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Getting in the Game: Tabitha Engle

Alumna parlayed her an internship at an interactive gaming company into a full-time job. Now she helps recruit the interns.

People  |  Sep 12, 2018  |  By Matt Jacob
woman surrounded by video slot machines

UNLV entertainment engineer and design graduate Tabitha Engle now works at an interactive game company. (Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Creative Services)

Like many kids who grow up in Las Vegas, Tabitha Engle would occasionally have reason to pass through a casino, be it on the way to a family dinner, a movie theater, or show on the Strip. And, like many kids, it didn’t take long for Engle to become impervious to the whirring sounds and bright lights of slot machines as she made her to her destination.

These days? It’s a totally different story. As project coordinator for Scientific Games, a Las Vegas-based company that designs casino, interactive and instant lottery games, Engle’s senses are on high alert whenever she winds her way across a casino floor.

“I used to walk through casinos and see the slot machines, but I never thought about the design elements — like who comes up with the concepts and designs them?” said Engle, ’17 BS Entertainment Engineering and Design. “Now I look at all the games and think, ‘Oh, who made that game? That’s one I haven’t seen before. This game seems really popular.’ I constantly notice all of that stuff — especially if it’s one of our games: ‘How is this one performing?’”

Engle recognized in high school that math was her strong suit and figured it would be wise to pursue a major that would allow those skills to flourish. “But I wasn’t sure exactly what, because I also like the creative side of things,” she recalls. So Engle was undeclared when she enrolled at UNLV, and began investigating her options soon after arriving on campus. Once she learned about UNLV's unique entertainment engineering and design program, she was confident she had a winner.

“Entertainment engineering sounded like fun engineering,” says Engle, who also was part of UNLV’s Honors College. “Once I got involved in the program, I really enjoyed the hands-on classes — building stuff, working in the shop, 3D modeling. Being able to design projects and see them through from start to finish was rewarding.”

Initially, Engle thought she would put her entertainment engineering skills to use in the theater world. But an internship with a local theater cast some doubt. Then came a second internship, this one with Scientific Games. Even though she wasn’t a gamer herself and had never even sat at a slot machine, Engle gained a lot from the internship — including, ultimately, a full-time job.

Working with the Scientific Games prototype team, Engle helps with generating ideas, then works to take the best of those ideas from concept to reality. The most recent project she was involved with is a slot game called Hexogems, in which the slot reels are in a hexagon-shaped pattern rather than traditional 3-by-5 or 4-by-5 grids. The game is expected to be on casino floors soon.

In addition to her duties as project coordinator, Engle assists with the company’s internship program, often recruiting EED students from her alma mater. Her advice to Rebels who hope to land an internship with Scientific Games (or any other company): Hone your skills outside the classroom too.

“Now that I’m recruiting interns, we definitely look at what you do on your own time,” she says. “If you can find the time to do outside projects, something that really interests you, do them.”