Game on for Redmond's DigiPen at EMP Museum

If anyone was in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle last Friday evening, they would have seen hundreds of people lined up along 5th Avenue North, just outside the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum.

From the elementary school-aged kids eager to have some fun (possibly) past their bedtimes, to the middle-aged men and women feeling nostalgic about long-forgotten moments from their childhood, to the individuals just tagging along, everyone was waiting to enter Game Nite. This celebration held at the EMP was in honor of its new exhibit: the Smithsonian American Art Museum's The Art of Video Games, which explores the 40-year evolution of video games and focuses on influential artists and designers of game graphics, storytelling and player interactivity.

Game Nite was sponsored by DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond and had something for gamers of all ages and skill levels.


Fans of the classics were able to participate in live, tournament-style gaming and see Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and all of their favorite video game characters come to life on the big screen in EMP's Sky Church.Seattle resident Eric Hopsoh grew up playing such video games.

"For me, it's the social aspect," he said about why he enjoys gaming. "It's not as much fun if you don't have people playing with you."

Hopsoh moved on to online and social games such as "World of Warcraft" for a while but now that he is a father, he has found a new gaming partner in his 5-year-old son Sylvan McFarland and has returned to old console games."He's got me into playing the classics again," Hopsoh said, adding that Sylvan's knowledge of the old games has made him the "cool kid" among the other parents, who remember playing those games as kids.

Hopsoh said gaming for Sylvan has been a source of creativity as he will draw scenes from the games he plays and come up with his own characters.Sylvan, who attended Game Nite with his dad dressed up as Mario, said he enjoys playing video games "because there's lots of cool stuff."

"I like the way (the characters) attack and all the cool music," the pint-sized plumber said.


While the father-son duo view video games as entertainment, DigiPen senior executive Raymond Yan said they can also be used as a learning tool in the classroom. He will be holding a workshop for educators at EMP on Saturday to show them how they can use game development as a learning vehicle in multiple disciplines.

For example, students can learn about the hero's journey by examining video games' story lines.

Yan said including video games in lesson plans builds students' enthusiasm using technology they are most likely familiar with navigating.

Other highlights of Game Nite included a test arcade featuring the latest projects from DigiPen students. GeekGirlCon — a local community organization celebrating and honoring women in all areas of "geek culture" including science and technology, comics, arts, literature, game play and game design — was also onsite with a crafts table where people were able to create perler bead designs of their favorite 8-bit video game characters.Alyssa Jones, manager of gaming for GeekGirlCon, said they have done several EMP events in the past and Game Nite in particular was a great fit for them "since it's very geeky."


Another highlight of the evening were the spotlight talks, which were presented by DigiPen and featured video game professionals.

Yan and University of Washington, Bothell Center for Serious Play executive director Jason Pace spoke about what it takes to be a video game designer. The two men told a packed JBL Theatre that there is a big difference between playing video games and designing them.

"There's so much stuff that goes into game design," said Pace, a former Microsoft employee and lead producer of Halo Wars for Xbox 360. "Education is really important."

Yan added that the gaming industry is constantly changing.

"We don't know what it's going to be like 10 years from now. We don't know what it'll be like two years from now," he said. "Our success is always going to be tied to innovation."

Yan said events such as Game Nite and the Art of Video Games exhibit are important in connecting game developers with their fans and giving people the opportunity to learn about what it really takes to create a video game. He said the exhibit will also be of interest for those in the industry. After walking through it, Yan said he learned a lot about the background of various video games and why things are the way they are.

"Nothing in a game we make is by chance," he said.


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