Students Develop Games on Cross-Country Train Jam Trek

Train Jam trip photo

Three Eastern Kentucky University students took a cross-country train trip recently.

Not just any cross-country train trip, but a “life-changing opportunity.”

While on Amtrak’s scenic 52-hour California Zephyr route from Chicago to San Francisco, Mark Cahalan, Austin Areaux, and Daniel Marifjeren joined 27 other students from around the world and several dozen professional game developers for the 2015 Train Jam. When they weren’t marveling at Rocky Mountain scenery, they were busy designing and developing games. Once in the Golden Gate City, the students demonstrated their products at the five-day international Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, a premier event in the field.

The EKU students are part of the University’s Gaming Institute, a program within the Department of Computer Science preparing the next generation of game developers.

“These three students have all produced multiple games in their coursework and EKU-sponsored game jams. The Train Jam and conference gives them a unique opportunity to go through the same steps of design and development, but with a team of professional and amateur developers they have never met,” said Dr. George Landon, associate professor of computer science and director of EKU’s Gaming Institute. “Game development is a social process. Every time a developer can exercise his or her ability to work on a team and produce results they gain invaluable experience. This serves as a perfect way to demonstrate what they have learned at EKU and produce, all while continuing to learn from other members of the game development community.”

EKU is home to the Commonwealth’s first bachelor's degree program in game design. The Interactive Multimedia option within the baccalaureate degree in Computer Science develops students’ expertise in game design, 3-D modeling and animation, graphics programming, and multimedia systems. The Gaming Institute focuses on the design, development, and publication of video games within an academic context.

The three participating EKU students are all from central Kentucky: Cahalan from Georgetown, Areaux from Nicholasville, and Marifjeren from Richmond. But their involvement in the Train Jam and Game Developers Conference serves to raise the program’s national profile.

“It shows that students in our program can participate on the global stage,” Landon said. “It also helps put EKU on employers’ radars that are looking for new graduates who will produce innovative games. Prospective students can be assured that we are committed to giving our students every opportunity to succeed and will support them in life-changing opportunities like this.”

EKU covered the students’ costs.

For more information about EKU’s Gaming Institute, visit The University also offers a minor in Interactive Multimedia.

Published on March 02, 2015

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