Areas of Expertise (7)
Immersive Visualization Systems
Contemporary Media Art
Ben Chang is an electronic artist and director of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program at Rensselaer. His work explores the intersections of virtual environments and experimental gaming with contemporary media art. Using materials ranging from immersive visualization systems to modified surveillance cameras, hacked video games, and antique telegraphs, his work brings out the chaotic, human qualities in technological systems.
As an electronic artist, Chang’s own work is at the intersection of virtual environments, experimental gaming, and contemporary media art.
“I’m interested in what you could call evocative and poetic experiences within technological systems — creating that powerful experience that you can get from great music, theater, books, and paintings through immersive and interactive simulations as well,” Chang said. “But I’m also interested in the experiences of being human – the human qualities that are still there - within technological systems.”
Chang’s recent projects include a suite of classic games rewritten for the Microsoft Kinnect system, a virtual reality environment about remembrance in memorial of the Holocaust, and “Becoming” a computer-driven video installation that interchanges the attributes of two animated figures.
His installations, performances, and immersive virtual reality environments have been exhibited in numerous venues and festivals worldwide, including Art Basal Miami, Boston CyberArts, SIGGRAPH, the FILE International Electronic Language Festival in Sao Paulo, the Athens MediaTerra Festival, the Wired NextFest, and the Vancouver New Forms Festival, among others. He has designed interactive exhibits for museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Field Museum of Natural History.
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago: MFA, Art and Technology 2000
Amherst College: B.A., Computer Science 1998
Media Appearances (7)
RPI's GameFest goes virtual for second year
Ben Chang, a professor and director of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, speaks to WNYT NBC News about GameFest 2021.
CEG Survey: Capital Region Gaming Industry Continues to Grow
The Saratogian print
... “It is truly an exciting time for game development in the Capital Region,” Ben Chang, the program director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences said in the release. “At Rensselaer, we are building on this momentum by continuing to provide opportunities for collaboration and learning, as well as a robust pipeline of talent and creativity. "Throughout this pandemic, games have proven to be an absolutely vital tool for maintaining connections and enhancing education — and it has been heartening to see many of the best examples coming out of our own community.”
A 'Voyage' to Success
Daily Gazette print
When Jingyu Zhuang discovered his family in Nanchang, China might not be able to attend his college graduation this May, he got creative. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student realized he could use his skill developing video games to bring his family — and other families — closer together during the pandemic. In several months, he created Voyage, an open-world sandbox-style multiplayer game using geo-data from Google Maps, allowing players to travel the Earth together. The game lets players plant trees and explore various places, and more importantly, it allowed Zhuang’s parents to visit his new home.“ ... “The ways [students] use games to reflect on their life experiences is often very profound,” said Ben Chang, director of the RPI program. “It’s interesting to see this project from Jingyu that really brings people together in the pandemic because that’s so often on everyone’s minds. It’s something games have enabled people to do during this difficult year.”
New York Game Development Center Offers Funding for Games About COVID-19
Many video games are predominately sources of fun. While that doesn't preclude benefits like improving problem solving or the oft-cited boost to hand-eye coordination, most gamers are playing games first and foremost for their own enjoyment. That said, the uniquely interactive medium games provide can function as a powerful teaching tool. The Rensselaer Center of Excellence in Digital Game Development, a game development program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY recognizes this. Rensselaer's game development center has just announced that it's offering up to $4,750 for games being developed about the COVID-19 pandemic by residents of New York state.
RPI to host GameFest, a student development showcase
Coming up Saturday. April 27th, GameFest is a is a student game development showcase, conference and competition. It brings industry leaders together and is a way for game lovers to see the next generation of video games. It is happening from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm at the Albany Cap Center.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute finds bold new way to teach Mandarin
Times Union online
To find the powerful ancient manuscript, the student must first meet the mysterious Mrs. Ling — dressed in turquoise and with huge dark eyes that are a bit menacing — in an ornate tea house. And he must complete the Chinese tea ceremony correctly.
Gamers playing to win at RPI
Times Union print
"All you need is a laptop, a great idea and technical skills," said Ben Chang, director of RPI's Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program. It's an interdisciplinary bachelor's degree program with 145 majors. RPI's was considered the first one when it was founded in 2001.
Game engines and immersive displaysThe Engineering Reality of Virtual Reality 2014
Benjamin Chang; Marc Destefano
2014 While virtual reality and digital games share many core technologies, the programming environments, toolkits, and workflows for developing games and VR environments are often distinct. VR toolkits designed for applications in visualization and simulation often have a different feature set or design philosophy than game engines, while popular game engines often lack support for VR hardware. Extending a game engine to support systems such as the CAVE gives developers a unified development environment and the ability to easily port projects, but involves challenges beyond just adding stereo 3D visuals. In this paper we outline the issues involved in adapting a game engine for use with an immersive display system including stereoscopy, tracking, and clustering, and present example implementation details using Unity3D. We discuss application development and workflow approaches including camera management, rendering synchronization, GUI design, and issues specific to Unity3D, and present examples of projects created for a multi-wall, clustered, stereoscopic display.
Dots and dashes: art, virtual reality, and the telegraphThe Engineering Reality of Virtual Reality
Silvia Ruzanka; Ben Chang
2009 Dots and Dashes is a virtual reality artwork that explores online romance over the telegraph, based on Ella Cheever Thayer's novel Wired Love - a Romance in Dots and Dashes (an Old Story Told in a New Way)1. The uncanny similarities between this story and the world of today's virtual environments provides the springboard for an exploration of a wealth of anxieties and dreams, including the construction of identities in an electronically mediated environment, the shifting boundaries between the natural and machine worlds, and the spiritual dimensions of science and technology. In this paper we examine the parallels between the telegraph networks and our current conceptions of cyberspace, as well as unique social and cultural impacts specific to the telegraph. These include the new opportunities and roles available to women in the telegraph industry and the connection between the telegraph and the Spiritualist movement. We discuss the development of the artwork, its structure and aesthetics, and the technical development of the work.