Eric Franco had his breakthrough moment in the spring of his sophomore year. His game design team was selected for the final showcase of Reveal, a summer game development incubator program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Franco knew he was exactly where he belonged.
“Pieces were just starting to fall together in a way that felt like they were meant to be,” Franco said. “My path at Rensselaer has been written for me already and I’m just following it.”
Growing up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Franco attended a humanities-based magnet school where he was drawn to music and writing. However, he really developed his creative side while playing Playstation with his older brother.
“Video games definitely have the power to bring people together in a way that other creative mediums don’t,” Franco said. “That power was so enticing to me, I just had to make a career out of it.”
Franco learned about the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) program at Rensselaer through a friend. When Franco had won his high school’s Rensselaer Medal Award, which is given to promising students who have distinguished themselves in mathematics and science, it sealed the deal.
“Rensselaer has a fantastic reputation and would challenge me academically. I knew GSAS would be a place where I could combine creative storytelling and love of video games,” Franco said.
That’s not to say it was easy for him. At times he felt overwhelmed by schoolwork, and he struggled with depression. But thanks to the work ethic he learned from his parents, and the professional mental health treatment he sought, Franco found his way through.
“A lot of my work involves going through dark periods and coming out of it stronger,” Franco said.
In addition to his work in GSAS, Franco flourished as the music director for the Rensselaer a cappella group Duly Noted, where he said he met his best friends.
“The tight knit bonds were so incredible,” Franco said. “It was so nice to be able to go to rehearsal every few days, sing with my friends, and leave all the all the dark stuff behind. It all went away when I was at rehearsal.”
Ultimately, Franco would advise incoming first-year students to find creative outlets they enjoy. “You’re at Rensselaer to get your degree, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun along the way,” he said.
Franco was a Finalist at E3’s College Game Competition and at Rensselaer GameFest 2019. He had three games selected for the New York State Game Pavilion at the 2019-20 Game Developer’s Conference. Duly Noted took 2nd place in the 2020 Thruway A Cappella competition. Franco recently had his first short-story published by TL;DR Press and just released his first single, 203, on every major music-streaming platform.
After graduating with a dual degree in GSAS and computer science, Franco hopes to find work in the area he is most passionate about: game design.