Game Space: What It’s Like to Create Games at UTD

Students at ATEC's Game Lab playtest early versions of their video game projects. Photo by Ryan Magee | Video Editor

If you’ve ever seen a cool game come out of ATEC, chances are it was made in Game Lab.

Game Lab brings enthusiastic students from different disciplines together into a bustling classroom where multiple teams collaborate to solve problems and make award-winning games.

Aspiring game developers at UTD have a number of resources, tools and spaces available to them. Two such resources offered to students are Game Lab and the Student Game Developer Association.

Game Lab was started by ATEC’s first Ph.D. graduate, Monica Evans. Previous titles developed from Game Lab include the game “Soul Horizons,” which was showcased at DreamHack in 2019.

Game Lab is a class only offered to ATEC students, while SGDA is open to all UTD students. Game Lab allows students to go through a game development cycle over the course of a semester. Students can work in animation, production and programming among other jobs.

Having a dedicated space for Game Lab helps students create a sense of accountability, ATEC senior and Game Lab producer for “123 Date with Me” Jakky Nguyen said.

“I know working remotely is on the rise right now, but I think that that interaction (in the lab) is something that we need,” Nguyen said. “It also helps with accountability and responsibility if that ever should arise. But it also creates a connection.”

One way, Nguyen said, that students use the space is for their daily standups: a 15-minute, standing meeting with the entire team. Connor Kirkpatrick, an ATEC junior, said she likes the way the room is set up.

“We’re able to move around easily. So if I have a question and nobody on my team understands, I can go to another team because our game lab room is kind of split so we can go to another team,” Kirkpatrick said. “That’s anybody that’s not on a project and I can ask questions and that helps just moving the project along. If nobody knows what’s wrong, it causes a delay.”

SGDA president and ATEC senior Hope Nasr said the ATEC major tends to need external resources and projects to help students succeed in industry. SGDA, she said, plays multiple roles in helping student game developers.

 “There’s the networking role where it’s like people will meet professionals and network. There’s the social role where people will meet, make friends, probably form groups, and then learn to work on projects,” Nasr said. “And then there’s just a general information sense that like SGDA tends to fit into where it’s like, we’ll have events posted for local events with game developers, we’ll have game lab postings, we’ll have information and resources on what SGDA is either working on or what people in SGDA are working on.”

Nasr said that SGDA has gained recognition in the North Texas area with one professor from Richland College asking to join their Discord chat.

“Surprisingly, I feel all right — this is not a narcissistic moment at all, but SGDA has a decent role to play in ATEC and ATEC itself has a decent role to play in UTD,” Nasr said.

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