COD Game Development Team Wins SkillsUSA Gold Medal
By Brian Kleemann
Lexie Wilterdink (Bloomingdale) and Tucker Wolf (Itasca) recently won gold medals in Interactive Application and Video Game Development (College Division) at the 2017 SkillsUSA National Leadership Conference.
Wilterdink (above right) and Wolf (above left), along with Adel Labadi (Lombard) and Sam Wohlrab (Bloomingdale), spent more than five months developing a virtual reality-enabled game called “Fracture.” The four-member team took a silver medal in the SkillsUSA state competition behind another College of DuPage team, consisting of Rafael Lameter (LaGrange) and Dan Murphy (Downers Grove). However, the state champions were unable to attend the national competition, and because only two-member teams can compete at nationals, Wilterdink and Wolf were selected to present their team’s game.
Stephen Santello, instructor of Computer Information Systems at College of DuPage, said the students’ success at SkillsUSA represents their passion and dedication throughout the process.
“This is a big deal, because SkillsUSA is one of the largest academic competitions in the nation with more than 3,000 high schools and colleges competing,” he said. “Aside from just winning SkillsUSA, Lexie and Tucker have been approached by a number of industry professionals who love the game and are interested in helping bring it to market. So even though SkillsUSA is over, the journey will likely continue for this group.”
The SkillsUSA competition consisted of an exam, which covered game design, game art and programming questions; documentation, which included marketing materials; and a demonstration of the game itself to show functionality, complexity and artistry. Wilterdink and Wolf pitched “Fracture” to attendees and judges, who played it live.
“Fracture” is the brainchild of Wilterdink, who wanted a game that could both educate people about mental illness while entertaining them with a horror-based scenario. She created a storyline about a man with Alzheimer’s who, in a moment of lucidity, realizes that something is wrong in his home.
“Mental illness isn’t discussed widely, and I wanted to do something that was not represented in videos or books,” she said. “I have family members dealing with this, so I spoke with people and did a lot of online research through such organizations as the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. I learned about what memories people would have and how they would act.
“I also like horror movies and the sudden twist or thrill. I’ll never be one to make a happy story, so I wanted to go for the big shock factor.”
Wilterdink grew up playing games. She also loved writing and realized that she should combine her two hobbies into a career path. After graduating with her associate’s degree in Game Design and Development, she would like to pursue a bachelor’s degree in either Game Design and Development or Creative/Scriptwriting and then become a narrative designer, which is the person who writes the story and dialogue for video games.
She said “Fracture” was the perfect way to combine an educational experience about a serious topic with the surprising nature of a video game.
“I don’t ever want to imply that mental illness always leads to bad things. I just want to examine something never portrayed in games and make it relatable,” she said.
Wilterdink believed in her game and enjoyed the experience of working with her team and competing at SkillsUSA.
“It was thrilling and a relief when we won, because everyone’s games were really good,” she said. “Game design is not an easy field to get into, and the competition pushed me into going for what I want, and it confirmed this is the right path for me.”
For “Fracture,” the four team members divided the work: Wilterdink compiled the documentation and wrote character backgrounds, dialogue and plots; Labadi and Wohlrab created the playable demo; and Wolf designed more than 200 custom-made models.
Wolf grew up drawing his own comic books, from superheroes like Spiderman to just doodles. While enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, he worked as a camera operator and used both photo and editing software. Several relatives recommended College of DuPage, and Wolf discovered like-minded students and professors who are equally as creative and artistic as he is.
For “Fracture,” Wolf explored his interest in 3D artwork.
“I recreated and fabricated everything that you would find in a Midwestern Iowa house,” he said. “My team was always talking about what to do with the game and where we should go with it. We had a great group dynamic and I loved working on the game.”
Wolf, who is in COD’s Game Animation and Design program, plans to earn his bachelor’s degree in Game Entertainment and Technology at Elmhurst College. He originally wanted to work at Pixar making movies, but after studying 3D artwork, he is excited about taking advantage of other opportunities in the field.
“If I am hired for a studio job, I am not going to lie – I would probably cheer out loud amongst my neighbors. But I want an opportunity that would not just be another drone working in the hive mind,” he said. “I want to be working alongside colleagues who I am comfortable with, people who are as passionate and driven toward self-perfection in one’s own craft as well as helping push the boundaries of what your team can actually do.
“College of DuPage’s contribution to my education is huge, especially the SkillsUSA opportunity. I’m going to miss attending COD after I transfer.”
Santello was thrilled that two teams from College of DuPage placed first and second in the state competition and is proud of all of the students involved.
“There is a lot of talent at COD,” he said. “The competition showcased our programs, especially to the students competing in the high school categories. They are now aware that College of DuPage has great game development programs.”
For more about the Computer Information Systems program and game development degree and certificate options, visit www.cod.edu/cis.
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 28,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants nine associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.
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