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March 12, 2018

Spartans take on South by Southwest conferences and festivals

Michigan State University students and faculty are among the talent featured in South by Southwest, or SXSW, a series of conferences and festivals in Austin, Texas, that celebrates the merging of the interactive, film and music industries. 

The College of Communication Arts and Sciences’ Games for Entertainment and Learning, or GEL, Lab’s award-winning game, Plunder Panic, was chosen among hundreds of submissions to compete in the SXSW Gaming Pitch Competition. The game has advanced alongside eight other games for the opportunity to win “Best Pitch” at the gaming award show. 

The game allows players to compete for supremacy on the high seas and is a 12-person multiplayer arcade game. It debuted at the Traverse City Film Festival in July and in October won the Audience Choice Award at IndieCade, the world’s largest festival of independent games.

March 15-17, the SXSW Gaming Expo will take place in Austin, and will feature exhibitions, showcases, tournaments and a variety of special event activities. GEL Lab director and co-lead designer Brian Winn, co-lead designer and producer William Jeffery and development team members Alex Klingel and Darlene Sobus will be representing Plunder Panic at this event. 

“Beyond making a great game, we want to show how great our game design program is at MSU,” Jeffery said. “We’ve been top ten in the nation for a long time and being at this competition is a big deal.”

At the same time, “Relaxer,” a film by Joel Potrykus, assistant instructor of media and information and independent filmmaker, had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival March 9. This marks three consecutive SXSW appearances for Potrykus. 

Potrykus said he aims to create a film every other summer and teach during the school year, bringing his experiences back to the classroom at MSU to share his lessons learned.  

“I want to show the students that you don’t have to go to L.A. or Hollywood to make a feature film,” he said. “You can stay in Michigan and make movies that are relevant to the outside world,” said Potrykus. I want to change the way people see filmmaking. That’s my goal.”

The SXSW Film Festival is in its 25th year and will host nine days of screenings March 9–17.

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