UT Austin turns historic tower into play screen

AUSTIN, Texas — Marin Clark smiled from ear to ear at the University of Texas at Austin Tower.

The junior, majoring in arts and entertainment technologies, got lost in conversation with a fellow student when the pair were approached by someone with a clipboard.

“Do you want to play?” the student asked Clark, referring to the video game currently being projected onto the historic tower on the Main Mall.

After some thought, she agreed. But not before her friend revealed something few students knew about.

“How many of these games have you developed?” a student asked Clark.

What you need to know

  • UT Austin students gathered on November 3 to play video games on the university tower for the first time in school history
  • Marin Clark did the art and animation for the game Tower Tumbles
  • The School of Design and Creative Technologies hopes to provide more immersive experiences following the success of the event, Ready Tower One

“Only this one,” she replied, still smiling. “It’s great to hear people enjoy something I contributed to. That is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of any creative process. It is seeing people enjoy what you have made.”

Students gather at the UT Tower to play Tower Tumbles.

Students gather at the UT Tower to play Tower Tumbles. (Spectrum News 1/Agustin Garfias)

Clark did the art and animation for the game ‘Tower Tumbles’, one of two games projected onto the UT Tower on November 3rd for an event called Ready Tower One. The date is significant to the UT School of Design and Creative Technologies because it marks the first time projection mapping has been used to turn the tower into a video game screen.

“What we teach students is an immersive experience because when you think about where the world is going — web3, metaverse — this is what it is.” Doreen Lorenzo, assistant dean of the School of Design and Creative Technologies, said.

Clark teamed up with Michael Baker, chairman of the Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies, and assistant professor Andrew Augustin to create the game.

“I learned a lot of my stuff through the internet, and I think it’s important to have tutors with the experience I have to guide these future aspiring artists and creatives to give them the tools they need to be successful to be,” said Augustin.

The university contacted the group about projecting images onto the tower for an event. With extra time, the AET department asked the administration to project its own idea onto the tower, leading to the Ready Tower One event.

“Something that was a bit of a challenge was the augmented reality aspects, making sure the geometry perfectly matches the tower itself,” said Clark. “In the end, we brought in a reference for the tower’s architecture and then leveled it up to make it feel more cohesive.”

Some troubleshooting was required before gaming began, but the event was a hit with dozens of students lining up to play or watch.

Clark said she found her identity through modern storytelling in video games when she was in high school and hopes to provide similar experiences for others throughout her career.

“I think it would be really great to be in the position where I can create a project that inspires people,” Clark said.

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