Winter Carnival designs give video games a Dartmouth twist

by Elizabeth Barrett | 2/8/21 2:00am

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Allan Rubio '23 designed this year's Winter Carnival poster, based on the theme "Level Up: Carnival Rebooted."

Source: Collis Programming Board

A staple of a 111-year-old tradition, the Winter Carnival art competition this year drew on the theme “Level Up: Carnival Rebooted,” inspired by the largely digital nature of the event. This year, Allan Rubio ’23 created the winning poster design, which depicts a video game set up in a dorm room overlooking Baker Tower. Brian Lee ’22 made the winning T-shirt design, featuring the classic Atari “Pong” game as its foundation.

When it came time to choose a theme, Winter Carnival council chair Colton Wagner ’21 explained that the council wanted to choose something that would correspond with the virtual social interactions mandated by COVID-19. 

“The first idea was something like virtual reality, or some sort of matrix-type theme,” he said. “But then we started thinking more about it, and we veered more toward video games and virtual gaming just because we thought that it would be a more optimistic outlook on things.”

The council found Lee’s T-shirt design to be a homage to many student and alumni’s academic experiences. 

Collis Center

This year's Winter Carnival shirt, designed by Brian Lee '22, blends the layout of the Green with the Atari game "Pong."

“For COSC 1 at Dartmouth, everyone who's taken that class has had to code their own pong game,” Wagner said. “It reminded me of Dartmouth, but it also tied into video games, and then it was just nice to look at.”

Lee, who also completed the Atari pong assignment in COSC 1, noted that he was drawn to the game’s simplicity and recognizability.

“I think the theme being games, I wanted it to be relatable to everyone, games that everyone can recognize,” he said. “I think the thing that drew me in most about the pong game was that it's one of the simplest games to look at.”

The winning poster designed by Rubio features a scene looking out of a window at Dartmouth. In the room, there are several elements that reflect both the Winter Carnival theme and references to Dartmouth culture. The poster features game cartridges with classic game names changed to tie in with Dartmouth — including “Icecraft” and “Legend of the Lone Pine” — as well as students making ice sculptures and a Dartmouth pennant. 

Wagner noted his appreciation for the level of detail in the poster. 

“If you spend five minutes looking at [the poster design], every few seconds you’re going to find a new element that ties creatively into the theme,” Wagner said.

He added that the poster reminisced upon the experience of playing video games in his dorm room, which adds a level of comfort for the students who are living on campus. 

Instead of brooding on the campus experience that has been lost to the pandemic, Angel Aguilar ’22 felt that the poster painted campus life in a positive light.

“It kind of alludes to both good memories, [like] playing video games with your friends, and then Winter Carnival, which is great,” he said.

Aguilar added that this year’s poster design felt more relatable than designs from previous years. Unlike other designs, which centered on direct references to pop culture, this year’s design felt closer to home.

"As long as I've been a student, it kind of seems like all of the designs have been very standard, whereas this feels more creative, more unique to Dartmouth. It feels like I'm part of an inside joke," Aguilar said. 

Rubio said that the accessibility of the games represented in the poster was a major consideration in his design process. The retro theme, including the older television and gaming console, was a deliberate decision. Throughout the designing process, he kept in mind that the poster should be able to reach an audience spanning generations.

Wagner emphasized the intergenerational appeal as he described the Winter Carnival council’s selection process. 

“The posters, and I think the T-shirts as well, are not just bought by students, but they're bought by the entire Dartmouth community,” Wagner said. “… We don't want it to be something that just appeals to the students — even though they are a very, very important audience — but also everyone else.”

Discussing his own design process for the T-shirt, Lee echoed some of the same concerns. 

“I had a lot of trouble thinking about how to convey games and make [the design] accessible to everyone because I know not everyone plays games,” he said. “That was sort of the rationale behind approaching this project with a retro, 8-bit kind of outlook, which influenced most of my designs.”

Rubio added that the design contest represented a way for him to stay involved in the Winter Carnival’s annual festivities despite its remote nature.

"Even though I'm remote this year, I thought it would be a great way to help out and hopefully play a part in making Winter Carnival a bit more fun, even though it's virtual this year," he said.

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