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Stout Game Expo premieres online with several dozen new video games, other games

Game design, computer science majors to unveil interactive projects to the public

MENOMONIE, Wis. (December 21, 2020) – University of Wisconsin-Stout first-year student Tanner Tilkens is excited that a card game he has worked on this semester will be available for anyone to download, print and play.

HeroFall, a two- to four-person game where players are zealots whose goal is to take down the Greek gods, is one of several dozen games and concepts that will be part of the Stout Game Expo 2020 that premieres virtually at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9. This is the second time the biannual expo is virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s always exciting to know someone is enjoying the work you made,” said Tilkens, of Green Bay, who is majoring in computer science with an emphasis in game design and development.

Tilkens, with team members Brock Blanck, a computer science major from Wanamingo, Minn.; and Alexander Ewell, of Oak Lawn, Ill., and Elaine Kelling, both pre-BFA game design and development-art majors, said HeroFall allows players to battle gods such as Hercules and Zeus.

“You are playing the villain in the game to defeat the heroes,” Tilkens said. “We thought it would be interesting to flip the game. In most games, the players are the heroes. We thought it would make the game stand out.”

Tilkens has created video games for several years. Last February he attended the M+DEV game design conference in Madison and saw games created by then juniors and seniors from UW-Stout.

He chose UW-Stout because it was a highly rated university in game design and was close to his home.

Andrew Williams, associate professor and program director for the Bachelor of Fine Arts in game design and development-art major and program director for the BFA in entertainment design, said the game pages will stay up for several months to allow people to return or try different games. Some of the games are still in the concept stage. but trailers will help visitors learn more about them.

A virtual expo allows people to play at their leisure. In the past, the expo was one night. With several dozen games on display, visitors would not always have an opportunity to play all of them.

“We do have an archive of games from the past too,” Williams said.

Awards given Dec. 16
On Wednesday, Dec. 16, the live SGX Awards Show will be held from 6:30 to 7 p.m. on the SGX Facebook page. Awards will be given for best visuals and best game play for first-year, sophomore and junior games. There is also a category for best teaser trailer for the senior games. Faculty in the program served as the jurors.

Williams said having students create games helps them experience the real world of development. “It’s really a big advantage to them,” he said. “Students have to plan, show their progress and are expected to meet deadlines and will have people playing their games.”

In addition to about 40 print-and-play board games, there also will be games designed for mobile devices and other two-dimensional video games.

Ema Malm, a first-year student majoring in game design and development-art, worked with a team on a board game entitled the Case of the Myst City Conservancy. Players collect evidence to win the game.

Team members include Kyle Solverson, a game design and development-art major from Norwood Young America, Minn.; Mason Barziza, computer science from Elk River, Minn.; and Bryant Borland, computer science of Rochester, Minn. The team met six days a week. It was more difficult because of COVID-19 members could not meet in-person, but Malm said it also helped teach them about project management.

Malm said it was exciting to create and complete a game. But like many with a project, she wishes there would have been more time to finish and perfect the game.

Malm, of Stilllwater, Minn., first became interested in designing and developing games at age 10. “I got curious how games were made and looked into it,” Malm said. “I decided that is what I wanted to do. I’ve been pursuing it ever since.”

‘Universe of possibilities’
Malm enjoys game design because there is a “whole universe of possibilities.” “You can do things artistically that you would never be able to do with anything else,” Malm said. “You are able to reach people emotionally. It gets a much deeper connection than making a painting or reading a book. People actually have to connect and make a physical effort into making the story progress.”

Malm chose to attend UW-Stout because it was close to home and offered a more affordable option for college.

Tilkens said one of the challenges of the project was coming up with an idea for a game. Then team members split up the tasks and would meet virtually to complete the game. One of his main tasks was developing the rules for HeroFall.

Tilkens is working on a video game he calls Tavern Brawl. It is part restaurant simulator where a player must serve customers in a medieval tavern. However, if customers are unhappy with their order a brawl ensues and the customer must be fought and ejected from the tavern.

UW-Stout offers two undergraduate game design programs, a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science, the latter in computer science with a concentration in game design. Students learn how to create video, mobile, board and other types of games.

Highly ranked programs
In game design, Princeton Review this year ranked UW-Stout No. 24 in the nation for its undergraduate program and No. 22 in the nation for the Master of Fine Arts in design program.

For both programs, UW-Stout was No. 1 in Wisconsin. Princeton Review, an educational services company, surveyed 150 schools that offer game design.

It’s the eighth straight year UW-Stout has been in the top 25 in the nation.

The industry organization Animation Career Review, from San Francisco, ranked UW-Stout No. 1 in Wisconsin, No. 9 in the Midwest, No. 20 in the nation among public schools and No. 49 in the nation overall.

The MFA in design program also offers a game design concentration.

UW-Stout’s animation concentration is part of the Bachelor of Fine Arts in entertainment design program. Students learn two-dimensional, three-dimensional, character and motion-capture techniques.

UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.


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Stout Game Expo logo

UW-Stout student Tanner Tilkens works on a game for the Stout Game Expo that premieres online Wednesday, Dec. 9.

One of the games available to print and play is called HeroFall.