Campus Life

Chillennium 2023 Draws Aspiring Game Designers From Across The Country For 48 Hours Of Fun

Students flocked to College Station to take part in a heart-pounding, fast-paced video game development competition hosted by Texas A&M’s School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts.
By Luke Henkhaus, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications February 28, 2023

Three college students work on developing a game at the Chillennium game jam.
Students from Texas A&M and other universities participate in Chillennium at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, on Feb. 24, 2023.

Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications


Armed with computers, drawing tablets, mattresses and plenty of snacks, more than 200 students from Aggieland and beyond camped out in Texas A&M’s Hildebrand Equine Complex over the weekend during the seventh annual Chillennium game jam.

Organized by A&M students with support from the School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts, the event gives budding video game designers a chance to flex their creativity and technical skill by creating unique, fully playable games within a period of just 48 hours.

From the silly and simple to the creepy and complex, teams raced against the clock to create projects with wildly different art styles, gameplay, music and sound — all providing their own unique take on this year’s February-appropriate theme, “We Share a Heart.”

The online submission page features titles such as “Red Cell Rush Hour,” “Telltale Hearts” and “HeartLink,” described by co-creator Wayne Page as “a story about two robots in a post-apocalyptic world, trying to find each other and get themselves out of an experimental maze.”

“One can jump and one can climb,” said Page, a digital media arts student from Prairie View A&M University who worked on the game’s graphics. “They use these two abilities to work together and make it out of the level.”

Chillennium’s longtime faculty adviser André Thomas said he’s happy to see student attendance continuing to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic put the event on a two-year hiatus. Since the triumphant return of Chillennium last spring, Thomas says the rebuilding process is well underway, with this year’s competition attracting around 230 students from 24 schools.

“We’ve almost doubled from last year because a lot of the students who came last year said, ‘Yes. We want to come again,’” Thomas said. “A great example is LSU. I think they had 12 or 15 students last year. They’re coming with three buses this year.”

Others came from as far as Pennsylvania and Illinois to enjoy a full weekend of hard work, camaraderie and networking. In addition to the student organizers and competitors, the event is attended by dozens of industry professionals — many of them former Texas A&M students — who serve as mentors and judges.

“I love to come back and support the next generation of leaders in technology and in games,” said Gracie Arenas Strittmatter, a two-time Texas A&M graduate in computer science and visualization. She serves as a director of technical operations for Electronic Arts in Austin, having previously worked on games such as the “Madden NFL” series and “Star Wars: The Old Republic.”

“This is always a great place to see a lot of the creative ideas coming out of students in the program and the community that’s being built around games in general,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see the momentum that has come behind game development and creation here at the university.”

Arenas Strittmatter said she was particularly excited to see the diversity on display at this year’s event — including a growing contingent of female programmers, artists and designers.

“There are so many things that contribute to the rich diversity of the games we see out there today,” she said. “It really does invigorate me that I’m seeing more women, more underrepresented talent being a part of the game development process and being so energized by it.”

That energy was on full display Sunday night at Chillennium’s closing ceremony, as participants laughed at inside jokes, discussed their collective need for a shower and a good night’s sleep, and broke into raucous applause for the creators of this year’s winning games.

The first place trophy was awarded to “Hearts on the Line,” a cooperative climbing game that can be played by one or two players. Second went to the survival horror experience “Pulse,” while a game in the style of hot potato — “Heart Potato” — took third.

Games also received awards for individual qualities such as programming, visuals and originality. The best sound trophy went to an all-Aggie team composed of mathematics sophomore Jenna Plute, computer science senior Arjun Kurkal and engineering sophomores Joseph and Alexander Nuccitelli for their tower defense game “Heart Heist.”

The date of next year’s Chillennium has already been set for March 1-3, 2024.

This article by Luke Henkhaus originally appeared on the School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts website.

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