IUPUI students and faculty debut virtual games and a new design major

logo PopCon   First Annual Popular Culture Convention- PopCon

    May 30-June 1, 2014

    Indiana Convention Center

 

Pop culture will take center stage when Indy PopCon is launched May 30 through June 1. The first-of-its-kind event is expected to attract 400 artists and exhibitors and 15,000 to 20,000 visitors to the Indiana Convention Center.

Among those on hand for the inaugural event will be the representatives from the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI, one of PopCon’s title sponsors, and the Herron School of Art and Design. Students, faculty and staff from both schools — along with casual fans from the campus community and their counterparts from across the state — will have an opportunity to greet celebrity guests, renowned comic artists and media personalities who will sign autographs, interact with fans and absorb life in the Hoosier capital.

The result is a comic and popular culture convention that is a springtime companion to the well-established summertime gaming convention, GenCon. PopCon has more than 300,000 square feet of space in the convention center for the event, and organizers plan to bring education to the forefront.

School of Informatics and Computing faculty and students plan to showcase the new augmented reality game “Return of Aetheria: War of the Realms,” the follow-up to “Return of Aetheria,” which was unveiled at GenCon in 2013.

Conventions “are a wonderful place for people to share their passions,” said Mathew Powers, a lecturer in media arts and design in the School of Informatics and Computing. “Our main goal is to get our school out there, help students show off the things they’ve done. PopCon is a great grassroots way to do that.”

For example, Powers noted, a new game called Windfall, developed as an informatics and computing capstone project by the husband-and-wife team of students Brendon and Kathryn Steele, will be represented to show an example of the potential influence on career-minded students.

Powers expects popular culture events to continue to grow. “People don’t realize just how much ‘geek’ is out there,” he said with a chuckle. “Fantasy, gaming, role-playing — it’s all popular now. It’s part of the way students learn. And PopCon especially is focused on those areas.”

The convention offers institutions of higher education the chance to recruit students to such fields as gaming programs and design, as well as the role of artistry and imagination to make online games come to life.

Herron representatives, for example, will help potential students learn more about the school’s new drawing and illustration major, as well as career opportunities. On Saturday, a panel discussion will feature alumni Joseph Crone and Lowell Isaac, along with Vance Farrow, sharing first-hand experiences and challenges facing those who want to break into businesses that rely on artists for success in fields closely tied to popular culture.

Farrow believes Herron’s new major is an example of how potential art students will use their imagination and abilities in a unique approach to both disciplines. He believes that approach will weave “the fine art concerns of drawing with the applied art methodologies of illustration.”

Herron dean Valerie Eickmeier believes the new program “will be a powerful blend of courses in a collaborative environment for anyone who wants to research and experiment where expressive arts, visualization and creative technologies merge.”

That intersection, she added, “will enhance our students’ skill sets for greater employment opportunities in a variety of fields represented at PopCon.”

-by Ric Burrous

For more information, visit PopCon’s event page here