Gaming innovation course helps students create new ways to throw the bones


Gaming designers aren’t born, they’re made.

No one grows up dreaming of inventing the next hot casino game, says UNLV professor Mark Yoseloff, and in that way, all adults are new to the business.

Yoseloff, former CEO of SHFL Entertainment Inc., is the mind behind UNLV’s Gaming Innovation course, geared toward helping students develop and patent casino games with the goal of selling them to major companies.

“Most major companies are now closed to new inventors,” Yoseloff said last week. “If someone has a good idea, they have nowhere to take it.”

Yoseloff wants to change that.

The class was first offered in spring and students produced 12 patents.

The most successful, Dragon Domino video wagering game, is in negotiations to be sold, although Yoseloff wouldn’t say to whom because the deal has not yet closed.

Recently the course became the Gaming Innovation Center, with help from a $500,000 grant from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development’s Knowledge Fund, which gives grants to the state’s universities to promote research and commercialization in areas targeted for economic growth.

Initially it was funded by $250,000 from the Yoseloff Family Charitable Foundation.

“I want to produce a small army of creators,” Yoseloff said.

The course covers math, intellectual property and business law, patents and the psychology and sociology behind gaming, an ancient form of entertainment.

The first forms of gambling used animal bones as dice.

Students will start the course by making a brief one- or two-sentence pitch.

“Any good idea is simple,” Yoseloff said.

In Yoseloff’s initial class, 17 students presented and polished their ideas. Twelve provisional patents were filed. To put that into perspective, outside of the class, 18 patents were filed university wide. The top six ideas were presented to a panel of professionals who chose the winner.

Hien Nguyen partnered with Yoseloff to create the Chinese Domino Video Wagering Game, which won $3,500 for first prize.

“I hadn’t imagined I would win a prize,” said Nguyen, who is now in talks to sell the game she co-created with Yoseloff. Hien, 20, isn’t even old enough to gamble in a casino.

Other standouts included 888 Baccarat, by hotel college student He Lin, which incorporates elements of Chinese culture into baccarat, and Flip Card Blackjack by student Aron Kock.

Yoseloff used his connections to arrange meetings with major companies for his top students. Though the meetings were agreed to out of courtesy, gaming executives often found themselves interested.

UNLV President Don Snyder, a former gaming executive, lauded the program for reinforcing Las Vegas’ position as the intellectual capital of global gaming.

“I’m not teaching people to be creative,” Yoseloff said.

Instead, he’s teaching creative people to strengthen and sell their ideas.

Contact reporter Kristy Totten at ktotten@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3809. Follow @kristy_tea on Twitter.

 

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