At the School of Drama, the theatrics don’t end on the stage. While our students seek to incorporate cutting edge technology into live performances, they also create such technology that can be used in numerous applications, such as gaming.

At the 20th Annual Independent Games Festival awards ceremony at the alt.ctrl.GDC conference in San Francisco, a prototype that began in an experimental game design class at CMU last fall, Too Many Captains and Not Enough Wire was announced as a finalist for the overall alt.ctrl.GDC award.

Second-year Video and Media Design MFA student Giada Sun is one of the masterminds behind “Too Many Captains,” a game that invites players to immerse themselves in a high-stress, highly-collaborative science-fiction adventure involving a lot of novel and unconventional gameplay, including a custom hardware controller.

Sun and his partner, Avi Romanoff, an undergraduate majoring in Cognitive Science and Human-Computer Interaction, used their backgrounds in Drama and Human-Computer Interaction respectively to storyboard, create personas, and perform extensive user and usability testing.

In December, Sun and Romanoff learned that “Too Many Captains” had been accepted to alt.ctrl.GDC, a showcase of alternative control schemes and interactions in games—a part of the larger annual Game Developers Conference. This lead them to seek funding from various CMU resources including the CS+X Fund for Creative Collaborations (endowed by Alfred Z. Spector and Rhonda G. Kost), Carnegie Mellon University Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier, and Carnegie Mellon Undergraduate Research Office Presentation Award.

The funding allowed them to engage sound designer, Yiran Zhang, an MFA candidate in Sound Design at School of Drama, and with Caroline Hermans (BXA in ECE and Art, class of 2018), who helped with interaction design and acted in a promotional video for the project.

The team was one of five finalists chosen out of 24 projects/teams that were accepted to participate in the showcase held March 21-23. The 24 project teams hailed from all over the world, including France, Sweden, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, and China.

“As a theatrical designer, I think this experience really encouraged me to explore more possibilities within design,” said Sun. “We should not limit ourselves in theater and should consider that we can use what we learn at the School of Drama in other fields. My theater education is really important to me because it gives me confidence in myself and because I’m learning to cooperate and communicate with different people to make amazing works.”