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George Vlahakis
University Communications

Spencer Stuart/Spencer Striker

Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009

Student-produced is a Webby Honoree for second straight year

May 14, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. --, a popular Indiana University student-run, original game video series that distributes its offerings online through its Web site and other popular sites, has been selected as a Webby Awards Honoree for the second straight year.

Webby Awards

Hailed as the "Oscars of the Internet" by the New York Times, the Webby Awards honor excellence on the Internet, including Web sites, interactive advertising, online film and video and mobile Web sites. The awards are judged by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.

Fewer than 15 percent received this honor and were deemed Official Honorees. Some of the students have been invited to attend the 13th annual Webby Awards Gala in New York on June 8.

IU graduate student Spencer Stuart -- known as Spencer Striker to many visitors to and elsewhere online -- created the student-run multimedia project less than three years ago. It has provided hands-on experience in production and Web development to more than 125 other IU students.

Game Zombie

The crew

Print-Quality Photo

While most students are in IU's Department of Telecommunications, the Web 2.0 project also involves others from the Kelley School of Business and the IU schools of Fine Arts and Informatics. Production facilities are located within the Telecommunications Department, which is part of IU's College of Arts and Sciences.

"What's very exciting is that in the business of Web video, we're extremely competitive," said Striker, who previously is from Austin, Texas. "We're seeing professional organizations that obviously have no affiliation with the university and they're going out of business. Meanwhile, we just keep getting stronger."

"The department is delighted with the continued national recognition GameZombie has earned," added Walter Gantz, chair of the IU Department of Telecommunications. "But, beyond that, we've been really pleased with the instructional activity associated with GameZombie. Students from across the campus have had an opportunity to develop and refine very valuable production and marketing skills that should serve them well as they enter the job market."

GameZombie has produced 240 original videos for global webcast and garnered more than 100 front page editor's picks on major videosharing sites, front page articles in 10 online news outlets and competitive visibility on the world's top search engines.

The students also produce a cable access program that is presented throughout central Indiana and an IU Student Television show. Their promotion and distribution agreements with various web sites, including Dailymotion, GameTrailers, National Lampoon, Kewego, Joost, Buzzwire, and Bebo -- as well as official YouTube Partner status -- have pushed GameZombie's global view count to more than 6 million. The students also regularly produce a podcast that is available through iTunes.

"I had the pleasure of meeting Spencer and the team at early on and can honestly say that they are one of the most motivated content creators I work with at," said Barndi Kim, manager, brand and partner marketing at MTV subsidiary "Their breadth of videos, their dedication to event-coverage and their creativity surpasses most others, including groups who have been doing this work for much longer."

GameZombie has covered events such as the Game Developer's Conferences in San Francisco and Austin, E3 in Los Angeles, the World Series of Video Games in Louisville, Ky., and GenCon in Indianapolis. It has produced more than 125 interviews with some of the biggest names in the video game industry, including Peter Molyneux of Fable 2, Todd Howard of Fallout 3, Ben Mattes of Prince of Persia and Cliff Bleszinski of Gears of War 2.

"We've moved into the elite of game media," Striker said. "At GDC09, we were invited by the head of the game media press corps to go backstage for the Game Developers Choice Award. It was extremely flattering. After these star game developers won the biggest award of their life, they go into the green room and that's where we were, asking them questions.

"That was an indication that we've been getting a lot of respect," he added.

Some students working on the project have been able to get internship credit. Other students participated through an advanced production workshop centered around the original Web series.

The project has given students valuable experience. One student landed an internship with Cartoon Network's Adult Swim division and will test games that are part of its Web site. Another student now is working for Major League Soccer and another is a lead multiplayer designer at High Voltage. Several students have found internships and employment at video production companies around the country.

"A lot of our editors have been getting editing jobs in cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles," said Andrew Benninghoff, a senior from Ft. Wayne, Ind., who will enter IU's master's program in telecommunications this fall. "Not everyone with GameZombie is interested in video games; they're interested in design and production."

Striker, who holds two undergraduate degrees from the University of Texas, in additon to his Master of Science degree from IU, also is moving on, to a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. But he will remain involved with GameZombie by developing and expanding a game media program there, similar to the one he established at IU.

Benninghoff will take over as IU's lead on the project. The project also has welcomed student interns from the University of Southern California's Department of Interactive Media.