Events / Gaming

Here’s what you can play at Gamescape this year

The gaming festival that coincides with Artscape runs all weekend. From tiny white blood cells to video games on a giant billboard, here's a taste of what's being showcased.

Gamescape attendees in 2015. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)
You’ll know you’ve reached Gamescape when you see the Mario-style pipes topped by flowers with giant teeth sprouting up from the campus courtyard.

The annual festival and showcase of the local gaming community is right in the middle of Artscape this year at the University of Baltimore’s Learning Commons on Maryland Avenue.
Organizer Nick Marinelli, who is COO of MAGFest, tells us that this is the biggest location for Gamescape yet, one that gives the event a chance to be both in and out of doors. (I mean, those plumber-chomping flowers need sunlight.)
The team from MAGFest brought scores of arcade games to line the windows of the hall.
In the middle of the makeshift arcade, the indie game fest organized by Pure Bang Games founder Ben Walsh was already teeming with life as the event officially began on Friday.


Follow those pipes! (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

We caught up with Walsh for some details on Pure Bang’s latest offering, “MUD.”
It’s a game that allows players to create their own worlds by building, mining and ultimately creating a community. The game also leaves open the possibility that players can destroy the world, but, as Walsh put it, “We’re going to give them incentives not to destroy it.”

Pure Bang readies MUD at Gamescape 2015. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

About six people have been working on the game for the last nine months at Pure Bang’s Highlandtown offices, and it’s still in development. Gamescape offers a chance to let players try it out, and provide suggestions.
“This weekend will give us a lot of feedback,” Walsh said.
A few tables over, Joel Garcia let us try out “Stomp.” The Xbox Kinect game lets players use their feet to control a Kaiju monster. As the name implies, the monsters get to crush buildings while moving in an arcade-style scroll. Garcia is working with a team of five others to produce the game using Unity Game Engine and Zigfu, as well as the Kinect. They’re making additions as they go.
Don’t worry, folks, planes that attack the monsters are on the way.

Stomp in action. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

On the opposite end of the hall, the Oculus Rift was on full display.
A group of school-age kids visiting wouldn’t give us a turn, but Greg Aring of Baltimore-based Seven Hills Games explained one of the two augmented reality games he’s showing off this weekend. He described “VRolleyball” as “a mix between volleyball, baseball, karate and pong.” We also sensed an artistic influence, as the goal is to deflect a ball into a wall of the same color.

A kid tries out VRolleyball. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The gamification of learning was also on display at a demo helmed by Melanie Stegman.
The biochemist-turned-game-producer (and a National Institutes of Health grant she received in 2009) is the driving force behind the “Immune Defense,” a computer game which allows players to spot and buy white blood cells. Then, they see the functions that the cells perform. Stegman, who is from D.C., is working to add features, and grow the research she has gathered that shows the game works. Her company, called Molecular Jig Games, also has an Indiegogo campaign where you can play a sample version.
Dozens more producers are showing off their games all weekend, but for once the gamers won’t be confined indoors this weekend. In the courtyard outside the hall on Mt. Royal St., a video game music fest will be leveling up the proceedings. Known as Bit Gen, the fest runs from Friday through Sunday. Here’s the full Bit Gen schedule.

MAGFest brought along the arcade games. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Even more music is in store on the Charles Street bridge over Interstate 83.
That’s where a billboard owned by Shanklin Media will turn into a giant gaming canvas. On Friday night, the band Bit Brigade will provide the soundtrack as one of the members plays a video game for all to see on the billboard. Throughout the weekend, others will get a chance to play on the billboard, too.

Companies: Pure Bang Games / University of Baltimore
People: Ben Walsh
Projects: MAGFest / Gamescape

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