Webster University student develops new video game design club

Webster University sophomore video production major Jacob Kelleher plays “Super Mario Bros. 3” on the Nintendo Wii during the Webster Video Game Club’s “Throwback Game Night” on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at the East Academic Building. Sophomore Evan Luberda said several members of the Video Game Club plan on joining Webster’s new video game design club. PHOTO BY SAM MASTERSON.

Evan Luberda believes he can bring all Webster University students together for a business experience unlike any other. It all starts with a new video game design club.

Webster’s supply of video gamers gather biweekly for the Video Game Club (VGC). Luberda is a second-year officer of VGC, but he wants to make something bigger by developing a new and separate video game design club.

“I want to bring all of Webster together,” said Luberda, sophomore interactive digital media major. “The thing is, with game design, you can name any major here and I can guarantee that they are in some way, shape or form included in my club.”

Luberda said he is first in need of marketing students to come up with not only a plan to advertise his design club, but also to think of a name. Then, Luberda plans to make the video game design club a fully funded Webster organization by the fall of 2013.

This won’t be the first time a video game design club has appeared at Webster. From 2007-2009, a video game design club was present at the university, but it disbanded due to a lack of student support. Luberda’s new design club will be advised by the same man who was president of Webster’s first video game design club.

Ben Triola, 2009 Webster graduate and adjunct professor, headed the video game design club from ‘07-’09. At that time, the best of the group’s technology allowed members to create playable games for the Game Boy Advance. Triola is now director of operations at Rampant Creative Group, a St. Louis-based organization that designs websites as well as applications and games for the iPhone and Android.

Triola said Luberda’s plans for the new video game design club exceed anything he could have imagined.

“So much has changed in the past five or six years with smartphones and mobile apps,” Triola said. “The club now is going to be a lot more focused, and hopefully I can bring some of that focus to the club.”

Triola teaches the History of Video Games at Webster, and Luberda is one of his students. When Luberda asked Triola to advise the new video game design club, Triola said he took on the responsibility without hesitation.

“This role is a natural fit for me,” Triola said. “One thing that is really important for me is that I want to be known for supporting other game developers, especially new ones.”

Triola said he believes his best asset to the new club will be his guidance in creating video games.

Both Triola and Luberda said part of the inspiration for the club stemmed from a worldwide video game event called Global Game Jam, an annual competition where teams in cities around the world create their own video game within a 48-hour period.

Luberda participated in the St. Louis Game Jam from Jan. 25-27 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He was drafted as the team’s lead programmer. Joseph Strong, president of VGC and officer of the new video game design club, was the team’s lead designer.

Luberda and Strong said the biggest lesson they took away from the event is to show — contrary to popular belief — how easy it can be to make a video game.

“Right now, literally, if you had 15 minutes, I could run you over to Sverdrup 202 and I could show you how to make a quick game,” Luberda said. “Some people think game design and say, ‘Oh, no, how am I going to make the next (‘Call of Duty:) Modern Warfare 4’?’ But that’s not what we’re going to do.”

Strong sees video game design as the next big event for students to show off their creativity, relating very much to the 48-hour film festival.

“No one expects you to run out and make the next Michael Bay action, where everything blows up every 20 seconds,” said Strong, junior interactive digital media major. “We’re cool with indie films, but people are just starting to get the idea of indie gaming. That is what we are trying to bring to it.”

Triola said his Webster video game design club had a core of eight members who showed up to each meeting in 2007. Luberda said he has 20 students who would be at each weekly meeting for the new video game design club. With those numbers, Triola thinks the club can become a professional business.

“If (Luberda) actually pulls that off and gets people involved, it can make it more like an actual game studio,” Triola said. “You have to have someone in charge of marketing and someone that understands the business side.”

Luberda said he has the basics in place for a video game design studio. He believes pulling together the Webster VGC, anime and design clubs with his new video game design club is a step that should have happened a long time ago.

“My club is literally the median between the players and the creators,” Luberda said. “I literally am that bridge that finally should be able to get two clubs that should work together, together.”

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