New Mobile Game from UIC Markets University and Showcases Engineering Courses

Professor Leigh & student Bolt in front of EVL’s tiled display wall showing images from “Hoops of Fire.” - Lance Long, EVL


Maxine D. Brown, Associate Director, Electronic Visualization Laboratory
University of Illinois at Chicago
1.312.996.3002 -

Kevin Tynan, Executive Director Marketing
University of Illinois at Chicago
312.413.7633 - 312.659.6884 -

June 7, 2012

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) may be the first university in the country to use a video game as a branding tool for showcasing its campus and academic curricula.

“Hoops of Fire”, developed as an independent project by student Derek Bolt under the guidance of Computer Science professor Jason Leigh, invites players to assume the character of Sparky D. Dragon, the UIC mascot to sink basketballs at locations throughout Chicago.

Starting with a basketball hoop on a quiet street, gamers maneuver past pedestrians on busy streets, cars on the Dan Ryan expressway, “L” trains rumbling above ground and boats plowing Lake Michigan. Baskets are tabulated; each scene represents a higher levels of difficulty.

Last year Bolt took the course “Video Game Design and Development” from Leigh, who is also director of UIC’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), College of Engineering. Conceived by the marketing office to showcase the university, Pat Bradley produced the artwork and Chris Bradley created the music.

“We wanted to expand our reach and increase UIC’s ‘hip factor’ among the teen set,” said Executive Director for Marketing Kevin Tynan, “Our own video game is a great way to do that.”

Jason Leigh, a nationally renowned expert in game development, says there are real advantages to taking game-building classes. “Students often think that in order to be a bonafide game developer you need to be a big company. Independent game companies are now big business too, as Angry Birds has demonstrated. When students develop games while they are still in school, they not only get a chance to ‘be their own company’ but also build up their portfolio so that they are more hirable - in essence, doubling their odds of success. Derek is a perfect example of that success.”

Bolt graduated in December 2011 and has a full-time job developing interactive kiosks with a local marketing firm utilizing skills learned in the video game class.

In addition to underscoring the world-class resources at UIC’s doorstep, the game also promotes the Flames, UIC’s athletics teams.

Leigh was excited to play the most recent release. His main criticism? “Bolt’s a tough grader,” he said. “I scored a 94 and the game assigned me a ‘B’ grade!” After a few more tries, Leigh scored 102 and finally got his “A”.

Leigh has eyes on establishing EVL Game Studios, a department to promote gaming concepts using emerging technologies invented at UIC. “EVL Game Studios could provide students with a valuable understanding of the real-world constraints that game companies operate in, while helping game companies think ‘outside of the box’ when designing products.”

“Hoops of Fire” is available for iPhone and Android and may be downloaded free of charge.

About UIC “Video Game Design and Development” Course
Rated by Princeton Review and GamePro magazine in 2010 as one of the top 50 programs in North America, UIC’s “Video Game Design and Development” course teaches game design in a unique setting. It is taught both at UIC and remotely at Louisiana State University (LSU) using high-definition video tele-conferencing over high-speed networks between Chicago and Baton Rouge. It is interdisciplinary, attracting students from a variety of university departments, such as computer science, art, music, and the social sciences, to name a few. The students are organized into decidedly distributed teams, and each team has to design and develop a video game as its class project. And, students must use advanced visualization technologies as the platform for game development. Programming is important, but so are all the skills that go into developing multimedia games to make them creative, compelling and challenging, within the timeframe of a semester, in distributed team environments. On the last day of class, students demonstrate their video games, which are judged by faculty, students, and local video game company representatives - yet more incentive for students to complete their projects on time. Prizes are given and a pizza party for all follows. More Information


Date: June 7, 2012

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