Game Design & Development
The Game Design Studio (GDS) approaches gaming technology as a modern medium for interactive, immersive, non-linear storytelling. The Lab provides Spelman students with the skills and techniques to develop video games, social simulations, historic reconstructions, artistic works, interactive fictional narratives and other immersive experiences. Students from the Arts, Humanities and those in the Computer Sciences work together to generate art assets, develop storylines and implement culturally relevant products using technology that has historically not promoted the voices of women of color. The Lab also provides resources for faculty ready to adopt and adapt the technology in their research.
The GDS is supported by a state-of-the-art, 12-seat game development classroom (The Zynga Classroom), a student club (SpelmanXR), a student fellowship program (Unity Fellowship Program), a scholarship program (The Zynga Scholars Program) an R&D program (Microsoft Gaming Research Lab) and a faculty seed grant program (Unity Faculty Seed Grant Program). The GDS also hosts an annual, inter-collegiate HBCU Game Jam.
The Zynga classroom is a 12-seat computer lab equipped with high-end gaming workstations, controllers, VR headsets and other peripherals needed to create 2D, 3D and VR-based video games and immersive experiences. Installed on each workstation is a suite of software tool, utilities and game development platforms that support desktop, mobile and console game development. The Lab is located in room 230 of the Science Center.
The Unity Student Gaming Fellowship Program supports the exceptionally motivated student to complete a long-term, co-curricular gaming project of her choice. The Lab provides technical guidance, and a modest stipend in exchange for weekly project check-ins that help students stay on track. Two gaming fellowships are competitively awarded annually.
SpelmanXR is the Gaming Lab's co-curricular game development club. It is an entry point into game development for students with no prior experience. SpelmanXR uses minimal or no-code game development platforms to introduce students to concepts of story unfolding, character development and other gameplay elements. The club empowers students of any discipline and any skill level to create complete, functioning, games in a single semester.
Zynga Scholars Program
The Zynga Gaming Annual Scholarship provides financial assistance to students with an interest in gaming technology. Avid gamers, game designers, storytellers, researchers and other disciplines with an interest in working in or leveraging gaming technology are eligible. Students with an interest in working in the gaming industry in any capacity should also consider applying.
Unity Faculty Seed
The Unity Faculty Seed Grant Programs aims to assist members of the faculty looking to startup research that incorporates gaming technology. Gaming is a relatively new academic discipline that, in recent years, has matured into a recognized area of scholarship and research.
An annual, beginner-friendly hackathon for future HBCU game developers.
Zynga - Google - Unity - Microsoft
Microsoft Gaming R&D Lab
The Microsoft Gaming R&D Lab currently hosts two research projects:
Study of Gender and Race Attitudes
In VR-Simulated Social Settings
This project is a study of attitudes about race and gender. The work is carried out in a VR-simulated social setting where the player is confronted with a gender or race -based verbal aggression. The user's reaction is automatically recorded. Data from dozens of players will be collected. Each player will experience an identical simulation save for a prescribed but randomly selected set of changes to one or more of the simulated character's traits: race, gender, weight, etc. The impact of these changes on player behavior will then be analyzed.
VR-Based Workforce Retraining
In 2020, the COVID pandemic displaced many workers, resulting in a sharp spike in unemployment. While "knowledge" industry workers quickly pivoted to remote-work, many hourly, service workers were unable to do so. Disproportionately, these workers were women and people of color who remained unemployed while a shortage of more skilled workers persisted and increased throughout the pandemic. This project attempts to discover how VR-based workforce retraining can be used to up-skill workers who, historically, have had limited access to retraining resources. This work is funded by the Economic Development Agency as part of the White House Build Back Better Regional Competition.