Sacred Heart Gaming Program and Students Earn Accolades

News Story: June 6, 2019

eSports team group photoeSports Club Team

Sacred Heart University’s gaming students earned accolades during the spring semester as they worked on games, attended conferences and participated in eSports competitions.

Sacred Heart has a robust game-design program for undergraduate and graduate students. It also has an eSports club team for any students who are interested in gaming. In late March, the eSports team participated in its first high-level intercollegiate competition—the HV Gamer Con in Albany, NY—and reached the quarterfinals. It defeated SUNY Canton but fell to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

While at the competition, team members donned jerseys provided by their new corporate sponsor, Mountain Dew Game Fuel. “Working with Mountain Dew Game Fuel has been an amazing experience, as they are fully supportive of the gamers’ efforts,” said Ray Mencio, club sports director.

Mencio said the eSports program has grown tremendously over the last couple of years and is now one of the top teams in the Eastern College Athletic Conference and the Collegiate Starleague gaming organization, with its League of Legends (a video game) team leading the way. 

Also in late March, Robert McCloud, associate professor of computer science, brought two junior game-design students to the Pax East Conference at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Faculty from Becker College invited McCloud to the conference and shared their booth so McCloud and the SHU students could showcase their new video game.

The game, called MissionKT, was developed in SHU’s motion capture laboratory. It’s about dinosaurs roaming the Earth and ends with a kataklysm (KT): an asteroid hitting Earth.

McCloud said the four-person game for children ages 9 to 12 is set to be released in June. It is geared toward baby-boomer grandparents and their grandchildren who live far away. “It’s a way for grandparents to relate to their grandkids,” McCloud said.

Feedback at the convention was positive, and some people who played the game suggested changes. For example, he said, the student-developers underestimated how much time players would want to spend exploring the dinosaur world. “People wanted to climb mountains and look around,” he said. MissionKT is now being prepared for its beta release at the end of June.  

Students majoring in game design not only work on a published game they can tout and show to future employers, they also graduate with a degree in computer science–a field with many job opportunities, McCloud said.

The game design program itself has earned accolades, as well. Princeton Review, a college rating and admissions services company, recently ranked SHU’s program as one of the best in the country. Sacred Heart placed 23rd on the published list for 2019 after responding to a 40-question survey with information about graduate academic offerings, faculty credentials and graduates’ starting salaries and employment experience. Other criteria Princeton Review weighed for its selections included SHU’s academics, facilities, career services and technology.

In addition, Animation Career Review recently ranked SHU among the top 25 game design schools and colleges on the East Coast. The online resource for people aspiring to careers in animation, game design, digital arts and more also ranked SHU as the top game design program in Connecticut. According to its website, Animation Career Review uses academic reputation, admission selectivity, depth and breadth of the program, value, geographic location and employment data to determine its rankings.

“In the game development program, we want to improve every year, and we look for ways to expand our program,” McCloud said. “The ranking is a testament to the dedication and innovation of the students and faculty members involved in the program.”