According to BA in Game Design student David Robson, designing an expo booth is actually a lot like designing a video game level. “It’s really not too different!” Robson says. “Both are spaces. For both, you need to have an understanding of how people think, how they react to what’s around them.”
Robson is one of the 18 DigiPen students leading the charge on coordinating, designing, and installing the DigiPen Arcade at this year’s PAX West — part of an annual student-led tradition. Featuring a selection of both single-player student games installed on arcade machines, as well as multiplayer student games playable on couches, the DigiPen Arcade is a way for students to showcase what they and their peers have created to an audience that’s always receptive to fun new games. As a cherry on top, attendees who visit the booth earn the opportunity to win prizes through raffles and tournaments. The fun-filled hours the booth provides PAX-goers at the Washington State Convention Center are made possible by the hundreds of hours put in by a team of dedicated student workers from April to September.
First, an eight-student core crew, coordinated by senior lecturer Rachel Rutherford, is hired by DigiPen, filling the roles of technical director, logistics director, prizes director, art director, and producer, with accompanying associate director roles for support. Robson, this year’s producer, started working on the student PAX crew last year as the associate logistics director. “I really enjoyed the atmosphere of working on PAX last year,” Robson says. “The first year of doing it, you’re kind of learning the ropes. The second year, you’ve learned it, so now you improve on it.”
Although Robson hadn’t been to PAX before joining the DigiPen crew, going to PAX was what motivated this year’s logistics director, BS in Computer Science student James Volz, to apply for the job. “I went to PAX the last two years just on my own, and I saw the DigiPen booth. I thought it would be fun to see what it was like from the inside,” Volz says.
As the logistics director, Volz is in charge of communicating with and coordinating the 17 student game teams whose projects will be showcased at PAX — games that will have players journeying through dinosaur-filled villages, controlling a magic chicken, protecting a punk band from evil robots, and more.
“There will be one developer from each game attending their arcade booth, so no matter which game you go play, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to someone who made it,” Volz says. Working with PAX game teams, Volz says, has impacted the way he’ll work on his own game team once fall semester rolls back around. “I’m a producer on my game team during the school year, managing deadlines and everything,” he says. “Doing PAX, it gives me a lot of information about how these things work in the real world with professionals. I’m going to be the producer again for my game team next year, and I’ve learned a lot this summer … about how to manage teams.”
Starting the month of PAX, 10 additional students are hired as event crew, trained to help load and unload staging materials and arcade machines for the booth, install the booth, and staff the arcade. Although the event starts on a Friday, the days-long setup process begins on Monday. It’s a lot of work, Robson says, but it’s worth the effort. “It’s immensely satisfying,” Robson smiles. “I’m excited to see what this year’s booth is going to be like because of all the work I’ve put in.”
The student members of the 2019 PAX crew are: Lindsey Anderson, Michael Baughman, Jonathan Bourim, Cathy Dang, Connor Dautenhahn, Calin Gavriliuc, Eli Ghali, Annie Hanson, Russell Johnson, Jake Lewandosky, Cameron Monks, Cody Morgan, Hannah Patten, David Robson, Jonah Shinault, Casca Socea, Louis Sutton, and James Volz.
PAX attendees can visit the DigiPen Arcade throughout the event on Friday, August 30, through Monday, September 2, on the third floor of the Annex building in the Washington State Convention Center. To learn more about all things DigiPen happening at PAX West 2019, check out our event page.