Six groups of students gathered in the Central Library basement on Saturday to try their hand at designing a board, card or dice game in a day for UTA's Game Design-a-thon.

The event spanned a total of eight hours including overtime, and participating groups were given six of those hours to develop their game to as close to completion as they could.

Milaun Murry, UTA Libraries events and outreach specialist and Game Design-a-thon judge, said in an email that library staff knew when designing the contest that it would be a difficult feat for even experienced developers, which is why so much time was given and partial submissions were allowed.

Software engineering senior Ethan Duff said that even though he was three hours late to the event because of work, he still wanted to create a card game as a solo team.

Duff said developing board games had been his hobby for years and the opportunity to have one of his games made into a real prototype was the prize that drew him in.

“I've made these games for a while, and they've always been of card stock and a deck holder in my room,” Duff said. “To actually get them on shelves and make it a career would actually be really fun.”

This event was the first Game Design-a-thon to be hosted in The Basement, Murry said. It was inspired by the success of The Basement’s launch in September 2019, which featured a “Basics of Game Development” workshop where students learned game development concepts and were challenged to create a rudimentary game.

“The success of this workshop had us thinking about the potential for UTA students to develop a complete game given the resources. So we wanted to provide them with an opportunity to not only develop a game but win a worthwhile opportunity,” Murry said.

The groups’ games were judged based on creativity, clarity of rules, aesthetics and general gameplay, Murry said. The judges included Drew Boehm, UTA esports assistant director, Lauren Avant, The Basement student staff member, and Murry.

The prize for the third place game was a game prize pack, awarded to broadcast junior Dana Peterson and computer science sophomores Utkarsh Verma and Kartikey Sharma for their board game, Space Explorers.

Peterson said that her team had been put at an interesting disadvantage because of the number of groups allowed in the contest being capped at six, resulting in the combining of smaller teams.

“I signed up by myself, so I chose ‘Put me in a group’ because I didn't want to do all this game design on my own,” Peterson said. “And they put me in a group with these guys, who I had no idea existed until today.”

Although she didn’t know her teammates as well as the members of other groups knew theirs, Peterson said the experience was a 10 out of 10 and she would like to participate again in the future.

Second place went to nursing sophomores Tien Tran, Haley Klovenski and Gabi Metta, who earned passes to the Esports Awards at the Arlington Esports Stadium later that day for their card game, Doctor Death. 

The first place prize of a trip to San Antonio’s Pax South in January 2020 went to alumnus Erika Padilla and drawing junior Carlos Padilla for their game Ghost Town.

Their game was inspired by Erika’s love for the video game Luigi’s Mansion and was created to be a fun and simple ghostbusting game that can get more complex based on user experience, Carlos Padilla said.

The Padilla siblings’ game will be developed into a professional prototype with the cost covered by the library. The siblings will receive one copy and the other will stay in the library for the community to enjoy.

Carlos Padilla said that while he and Erika participated in the Game Design-a-thon, they saw some very nice games and didn’t expect to win the grand prize since they were mostly there for the experience.

“I didn't think our simple little game would actually win,” Carlos said.

Murry said the library team hopes to build a collection of UTA student-developed games in the future and that the Game Design-a-thon is already set to be held again next fall.




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