Team Member Profile: Josh (AccessComputing News January 2017)


I am currently enrolled at the University of Rochester working towards my bachelor of science in computer science. This summer, I participated in a DREU (Distributed Research Experience for Undergraduates) internship at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). For my project, I created video game prototypes that could be live streamed online, in platforms like Twitch. Viewers could not only watch the game, but also interact and play along. The goal of my research was to determine the level of agency a viewer felt they had in different gaming aspects. My main goal was to create these different game environments for viewers and players to have a brand new experience in gaming at the same time.

I found out about the internship through an email that was sent to the AccessComputing team list, and AccessComputing connected me with my summer mentor, Jeff Bigham. I had an amazing time with my overall experience. I was allowed to pick my project and really choose the way I wanted to go. Jeff helped and guided me as needed and put me in contact with many other helpful assistants along the way. All the REU students at CMU met weekly to learn about Master and PhD programs, which really helped me think about what I wanted to do in the future. Finally, along with the great learning experience, I made great friends that will last a lifetime.

My project started out just as a simple experiment to see if gaming could involve both the player and viewer in a single game. I used Twitch Plays, which allows viewers to play along with a computer. I thought it would be fun to try this out, but with a live player instead of the computer. We first created a simple timed maze that involved interactions of players and viewers.

We then raised it to a higher level and had a player play against artificial intelligence (AI) in a racer and shooter game mode while the viewers could be helpers, hurters, both, or gods. We inspected how the different modes in each game made the viewers feel and we made note of the results.

I learned so many new skills during my internship. I learned C++ and Lua in more depth. I created single level gaming prototypes that I hope will become the future of gaming. I worked on Lumberyard, a new gaming engine owned by Amazon. They worked with me throughout the summer—it was a great experience and opportunity to network.

I had a great experience working at Carnegie Mellon in the DREU. This internship has taught me many skills for many career options. It is something I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend for anyone interested in higher education or just trying to find out what is best for them.