George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

The Mason Game and Technology Academy/Envision Experience

May 17, 2017

Conner and Lisa - Mason Game Design students

Conner Stern and Lisa Chour

Game Design Seniors Lisa Chour and Conner Stern have a wonderful story to tell future MGTA students. Both Conner and Lisa began their journey by taking the MGTA's summer program, which inspired them to enter the Mason Computer Game Design Program. Now, as graduating seniors, they are both teaching for MGTA, to inspire and mentor future Game Design majors. 

Conner will be helping Professor Sang Nam teach the Mobile and Augmented Reality course this summer, and Lisa will be helping Professor Eric Piccione teach the Art & Animation course. Additionally, both of them are currently working at the Virginia Serious Game Institute, on Applied Research, helping to develop a game training solution for the State Department. Diplomatic Security Service (DL), High Threat Operations Branch to help prevent the next Benghazi attack.

Conner Stern

“I have always wanted to be a game designer. I remember once in the 7th grade one of my friends tried to discourage me, saying:

‘Everybody wants to be a game designer. There’s so much competition that you’ll never be hired.’

My response: ‘They hire the best option, so I’ll make myself the best option.’ 

To that end, I have always sought to build my skills. By the time I graduated high school, I had taught myself how to use 3D software using YouTube tutorials and online forums. However, these could only take me so far. The biggest challenge in teaching yourself anything is knowing what you have yet to learn. This is where Masons Game Design’s summer program became a necessity for me. 

Mason’s summer program put me in the classroom of my future college professors, to learn the fundamentals of game design. I started in classes intended for ultimate beginners in order to flesh out the foundation I had already built. By the end of the summer, I was in advanced level courses that let me take my ideas from paper to finished game character, using the entirety of the game development pipeline. I thank Mason Game Design’s effective, organized teaching for the speed at which my skills grew that summer.

Mason Game Design’s summer program also connected me to Teachers, Teacher’s Assistants and fellow students that would become my Professors and classmates in the George Mason University Game Design program, to which I had just been accepted. Walking into class on the first day of Freshman year to a Professor that already knew me was calming, and set me up for success.

Mason Game Design’s summer program helped me grow my skills and gave me the connections I needed to kick start my college career. Without it, I wouldn’t have been as comfortable with my skillset going into college, or been able to make complete games as early as I did. “

Lisa Chour

“The MGTA Art and Animation classes introduced to me a newfound passion for 3D modeling and animating. After taking both classes, I knew I wanted to switch my focus from traditional studio arts to creating video game art. I was completely amazed by being able to breathe life into my art. 

The excitement led me to enroll into George Mason University’s Game Design program, where I learned about the many different aspects of game design. Honestly, I probably would have been overwhelmed by the immense amount of knowledge and skills needed in order to create video games, but the head start from taking MGTA classes prior to my enrollment really helped. Because of the Art and Animation classes, I was quickly able to impress Professor Piccione, my animation instructor which encouraged him to accept me as a student for independent studies.

Determined to give back to the program that helped me set up the path to my future, I took advanced game design courses early in order to have the skillset needed to become a Teacher Aide for the MGTA program. To my delight, Vera hired me the summer of my sophomore year. 

It was such an honor to get to work with the very professor who taught me 3D animation during my time as a MGTA student. With Professor Grimsby’s guidance, I was able to help lead and inspire the future of game design. Aside from helping the students, the students also helped me! By helping them through different problems, I was able to experience a variety of methods for approaching the animation process. Even though I had experienced the program once before, I was once again amazed by MGTA. Watching the students progress so rapidly made me proud to be a part of their success, and it ignited a second passion for teaching. I immediately approached Vera to ask for the chance to continue working with MGTA in order to hone experience to become a future Art and Animation professor. Now MGTA is providing me with the opportunity to improve my skills as an artist and as an educator, I could never express how grateful I am to this program.

Being able to improve my skills at a quick rate and work closely with my professors has really paid off! I am now working as an environment artist under the supervision of Professor Piccione for the State Department. Project Viper is a simulation game being produced at the Virginia Serious Game Institute where we create U.S. Embassies from around the world with dangerous scenarios for the DOS to run through. The game is being produced by a team of GMU Game Design students, many of which have experience with the MGTA program. Because of all of the amazing opportunities that the GMU Game Design program provides with MGTA and VSGI, the DOS will be able to protect many lives with the help of our game!”

By Vera Lichtenberg, Director, Mason Game & Technology Academy

Schools & Programs