expo in the spring, which you can keep an eye out for on Cronicle. We also will be interviewing the MSU program to hear about how they bring together engineering and art students for game development and launch games on major platforms.
For now, enjoy the scuffle kerfuffle below and download a new game on a Monday before Christmas. You know you want to.