Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Playing around at MIT

by Marlene Genovese

I enjoy a few video games, including popular titles like Halo and Portal. Games are everywhere; in the box, in the newspaper, on my mobile phone, on the social networking site and in advertisements. I’ve been enjoying gaming for many years, and for me classic titles from childhood include Pong, Ms. Pac Man, Castlevania and how many times have we all dreamt Tetris?

My husband works in the video game industry and I’ve learned that all things involved in commercial gaming are TOP SECRET until the marketing machine decides its time to promote. If you are curious about how video games are made you will want to add the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab to your list of events to see. This isn’t a commercial lab so they are inviting you right in to show you how it’s done.

In the development phase, video games are a nascent combination of graphics and programming, all which will run on an engine platform (video and engine processors) which originate the interaction between the programmed content and the player(s). Game theorists, artists and programmers collaborate on a medium that is interactive, fun, visually pleasing while trying to achieve a technically smooth experience. The grad students at the lab are doubly busy this spring as they each have a thesis to complete and part of the exhibit to design for the opening day on May 1.

At the exhibit you will be able to view a plotted history of video game craft in the Boston/Cambridge area. There will also be plenty of opportunities to sit down and enjoy some of the local games that have a place in this history.

Creating a game is quite a process. It’s amazing really that you can go from storyboarding and idea to completing a final experience that is ready for anyone to play. The artists have a vision of how it will look. The game designers want to invent fresh fun that has a strong element of challenge and the programmers figure out what engine platform it will run on. Sprinkled in are technical artists, process leads, special effects and audio teams.

It’s a big endeavor but Philip Tan, the executive director is enthusiastic to share it. “We want to demystify the process of making games.” The exhibit will be set-up during April. In addition to the timeline, grad students will be on hand to demonstrate a little audio integration, special effects, graphics creation and animation exercises. You can demo a mobile game (for Nokia or Ericsson cell phones) online or download a XBOX game at http://gambit.mit.edu/loadgame if you can’t wait! I know I couldn’t.

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