Amid the dinosaur bones, rocks and bug-filled terrariums at the Lafayette Science Museum, visitors soon will have a chance to try out what might be the next “Minecraft” or “Call of Duty.”
The museum’s new “Gamers Sandbox” video game exhibit will be unveiled at Saturday’s ArtWalk in downtown Lafayette. The exhibit features high-end gaming stations where players can sample digital adventures developed by students from the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, a technical school for video game design, animation and visual effects with a campus in Lafayette.
“All this is student’s work. This is stuff most people would not have come across,” Lafayette Science Museum Administrator Kevin Krantz said.
The exhibit will open on Saturday with three gaming stations, each with a crisp digital display, a standard gaming controller and a special speaker, called an emitter, that offers a rich audio experience for gamers standing directly in front the console while not bothering everyone else at the museum.
“The sound is really focused, and it’s pretty amazing,” Krantz said.
He said three more gaming stations will be added by May, and all six will feature a fluid menu of games crafted by AIE students, including multiplayer options so gamers can face off against each other at the museum.
“Our plan is to keep rotating the games, keeping them fresh and keeping them different,” said Tony Depa, spokesman for AIE’s Lafayette campus.
AIE was founded in Australia in 1996 and has two campuses in the U.S., one in Seattle, Washington, and the other in Lafayette at the LITE Center in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park.
The Lafayette campus launched in 2012 and now has 45 students, Depa said.
Depa said the first batch of games to be featured at the science museum was developed by more experienced graduates from other AIE campuses.
“Our guys have playable games, but not at this level,” Depa said of the Lafayette students.
He said the games on display at the science museum are still in the beta testing phase — fairly polished but still being tweaked for eventual release.
“That’s obviously the goal with any game: to get it published,” Depa said.
The museum’s partnership with AIE is one of several collaborations to grow out of an initiative to tap local connections in the world of science and technology.
Much of the museum is now filled with rocks, fossils and life-size dinosaur models for an exhibit created in partnership with UL-Lafayette’s School of Geosciences, and visitors to the museum can spy on graduate students processing fossils in an on-site lab behind a large glass wall.
The museum also features work by students from UL-Lafayette’s School of Architecture and Design and a “virtual aquarium” filled with digital fish designed by staff at the LITE Center, a state research facility here specializing in 3-D visualization.
It’s a shift in focus for a museum that in years past had been marked mainly by large traveling exhibits.
“This is all stuff that reflects our area instead of somebody else’s,” Krantz said. “It’s science going on locally that people don’t know about.”
Saturday’s ArtWalk in downtown Lafayette runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
AIE staff and students will be at the museum from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.