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Two Harrisburg University students will take a trip in March that will transport them to a world of game development experiences and networking opportunities.

HU has chosen Interactive Media majors Christina Diffenderfer, and Brandon Carl, to participate in a more than week-long two-part game development experience that will start in Chicago and end at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the largest video game conference in the world.

On March 15, Diffenderfer and Carl will board a train in Chicago. From there, they will take an approximately 52-hour ride to the conference in San Francisco. During the trip, they will participate in an event dubbed the Train Jam.

Game Jams, in general, are small game development sessions where developers of various skill levels and backgrounds form ad hoc groups and collaborate to create a game based on a specific criteria or theme.

What makes the Train Jam unique is that one, it will take place on a train. It also will take place on a train that will travel to the Game Developers Conference, where all Train Jam games are showcased.

HU is funding the trip, because it will teach the students new concepts and skills, give them insight into the newest trends, allow them to network with potential employers and it will provide unforgettable experiences that will instill an even stronger passion and dedication to pursue their dream careers, said HU Lecturer and Production Coordinator Anthony Ortega.

“HU students who have shown promise and discipline get an opportunity to attend an event that is nearly unreachable for students and independent game developers given its very high cost and time commitment,” Ortega said. “This is a great opportunity for our students to network with others in the game development community and collaborate outside of their comfort zone.”

The second leg of the trip, the Game Development Conference, is a week-long conference full of lectures, workshops, demos, and networking opportunities. The conference will provide the students with a snapshot of the industry today and a wealth of knowledge shared by professionals around the world, Ortega added.

“In addition to broadening their own understanding of the industry and providing context for what they’re learning, (Diffenderfer and Carl) are going to act as ambassadors to HU, helping to share what we are doing and how we can contribute to this industry,” he said. “This also opens up very important networking opportunities for our students, which can increase their chances of getting a job.”

When Diffenderfer and Carl return from the trip, they also can share their experiences with other Interactive Media students, which will help inspire them, Ortega said.

Diffenderfer, who aspires to be an artist in the video game industry, said she hopes to connect with a variety of professionals from the industry via the trip. Any connection could potentially help her land a job in her field, she said.

“I also hope to learn and experience a lot; whether it is how my favorite game studio makes their games, or whether it is to make an entertaining and working game with various other people (students, professionals in the industry, or professors of the craft of video games) during Train Jam,” Diffenderfer said. “I also want to obtain a job with this experience by interviewing with professionals at the conference and showing off my portfolio of art I have created over my years here at HU. The goal is to make the most out of this life-changing opportunity, and that is exactly what I intend to do!”

Carl also hopes to delve deeper into the world of game design at the conference and emerge with tools he can carry forward into his career.

“At GDC 2017, I hope to expand my knowledge of game design and development concepts that my experience, until now, has barely scratched the surface of,” he said. “In particular, I plan to attend conferences on topics ranging from: turning a failing game into a success, musical and compositional differences between composers, art direction for high-quality user interfaces, and how music can be used to direct players in a game. I’m sure I’ll run into plenty of interesting people and displays while I’m there.”

Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private non-profit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields to a diverse student body. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717.901.5146 or email,

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