A busy Game Developers Conference was the perfect chance to spotlight Academy demos, student-made games, and catch up with alumni
By Nina Tabios
By the end of day one at the Game Developers Conference, or GDC, hosted at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Academy of Art University School of Game Development Executive Director David Goodwine was already out of business cards.
Despite most of his time being taken up by alumni and industry professionals stopping by the Academy booth, scheduled meetings with Twitch and Netflix, plus feeding his own curiosity of the vast new developments omnipresent at the conference (Google introduced its new gaming-streaming service, Stadia, that week), Goodwine is always ecstatic to be at GDC. Overall, his being busy is a good sign.
“I feel like our name is getting out there more and more, so we have more people coming to us and saying they’ve heard of us, they like what we’re doing and they want to get involved,” he said on March 22. “I love doing this stuff. And I’ve been talking all day.”
Every year thousands of professionals fly into San Francisco for the premier games and immersive experiences industry event, from leading tech titan programmers and game designers to all-in-one developers and business decision makers from independent studios. GDC is a prime opportunity for Goodwine and staff to showcase the Academy, but also a chance to see a handful of familiar faces from alumni that have gone on to work in the industry.
“I remember coming here as a student and I’d see my booth so that was cool and to see all my friends’ games,” said Lourde Canavati, who graduated with a B.F.A. in game development in 2017 and is now a 3-D artist for 2K Sports. “Now that I’m out of school and I get to come back and still see that it’s still being carried on is wonderful.”
The Academy’s booth itself boasted a sizeable collection of student-made games. Four kiosks housing Academy titles such as “Magic Masks” and “Pixel Run” stood on one end and at the center was a demo of “Space War Arena,” the newest game from former Academy instructor and Sega game developer, Ed Annunziata.
“I hired a bunch of my students and we came up with this concept for ‘Space War Arena,’” Annunziata said of the game, which is currently out for Nintendo Switch under his indie studio, Playchemy. “Working with some of these kids really was a boost of caffeine.”
But the big attraction of the booth was the round-the-clock demos conducted by faculty and staff. Dayniel Deguzman, M.A. game development student, etched in the details on his swamp witch, a half-woman, half-tree trunk crone, in ZBrush. The demo drew in a small group of passersby, likely on their way to the PlayStation or Unreal Engine booths, which were only a dozen yards away.
“I felt very honored to be selected for this opportunity, to be thought that I was good and talented enough to exhibit my work for the school,” Deguzman said when he was finished. “If my instructor believes that my work is a gauge for what students can accomplish, that gives me immense satisfaction.”
Samuel Kam shared similar sentiments on being selected to demonstrate his work. Using Photoshop, the B.F.A. game development student refined three of his concept characters, pausing every now and then to answer questions from a classmate who watched eagerly.
“Being asked to come out here and do the demo tells me I’m doing something right,” Kam said. “Being out here with this opportunity and to be around all these people who have made it to the industry is really special to me and keeps me going with my art.”
Once done with the demonstrations, both Deguzman, Kam, and other students headed off to explore the rest of GDC. Seeing new developments and new games is always welcomed; Deguzman mentioned checking out all the new games “serves as inspiration for my current work. Just gauging the different ways people view the world expressed through video game art,” but Goodwine highly encouraged his students to view GDC as a top-tier networking landscape. For every business card Goodwine hands he out, he hopes his students collect just as many.
“I tell the students that this is a place where you could meet up with a whole bunch of different companies all at once,” Goodwine said. “You can’t get your work in front of all these companies through email. It’s so much more accessible, without a doubt.”