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Animation Students Stand Out Among Peers

Animation students from the College of Art and Design came out on top at the New England Student Game Showcase, with four projects being titled "Best Animation" in various categories.

More than a dozen College of Art and Design Animation and Motion Media students traveled to the Microsoft Education Center in Burlington, Massachusetts for the annual New England Student Game Design Showcase with Assistant Professor Catriona Baker.

The group brought individual and team projects to the showcase, competing against 16 New England-area schools. The students' work was recognized by industry experts, with four projects winning "Best Animation." Recent grads Jess Brown’s “CROAK," 2018 Commencement student speaker Michael Talbot’s "Do Road!," and two collaborative projects "Rev.23" and "PermaDeath" all received awards.

The judges at the day’s showcase were Rob Curtin, executive director at Higher Education America, Microsoft Corp; Tim Loew, executive director at MassDiGI; Ryan Canuel, CEO of Petricore Inc.; William Collis, co-founder of Game Sensei; Kevin Mitchell, director of business development and strategic intelligence for National Amusements (the parent company for Viacom, CBS, and Showcase Cinemas); and Emma Clarkson, producer at Game Industry.

"I am very proud of the students who took advantage of the opportunity to meet and engage with peers from the 16 New England schools,” Baker says. "The students asked excellent questions, and they tested out a variety of games and animations that were made by other students from this past year."

The daylong event was a whirlwind of peer-to-peer networking and inspiration. The group was able to meet and interact with peers from other schools and see what projects they were working on, a first for many of the art and design students.

"I'm a pretty quiet person, so networking has always been a bit of a struggle for me, but after making myself go and interact with people I quickly realized that these really were my peers,” shares Brown. “They were really friendly and inviting, it was great to see what others students in this corner of the map are up to.”

Talbot shared a similar sentiment: "To be around everyone else was inspiring. Experiencing each other's work and seeing the passion and dedication each person had put into their projects was definitely awesome to witness.”

It was hard not to compare their own skills against their peers, especially as the judges began to announce the winners. However, by the end of the day the students felt connected to a larger peer network and animation community. "At the beginning I was unsure of where I stood or what the other work would look like, but by the end of the day I felt like I was rooting for everyone,” says Brown about her experience. "With all the different games I saw, I would have been happy with any selection of winners. We all put a lot of heart and dedication into our work.”

Despite any insecurities, Brown and Talbot's work proved to hold their own as each project took first place in the "Best Animation" category. Talbots’s “Do Road!” is a multi-person game that transports its players to Kingston, Jamaica as they compete as bus drivers in the Jamaican transportation system. Seeing the work from other schools, Talbot felt that perhaps his work fell short, but the judges disagreed with him. "If this showcase has taught me anything, it's that I can actually do good work and that people will recognize it,” he says. "I am more mindful of my abilities and talent now.”

Brown's project, “CROAK”, was something she had created specifically for the showcase. The faux game intro took shape between working on her school assignments and other obligations. She was very pleased to have finished the project in such a short amount of time, but was unsure how it would be received.

"CROAK seemed to do really well—even outside of the panel of judges—other students enjoyed it, too, and that helped me to appreciate the hard work that went into animating it.” For Brown, this validation gave her the extra boost needed to get through the rest of the semester. "Now that I know what I'm capable of making in a short period of time, I feel creatively energized and I really want to jump back in and create more," she says. "Trying to keep that reigned in for the time being is proving to be difficult right now at the end of the semester. I think this summer will be a great time to keep exploring my process.”

Other students from the College of Art and Design were also recognized for their collaborative work on “Rev.23” and “PermaDeath.” Students worked alongside Baker to create original animation for White Snake Project’s opera, "Rev. 23." They developed both a 30-second animation and two augmented reality animations for the opera that debuted in Boston. The second project the students collaborated on was for another opera, “PermaDeath.”Students created original animations for this interactive, live-action opera which empowers audience members to control the story and cast members using a mobile app.

Overall, the showcase recognized the talent and strong artistic skills the animation students have developed over the past few years, something that seemed to stand out among the rest of the schools. Baker was pleased with how the day turned out, “I am so proud of the work that our College of Art and Design students presented, it really highlights all the hard work and creativity coming out of the animation department.”