Shane Yach expressed delight when visitors deemed his virtual reality game “weird.”

Donning virtual reality googles, a headset and taking two handgrip controllers in their hands, game players at the University of Wisconsin-Stout Game Expo, or SGX-17, experienced talking at aliens in the senior’s game called Scapegr.

“You use the controllers to yell at things,” said Yach, of Wisconsin Rapids, a senior majoring in game design and development. “It sounds like a squawk. I used my own voice and messed with it. People think it’s weird, and that’s what I was going for.”

About 30 games created by UW-Stout students were highlighted at the expo on Dec. 13, drawing nearly 500 people from the university and community for free in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.

Adam Cross, of Ham Lake, Minn., traveled to the expo to see the campus and experience the games. The junior at Centennial High School plans to attend UW-Stout and major in game design. “It’s interesting to see what people came up with,” Cross said. “It would be great to design my own computer games.”

The Great Hall turned into a bustling arcade with people playing an escape-from-the-room game, video games, board and card games, as well as putting on stereoscopic headsets and immersing themselves in re-created movie settings from Pixar’s “Wall-E,” “The Matrix,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Interstellar.”

Alex Fortino, of Bartlett, Ill., a junior majoring in computer science with a concentration in game design, helped develop the game Bygone Brawlers, based on a trio of senior citizens who argue over a cookie and proceed to fight. The game allowed for two players, creating a competitive challenge, and the creators even ran the game in an old-school arcade console for a different experience.

“Our game definitely has an arcade vibe,” Fortino said.

Having the opportunity to share their game designs with the campus and community is fantastic, Fortino said. “I just like seeing people have fun,” he said. “It’s just a good feeling.”

Student designers explained their games and how to play them.

The game expos started in 2010 and have steadily grown, said Diane Christie, game design computer science program director.

“The quality continues to get better,” Christie said. “This expo is so students can show off what they have worked so hard on. These are family-friendly games. They are interactive and not focused on violence.

“The word is getting out Stout is becoming known for games,” Christie added. “But what the students learn is not just used in games. It’s used to create interactive experiences in many industries.”

Architectural firms can create virtual buildings, which can be walked through to determine flow problems before any brick is laid or mortar poured. Virtual cars can be created allowing customers to pick their options and experience them before purchasing, Christie said.

“That is where the future is going with a lot of this,” Christie said.

UW-Stout’s two game design programs, www.uwstout.edu/programs/game_design_development/index.cfm, in computer science and art were ranked 15th in the nation in March by Princeton Review. Two games created by students in recent years have won national awards.

The spring semester game expo is April 30.

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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