From a kid’s perspective, the Woz is the real deal on virtual reality and games. Think Candyland for gamers. But it’s really about recruiting Northern Michigan’s young people with the skills to create world-class games and movies, inspiring them with what’s possible. And Michigan State University is Willy Wonka.

If you’re a parent of a gamer, or a teacher looking to guide young people into a successful creative career, The Woz is a must-see stop during the Traverse City Film Festival 2017.

I must admit I didn’t really get it when I first read about The Woz at the festival in 2016. After I quit trying to puzzle out what W- O- Z stood for, it sounded like a party room for gamers. Ok? But why was Michigan State there?

After 10 minutes at The Woz last year in Hotel Indigo’s just-opened conference area, I suddenly enthusiastically realized that game design might be a lucrative, plausible career for my then 13-year-old daughter who spent hours on MineCraft building whole cities, water coloring mermaids and writing stories about spaceship crash landings on alien worlds.

Michigan State University is the only college to combine computer development, storytelling, film and graphics into a single, organized degree program, all in one discipline: GameDev at Michigan State University. The Woz is the showcase of what MSU’s students and the program can do. And I can’t wait to see what the students have to show off this year.

Last year, Micheal Moore stopped by to try out the games. Not only are movies being translated into games rather normally, but games, like Assassin’s Creed, are being produced as blockbuster movies. At the sight of him playing in the virtual reality studio, it occurred to me that someday movies might be produced in virtual reality. As my daughter tried out the virtual reality studio, I watched her cavort with a blue whale, use virtual tools and learn how to draw in three dimensions.

We met current students, professors and graduates of the GameDev program at The Woz. We met a recent grad who was the CEO of the company producing and selling his school thesis—a game, of course.

We asked questions like, “How much math is required?” “What if your strength is writing?” and “What about art?” Not only is there hope for non-AP Calc types, there’s a large need for students with other talents. My daughter’s hobbies were skills in the world of The Woz. And MSU is actively recruiting girls into the program!

Is The Woz a playground? Yes. For parents, teachers and students, I’d call it required play. So go play and learn!

Check out The Woz 2017 at the Traverse City Film Festival

THE WOZ PARTY—free for everyone
Wednesday, July 26, 6 p.m.–9 p.m.
Hotel Indigo | 263 W. Grandview Parkway

Click the cover for your FREE insider’s guide to the festival!

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Photo(s) by Rachel North