By Julia DiGiacomo
The largest gaming and animation conference in the Midwest, EPX Con, brought together gaming developers, animators, and enthusiasts from all walks of life on April 14.
Speakers from various areas — including composing, art, storytelling, virtual reality, and programming — presented their ideas and insights.
The daylong event, planned and hosted by University of Iowa student organization EPX Studio was free and open to the public. One highlight of the event was the interactive play lounge available for conference participants to interact with a diverse array of locally created games.
“Throughout the whole day, we will have projects from students in the group as well as a few classes in the university on display,” EPX Studio President Laurens van Beek said. “This is personal work that students have submitted to be displayed as well as local companies that have expressed interest in presenting their work.”
A live performance from the Papshoy Klezmer Orchestra set the tone as conference goers investigated various tables and projects at their leisure.
The speakers at EPX Con played a large role in informing audience members on the many facets related to animation and game development. Rom Di Prisco, the composer for the popular game Fortnite, gave a featured presentation. Magic Thief series author and UI alumna Sarah Prineas educated audience members on writing fantasy.
“I’m looking the most forward to our keynote speaker, Ben Lok. He works on projects at the University of Florida called ‘VR for Social Good,’ ” van Beek said. “He has essentially a studio set up within the university that brings students from all different backgrounds and majors.”
University of Florida Professor Lok spoke about his class that guides students through developing their own virtual-reality platform. Students focus their projects on one of United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals, such as health care, education, or gender inequality, in order to create virtual-reality experiences that give insight into social issues.
“I’ve been on a crusade going around to try to persuade all of you that you are able to create virtual reality,” Lok said. “What I hope to do out of this is this is get you thinking about yourself building virtual-reality experiences for social good.”
Other speakers out of many included the founder and director at Grasshorse Studios, Stephen Jennings, who contributed animation to the Powderpuff Girls, Johnny Test, Star Wars: Clone Wars, among others. Dennis Lippens and Dries de Geyter spoke on the creation of their party card game, Deer Lord.
“I’ve been coming to the EPX Con for three years, and I’ve really enjoyed it — there’s really impressing speakers and other stuff to learn,” said Cole Cecil, who was presenting his game Bludgeon, by Meticulous Monster.
Van Beek said the conference is a valuable way for EPX Studio members and nonmembers to learn about the gaming industries. He said members benefit from investigating potential careers, networking, and viewing other students’ projects.
“It’s also high-school students who are looking into the gaming industry and community members who are thinking of maybe developing their own project but don’t necessarily know what goes into it,” van Beek said. “We also have people coming from out of state because they’re looking at the university and they want to learn more about the opportunities that the university has.”