CCAD Animation Grads level up with their first title in museum exhibit
For Kieran Czyzyk (Animation, 2019), the most surprising part of building a video game was how similar it felt to being a Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master.
“I love making narratives and puzzles and watching how players will solve them,” Czyzyk says.
And now the undersea dress-up game, Odds and Deep Ends, Czyzyk and her classmate Alexiss Cooper (Animation, 2019) designed as their senior capstone project during Columbus College of Art & Design’s Game Art Pipeline course is on view at the Akron Art Museum. The game was selected for the museum’s Open World: Video Game & Contemporary Art Show, running through Feb. 2, 2020. The exhibit examines the influence video games have on contemporary art.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Akron Art Museum will host a daylong juried arcade of indie video games and table top games from developers, students, and game creators. Open World Arcade will run 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019.
“This is a major deal for Kieran and Alexiss since this was their first game ever, and this work is being exhibited alongside global practitioners,” says Elizabeth Keegan, Assistant Professor of Game Art and Animation. “I’m so proud of these two amazing students who, despite having no prior knowledge of game tools, persevered and created something that truly reflects teamwork and creativity.”
Cooper and Czyzyk set out to create a fun, atmospheric game that focused on its characters. You play as Clementine, an underwater boutique employee whose job is to please customers by selecting just the right outfit. Their inspiration came from places as varied as the Style Savvy dress-up games Cooper and Czyzyk played as kids to Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo, which helped inform the game’s calming underwater seaside down environment. Odds and Deep Ends can be played online and on campus in the CCAD game arcade station.
CCAD is currently developing a new Game Art & Design major, scheduled to roll out starting in fall 2020. The new major will move game design out of the animation department, where two project-based game courses have been offered as a concentration. In the new major, students will learn everything from experimental game art to emerging trends in AR/VR, Keegan says.
“We are an inclusive community, nurturing an environment of creators who are pushing the medium of games,” Keegan says. “We challenge our students to experiment, plan, play and prototype, as this provides a solid foundation for process and grows confidence.”
Cooper and Czyzyk have shelved Odds and Deep Ends for now as they settle into life post-graduation. Cooper is now working as a storyboard artist at Essence Cartoon Studios in Columbus, and Czyzk, who says she came away from her Game Art Pipeline experience with a newfound respect for working with a team, has been applying for animation jobs while working at the local library.
“Kieran and Alexiss, alongside many others, represent what is at the heart of game making and our program,” Keegan says. “Here at CCAD you are making experiences that persist beyond the classroom, that ripple throughout official channels, and contribute to a growing world of play-driven storytelling.”