RIT logo


Mobile Navigation Menu
New York State Game Dev Challenge

Ben Chang, Associate Professor, Electronic Arts; Program Director, Games and Simulation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

ben_changBen Chang is an electronic artist and designer who creates virtual reality environments, interactive installations, and  digital games.  Combining a background in fine art and computer science, his work explores the chaotic, human qualities in technological systems.  Ben’s projects include virtual reality soundscapes, furniture mutations, shy security cameras, antique telegraphs, and philosophical video games.

His solo and collaborative installations, performances, and immersive virtual reality environments have been exhibited in numerous venues and festivals worldwide, including Boston CyberArts, SIGGRAPH, the FILE International Electronic Language Festival in Sao Paulo, the Athens MediaTerra Festival, the Wired NextFest, and the Vancouver New Forms Festival, among others.  He has designed interactive exhibits for museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Field Museum of Natural History.

His current research includes games and virtual reality applications for learning in disciplines including health care, aeronautical engineering, and Mandarin Chinese. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of the Arts and Director of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

Elena Fedina, Research Manager, Analytics at SuperData Research, Inc.

Elena is a games industry expert with several years of experience. Previously, she worked at the leading game platform Mail.Ru Games in Russia. There she was the Senior Localization QA on company’s top free-to-play projects such as Warface, ArcheAge and Lord of the Rings Online. At SuperData Elena built and expanded company’s console and PC products. She currently leads SuperData’s data analytics team. Elena holds a masters degree in math from Moscow State University and a game design degree from the New York Film Academy.

Bob Jeffery, Lead Animator at Sanzaru Games

Bob Jeffery is a video games industry professional with over 20 years experience creating art and animation for entertainment studios such as Activision, Sony, EA, and Nintendo. He was most recently Lead Artist at Rochester-based Second Avenue Learning, and is currently enjoying his role as Lead Animator at Sanzaru Games. Bob earned a B.F.A. in Computer Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design.


Keith McCullough, COO and co-owner at Workinman

KeithMcCulloughKeith McCullough is co-owner of Workinman, a Rochester-based game studio that recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. An alumni of the New Media program at RIT, Keith has evolved from developer to game designer and reluctant manager. He’s been playing, making, and generally obsessing over video games as long as he can remember.

Dylan McKenzie, NYU Game Center Incubator Director

Dylan McKenzie is a game developer, teacher, and community organizer living in New York City. He is the Incubator Director and Program Coordinator of the NYU Game Center. His work has been shown at important institutions ranging from the Smithsonian American Art Museum to the Brooklyn Brewery. Dylan is most interested in games’ capabilities of expression, entertainment, and self-discovery.

David Nathanielsz, General Manager at Velan Studios

DavidNDavid Nathanielsz is the Studio General Manager at Velan Studios. He has over 20 years of game development experience as a Producer, Designer and Writer. David spent much of his career at Vicarious Visions, part of Activision Blizzard, and was the Executive Producer on over 25 different titles, including Skylanders: SWAP Force and Skylanders SuperChargers, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Guitar Hero: On Tour, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and many more. Prior to his time at Activision, David was the Sr. Producer on Sid Meier’s Pirates and a key content creator for Jellyvision’s hit PC series, You Don’t Know Jack. David has a BA from Tufts University and an MBA from Harvard University.

Valentina Peric, Software Developer at ITX Corp.

Valentina Peric is a software developer based in Rochester, New York. She is also a co-chapter leader of Rochester’s chapter of Girl Develop It. This non-profit organization provides affordable, judgement-free classes for women in software and web development. She exhibits a passion for learning so you can almost always find her at a coffee shop furthering her skills in software development or at a tech event.

Andy Phelps, Director and Founder, RIT MAGIC Center and MAGIC Spell Studios


Andrew “Andy” Phelps is an educator, digital artist, and technologist with over 17 years’ experience. He currently serves as the founder and director of the RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity (MAGIC), and holds the rank of Professor in the School of Interactive Games & Media that he founded in 2011. His work in games education, digital media, and interactive software has been published in numerous articles, journals and periodicals, as well as by the popular press (CNN, USA Today, NPR, The NY Times, etc.)

Beginning in 2001, he offered the first course in ‘game programming’ available at the Rochester Institute of Technology. That course quickly grew into a concentration of courses available to students in Computer Science, Information Technology, and Software Engineering. From there, he led a multi-disciplinary faculty team to design and establish a Masters in Game Design & Development in 2006 as well as a Bachelors of the same name in 2007. He then created the Department of Interactive Games & Media in 2009 which became a School in 2011.

Phelps served as founding Chair/Director of the Department/School until early 2013. Under his administration, the Bachelors and Masters degrees grew to serve a student body of over 700 and were each ranked #4 in the country by the Princeton Review. Alumni of the program he created have worked throughout the industry, and have had a profound impact on the field. Furthermore, he established the operational practices and team culture that have enabled the success of the students, faculty, and staff in IGM to the present day.

In addition to his work in academic administration, Phelps is an accomplished scholar in the field of digital media. He has authored over 30 papers and journal publications, delivered over 50 professional presentations, and has served on a number of grants and funded projects in collaboration with the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the Library of Congress, Microsoft Research and others. His scholarly work has led him around the globe through his presentations and collaborations with academia and industry.

As an educator, his work in studio model interactive teaching has directly prepared students for careers in everything from game development to work with government agencies on simulation and education, from digital media and production to (literally) rocket science. Alumni that graduated both from his classes and from the academic programs he designed gather annually at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, but can be found around the globe pursuing a wide variety of careers in numerous fields.

In February of 2013, Professor Phelps was appointed by RIT President William Destler to establish a new university wide Research Center of Excellence exploring Media, Arts, Games, Interaction & Creativity (MAGIC). Phelps spearheads this new effort and in this role reports directly to the Vice President and Associate Provost for Research.

Tobi Saulnier, CEO and Founder at 1st Playable

tobi-saulnierTobi Saulnier, PhD, is the founder and CEO of 1st Playable Productions LLC, a game development studio whose mission is to make games that will entertain, educate, and leave a positive lasting impression on its users in the community.  Saulnier and her organization’s work serves the community through initiatives such as the annual Games in Education Symposium, serving more than 1,000 educators for a little under a decade.

Shannon Symonds, Curator for the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at The Strong National Museum of Play

Shannon Symonds is Curator for the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at The Strong National Museum of Play, where she collects, preserves, and interprets more than 60,000 artifacts related to gaming history. She has a master’s degree in history from the State University of New York College at Brockport, with a concentration on Japanese studies. She’s currently spearheading The Strong’s Women in Games initiative, which explores the contributions of women to the video gaming industry.

Kristana Textor, Founder at Video. Art. Games

Kristana is a doctoral student at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and the founder of Games for Curious Scholars. Her work focuses on learning, identity, and engagement in video games and interactive media. She is committed to developing scholarship and community around emergent tech in the Rochester area.