Saving the princess in “Super Mario Bros.” and gob­bling mon­sters in “Pac Man” intro­duced Ben Ridgway to a vir­tual uni­verse, but also to a real uni­verse that fuses the power of the imag­i­na­tion with the beauty of tech­nology and the inge­nuity of art.

Small wonder that he’s made a career as a game designer and filmmaker.

I’ve always been around games,” said Ridgeway, an assis­tant pro­fessor of ani­ma­tion whose research focuses on com­puter graphics, as well as film and game pro­duc­tion. “I love both playing and ana­lyzing games and I’m really lucky to have the oppor­tu­nity to make them and have fun doing it.”

Ridgway, who holds a Master of Fine Arts in exper­i­mental ani­ma­tion from the Cal­i­fornia Insti­tute of the Arts, teaches 3D com­puter graphics. He is cur­rently guiding his stu­dents through pro­duc­tion for a short film that they’re cre­ating for even­tual sub­mis­sion to film fes­ti­vals and competitions.

He calls film and game cre­ation a “team sport,” and encour­ages his stu­dents to work in groups. “They’re able to get a taste of what it’s like in the pro­fes­sional world,” he said. “You can accom­plish so much more with a group working towards a common vision than by trying to do it all by yourself.”

His own most recent project, a 3D exper­i­mental ani­ma­tion called “Ad Infinitum,” uses the math­e­mat­ical phe­nomena of frac­tals to explore time, space and the con­cept of infinity. The short, which was influ­enced by the work of Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher, has been selected to appear at film fes­ti­vals in Ire­land, Mon­treal and San Francisco.

Over the years, Ridgway has cre­ated con­cept art and designed envi­ron­ments for action/​adventure and road racing games for Nin­tendo, Microsoft and Sony, such as “Road Rash 64,” “MX Fea­turing Ricky Carmichael” and “Alter Echo.” He’s received sev­eral awards for his film­making, including the MTV award for Excel­lence in Ani­ma­tion in 1995 for “Olive Shower,” a short, 2D explo­ration of an alien landscape.

For Ridgway, gaming has become a near-​​ubiquitous part of our daily lives, whether we’re looking to have fun or solve com­plex soci­etal problems.

Three-​​dimensional com­puter graphics and game design are great fields to explore because they touch on so many things that sur­round us these days,” he said. “Aside from pure enter­tain­ment, 3D graphics and games are used for edu­ca­tional, sci­en­tific, med­ical, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and mil­i­tary appli­ca­tions. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”