Video-game conference brings in professionals from the industry

The University of Iowa’s own EPX Studio hosted its ninth-annual gaming convention this past weekend.


Austin J. Yerington

EPX members register attendees for the convention and future newsletters at the EPX Con on Saturday, April 14.

Austin J. Yerington, Arts Reporter

The University of Iowa’s EPX Studio hosted its ninth-annual gaming convention this past weekend, which brought in not just leaders in the video gaming and animation professions but also a community of all ages and backgrounds.

The organization hosts a wide base of majors and skills, with members ranging from the English Department and creative-writing program to the medical program.

EPX Studio President Gillian Herrin, who has helped with the event every year during her membership, emphasized the wide range of people and areas.

“Our top majors are CS, music, art, and English/creative writing, but we have business and even biology students come in,” Herrin said. “The whole point of EPX Studio is to get unlikely people who wouldn’t have met each other before to work together in this space and to talk to each other.”

The communication skill is an area that EPX prides itself on teaching, with members who are based on the technical side working with members who are more specialized in the creative side of game development.

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“That’s how it is in the industry, it’s you having to talk to someone who you don’t know anything about their area,” Herrin said. “ ‘Con’ is a way to bring in professionals and give an even larger description of how important that [cross-communication] is.”

The convention hosted more than a dozen professionals in the all aspects of the gaming industry. Speakers ranged from local animation studios such as Grasshorse to Iowa native Kyle Mohr, an animator for Pixar who has worked on films such as Coco, to Cameron Dayton, currently the narrative director at BioWare who has worked for such companies as Blizzard Entertainment and EA Games.

“I believe that just about any role in video games is a storytelling role,” Dayton said during his EPX speech. “If you are a level designer, you’re telling the story by the way the character moves through the spaces you created. If you’re a character designer, you’re telling the story by the armor the character wears or how their hair blows back.”

Students have a hands-on experience in the creation of the event and get to decide which speakers to bring.

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“This entire conference is planned and executed by students; the only thing that isn’t done by students is signing the checks,” EPX Treasurer Laurens van Beek said. “We have a lot of past speakers who are connected and know a lot of people in the industry. Our two composers this year — we were recommended to them by one of our past speakers.”

These experts in the field brought insight and advice to both up incoming gaming developers and also to young children in the audience.

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