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Student team wins two awards for designing educational video game on Edgar Allan Poe

Brad Allen, Biz & Tech Editor

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Students who are interested in creating video games as a career should make them as often and as best as they can.
This is the advice from senior Katherine Stull, whose team won two awards for their video game, “A Dream Within A Dream,” has for students majoring in Media Arts and Game Design (MAGD).
“A Dream Within A Dream” won the Science and Technology Symposium Award and also the MAGD Expo award. The ninth annual Wisconsin Science and Technology Symposium was held on Aug. 2 and Aug. 3 at UW-Oshkosh.
Stull said that she and her team members, Andrew Condon and Jeremy Behreandt, who both graduated in May, designed the game as part of their MAGD capstone class. A class requirement is to create some form of digital media, such as a video game.
Stull said her team chose to create a video game because it coincided with what they had done in the program so far.
“It’s important that students who are interested in game development not only love playing games, but also love creating games,” Stull said. “Those are two very different things, and it’s important to explore both of them extensively in the time that you’re in the program.”
“A Dream Within A Dream” is geared toward middle school students with low reading comprehension or those who don’t express interest in language arts. The game makes the text more accessible for students.
“The idea originally was to  make a game where you would explore a wide variety of authors and sort of play through their stories interactively,” Stull said. “This game is geared towards middle schoolers, who tend to love scary stories. We thought, ‘what better classic writing than Edgar Allan Poe?’ His stories are really awesome, but the language isn’t really accessible, so that’s what we were seeking to do.”
The game seeks to show rather than tell, Stull said.
“It lets you play through the experience in a digital media that kids in our generation or younger are familiar with,” Stull said.
The team worked on the game for 14 weeks.
“My teammates were phenomenal,” Stull said. “We met every single deadline we set for ourselves from start to finish. Dividing up the responsibilities between the three of us, we each knew exactly what our responsibilities were, so no one was confused.”
Behreandt said it was a pleasure working on the game.
“Katherine developed the main idea of the game, that Edgar Allan Poe would be trapped in a dream of one of his short stories,” Behreandt said. “She designed the look of the game, from Poe’s cravat to the chandeliers.”
Behreandt added that Condon kept their team on track as they designed the game.
“Andrew acted as project manager, making sure we knew what benchmarks we had to hit each week,” Behreandt said. “He also animated and lit many of Katherine’s still images. The raven’s flight at the beginning of the game is Andrew’s doing.”
Stull said she was introduced to the MAGD program through a student organization that served as a game journalism practicum.
“I’ve always had a love for video games, and I thought I could do something that encompassed all my interests,” Stull said. “When you’re creating a game, there’s aspects of art, music and story-telling. There’s a lot of logical thinking involved. MAGD provided me with an opportunity to put all these things together.”
Stull is working on another game that she will present at the MAGD showcase in May. Stull declined to comment on the details of the game.
Creating video games is a much different process than many would expect, Behreandt said.
“Contrary to pop culture images of a lone hacker, making a game is a very social process,” Behreandt said. “Written, spoken and gestural communication are key, especially when people with diverse skills are on the team.”

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Brad Allen, Assistant Copy Editor

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