GameFest—an annual tradition at Rensselaer that showcases student-designed games and celebrates the power of video games—will be held Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26, at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC).
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the event, which will be bigger than ever before with more students from more regional universities bringing more games for exhibition and competition. The theme for this year’s GameFest is “Next 10.”
Video game design students from universities across the region including Rochester Institute of Technology, New York University, and Champlain College will head to GameFest to showcase dozens of video games. On Saturday afternoon, expert judges from local video game development firm Vicarious Visions, co-founded by Karthik Bala ’97, will consider about 30 student games in the official competition. They’ll award first‑, second‑, and third-place prizes as well as a number of other honors.
Later, journalist and video game critic Leigh Alexander will deliver the keynote speech in the concert hall at EMPAC. Her keynote will be followed by a panel discussion featuring experts from the field who will discuss what the next decade will bring to the gaming industry.
Among the games designed by Rensselaer students that will be showcased are Kajo, a game in which players run and jump their way through a mystical, floating city and use concepts of physics to improve their parkour-style moves. Another game, Space Luddites, features a group of characters fighting back against an oppressive, dystopian future and a powerful company that controls all technology. In another game, players assume the role of an artificially intelligent therapist whose memory is supposed to be wiped every day, deleting all record of the confessions heard. When something goes wrong and the memories are saved, the player must make ethical decisions about how to handle the information.
GameFest is free and open to the public. The events kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, April 25, with live electronic music and video and a mini-panel discussion featuring Rensselaer graduate students in Studio 1 at EMPAC. The student-designed video game exhibition will begin at noon Saturday, April 26, in EMPAC. Leigh Alexander will deliver her keynote speech at 4 p.m. in the Concert Hall and a panel discussion will follow at 5 p.m. Awards for the student-designed games, sponsored by Vicarious Visions, will be announced at 6 p.m.
The event is sponsored by several video game design firms, including two founded by Rensselaer alumni and located in the Capital Region, Vicarious Visions and 1st Playable. Sponsors will be on hand throughout the event to meet students pursuing careers in the field.