NYFA Game Design
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  • Game Design Students Venture to New York Film Academy Alum’s Escape Hotel in Hollywood

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    Last week, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Director of Media Lab Matthew Sheehan took a group of NYFA Game Design postgraduate students out for a heck of a final: the one hour to escape challenge from Slaughterhouse at the Escape Hotel in Hollywood. The stakes: solve the puzzle or pay the ultimate price — no, not a failing grade, just the pain of defeat.

    For the uninitiated, an escape room is a little bit theater, a little bit puzzle, and a whole lot adventure. Groups of anywhere between two to eight, whether coworkers, families, friends, or even couples, are placed into a themed room filled with puzzles and surprises, and have one hour to solve the clues to find their way out.  Escape rooms are amazing fun and they are all over the place, but nobody is doing them like the Escape Hotel in Hollywood.

    Photo courtesy of Cassie Hunter (NYFA).

    A soon as you enter the Escape Hotel in Hollywood, you know you are about to go on an adventure. Going into the hotel is like stepping into a story line. The lighting, the sound, and the costumed employees of the hotel all set the stage.

    When the NYFA group talked over the choice of which of the rooms we could go through with a macabre bellhop, MFA student Fabio Ribak’s face lit up when we were told, “You start the Slaughterhouse room blindfolded and handcuffed to the floor.” Challenge accepted!

    In the end, we did not make it out. But it was okay, as the room was so much fun. The teamwork, the panic, and the discoveries were worth every second of it. These rooms are more than padlocks and puzzles; they are stories, little movies, games come to life, with you in the center. For a group of students who had recently completed story-focused visual and performing arts training, it was the perfect evening.

    Photo courtesy of Cassie Hunter (NYFA).

    Escape Hotel co-creator Ivan Leon sat down with us afterward. Ivan is also a NYFA alum, who after completing his education went to work starting the Escape Hotel with some of his classmates.

    “It’s what’s next,” he told us. “It’s combining every form of media arts, theater, and games, in a way no one else is doing, and we wanted to make a big commitment, to be on top.”

    If you want to see it, you will have to come up to the Escape Hotel in Hollywood and put your blindfold on. If you want to make friends with the next Ivan Leon, you should come over to the New York Film Academy.

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  • New York Film Academy Narrative Theory Students Explore IMAX VR Centre

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    The Narrative Theory Course is a part of the New York Film Academy’s Game Design curriculum. The class focuses on storytelling methods in gaming. Virtual Reality (VR) provides an entirely new way of looking at how to tell stories. Without the control limits of a two-dimensional screen the ability to direct a player’s eye-line is no longer an option. A whole new set of rules has to be developed. This new frontier of technology brought NYFA students to the IMAX VR Centre in Hollywood, CA.

    For many students, this was their first experience with VR. “I had a really great time at the VR Center,” said student Kamen Marinov. “The moment I put those Oculus ‘goggles’ on my head I felt this strange feeling — that I was inside someone else. It was like I was seeing through another person’s eyes. It felt odd at first, but when I got used to the visuals and the game mechanics I had an amazing experience.”

    Students were able to experience a ton of games that are new to the market. The new “Justice League” game based on the Warner Brother’s film allows players to drive the Batmobile or take out Steppenwolf’s lackeys with Cyborg’s arm cannon. This is just one of the many games currently on display. Set up in an arcade style, students can could jump into several cinematic worlds including “John Wick,” “The Mummy,” “Deadwood,” and the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises.

    Some students choose to play two first-person shooters “Raw Data” and “John Wick.” Jeffery Lay found the experience both taxing and informative: “In ‘John Wick,’ I was hiding behind a bar, watching my six, as enemies come from everywhere. A big vase covering an area of my view-making forced me to me lean around it, or jump to shoot over it, even though in reality, nothing is there.” 

    “VR had a lot more movement than I expected,” said Lay. “I probably changed between standing and crouching about 50 to 100 times in a row.” 

    Nathan Hales wasn’t just having fun. He learned a lot. “The level of immersion offered by virtual reality is really something that one cannot explain but must be experienced,” said Hales. “I felt like I was living within these virtual spaces. I was cutting down robots in ‘Raw Data,’ instead of the usual extra degree of separation offered from a traditional TV or computer monitor setup. Moving forward with the knowledge I gained from experiencing the capabilities and limitations of virtual reality, I can now envision games for the medium.”

    This is important because VR is a hot commodity in the entertainment industry. Since Nonny de la Pena’s VR project in immersive journalism entitled “Hunger in Los Angeles” premiered at Sundance 2012, there’s been a lot of buzz around the future of VR, yet there were many unanswered questions about the possibilities the new technology held at the time. Facebook set a new precedent when it acquired Oculus Rift in 2014. Since then, we’ve seen the development of both VR recording technologies and creative endeavors rapidly accelerate.

    Overall, the day was a rousing success. The New York Film Academy would like to thank IMAX VR for giving our students an opportunity to glimpse the future of gaming.

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