By Natalie Betz
Some computer-science majors at the University of Iowa wish the program offered a video-game track.
To satisfy their wishes, these students created EPX Studio, a student organization centered on video-game programming. The group meets important contacts and gains the skills to learn how to program interactive games.
EPX Studio hosted its sixth-annual EPX Con on April 8.
This year, speakers included Steve “Spaz” Williams, the chief animator of movies such as Jurassic Park and Terminator 2, along with Parag Halvaldar, who won an Academy Award for his developments at SONY with movies including Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Monster House, and Spiderman. Fredrick Gardner, the winner of two Emmys for The Powerpuff Girls, composer for Call of Duty: Black Ops II and III, spoke in addition to others.
“There are two primary ways we are able to get the speakers we have. The Introduction to Animation class Asociate Professor Peter Chanthanakone was a successful animator in [Los Angeles], so he has several contacts. We also go online and use Twitter and LinkedIn to reach out to potential speakers,” said Ian Wold, the president of EPX Studio.
The group set up games they produced for people to play at the event.
EPX Studio hosts other conventions, such an independent game tournament, but EPX Con is its biggest, Wold said. The only other event similar to the Con is in Chicago, so, he said, many people come from Omaha to attend.
In the past, Wold said, the conference has been hosted on numerous days in one room with specific themes, whereas this year, the group held it on one day with a variety of ideas in hopes of attracting a wider audience.
Kara Novotny, a graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison who attended the convention, said the club is unique because it combines computer science with writing. She said there was no club or event similar to it when she was in college, and she liked that it welcomed women as well as men.
“There is no video-game track at the university, so this club allows the people who want to pursue gaming and animation to learn new skills,” Wold said. “We’ve had people use this club on their résumés and have gone off to work at Facebook headquarters.”
Club members gather into groups of three to eight with writers, programmers, and artists to develop interactive games, animations, and board games, Wold said.
“We’re able to produce indie games and understand the process behind animation,” said Elijah Thompson-Acquah, a writer for the group.