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Game Mason showed why George Mason University’s Computer Game Design program is one of the university’s fastest growing programs.
Hosted by Student Involvement and the Center for the Arts (CFA), in collaboration with GMU Esports and the computer game design program, this year’s event at the Fairfax Campus on March 3-4 had classic arcade games like Pinball and Ms. Pac-Man, an Esports tournament, and more. Just under 1,000 people attended the event, with its components in Harris Theater, Horizon Hall, and the Center for the Arts Concert Hall.
“Throughout Game Mason, we witnessed that games can be a cohesive agent to bring the community closer together,” said Sang Nam, director of Mason's Computer Game Design Program. “Games in the 21st century are an essential part of our life and beyond, and Mason will be a frontrunner to innovate how we experience games.”
Game Mason invited special guests such as voice actors and guest speakers from across the gaming industry including Michele King, director of the Esports Program at the College of William & Mary.
“The language of play is universal. I'm an old school gamer with the original board games,” said King.
King, who enjoys playing games such as Codenames, Splendor, and Rummikub, described Game Mason as “an organic grassroots community of gamers.”
“I did a TED Talk three years ago [about why] colleges and universities need to pay attention to this concept of esports,” said King. “There is plenty of room at the esports table for everybody to have a seat [to] support and encourage each other.”
Although it is typically a male-dominated field, “esports is one of the beautiful places of leveling the playing field. I think it's starting to change,” said King.
Between all five games we offered in varsity level competitions, there were about 130 players, said Lauren Long, the executive director of Student Involvement.
“It brought players from [universities such as] Virginia Tech, Northern Virginia Community College, James Madison University, Shenandoah University, Virginia Wesleyan, and American University,” said Long.
Mason Computer Game Design students also presented demonstrations of their game creations for participants to play.
Stellar Stoats, a student-formed company, presented their game, Eras Rising, which was initially developed as a group project for their Senior Capstone course, a year-long synthesis course where student groups develop a full game from ideation to launch.
Senior computer game design major Tione Giesberts presented his creation, GMU Jammers, which he designed with his peers in their Advanced Game Design Studio course.
“We came together and made a game over a semester. It's truly one of the best experiences I've had in the major,” said Giesberts. As the design leader, Giesberts said one responsibility was figuring out what the team’s strengths and weaknesses were.
Senior creative writing major Rheagan Nelson has been a gamer for most of her life. She said her love of gaming started when she was five years old and her family bought a Nintendo Wii.
“It's fun to just game out, especially when they have the Super Smash and Mario Cart tournaments,” said Nelson, who also attended last year’s event. “It's important that the types of games are expanding too. Last year it was all rhythm and dancing type games. It's good to see them branching out to different sorts of games,” she said.
Nelson is taking a screenplay class this semester and hopes to join a publishing company after graduation. “It would be pretty cool to be able to write scripts for game.”
This is Mason’s fourth Game Mason since the event began in 2019.
“It's a gathering of gaming for those who, like myself, are home bodies and usually inside,” said Jonathon Golden, a Fairfax resident and Game Mason participant. “It's a perfect opportunity for people who don't get the chance that often to hang out with others with shared interest.”