WPI Students Earn Top Honors in Regional College Video Game Competition

WPI Interactive Media and Game Design Students Claim a Series of Awards at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s ‘GameFest’
June 01, 2016

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Three video games developed by students in Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD) program received top honors during Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s GameFest 2016, held in late April. Now in its 13th year, the annual competition features expert judges from the gaming industry and this year included over 50 original video games created by college teams from throughout the Northeast.

"Students and faculty in IMGD explore the potentials of the marriage of technology and art to create innovative and immersive experiences, and I think that these award-winning games speak to a broadening of that original vision," said Jennifer deWinter, associate professor of humanities and arts and incoming director of IMGD. "Here, we see games that emerge when exploring the potentials of novel interfaces, games that speak to WPI's unique project locations, and games that emphasize multi-sensory gameplay. It is exciting for me as a faculty member and a gamer to see the next generation of game designers and builders exploring the potentials of this medium while still keeping the end result engaging and player-centric."

• "Intern Astronaut" by Sean Halloran, Kedong Ma, Yingying Chen, and Jake Hawes received first place overall.

• "Chinmoku" by Robert McKenna, Francesca Carletto-Leon, Dillon Desimone, and Sam Wallach received the "Allegorithmic Substance Indie Pack Award," from Allegorithmic brand software.

• "Jazzy Mind" by Yakin Najahi, Ravi Parekh, Caitlin Malone, and Klew Williams received the Allegorithmic Substance Indie Pack Award," and the "Award for Excellence in Audio Gameplay."

"Intern Astronaut," is a virtual reality game that immerses players in the frenetic experience of being an intern tasked with flying a spaceship. Halloran, Ma, Chen, who graduated with the class of 2016, and Hawes, a graduate student, built the game as an assignment in a video game design course taught by Brian Moriarty, professor of practice in IMGD.

The team will invest the $800 first place prize into their company, Broken Door Studios LLC; they are planning to release "Intern Astronaut" this summer for the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset and Oculus GearVR headset. This is the second first place win for this team and this game having also won the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute(MassDiGI) Game Challenge Pitch Contest in February.

"Professor Moriarty's assignment was to create a polished, professional video game," Halloran said. "We put a lot of effort in to the project and we were ecstatic with how it came out. I think the principles of design, team work, and especially project management, which we learned from the IMGD program, have been key to the success of 'Intern Astronaut.'"

"Chinmoku," is an educational horror-mystery game that teaches players Japanese character writing. It is played on a desk-top computer and controlled via Android smartphone, allowing the user to practice writing Japanese characters.

McKenna, Carletto-Leon, Desimone, and Wallach, graduates of the class of 2016, produced the game as their Major Qualifying Project (MQP), a graduation requirement for all WPI students which challenges them to solve problems that would typically be encountered in their professional discipline through a high-level design or research experience conducted within their major.

The group conducted a portion of their work while abroad at WPI's Japan Project Center, one of more than 45 Project Centers across the globe where WPI undergraduates have the opportunity to complete their required research projects.

"Chinmoku" also received honorable mention in the College Indie Serious Game category during the MassDiGi Game Challenge competition. For winning the "Allegorithmic Substance Indie Pack Award" at GameFest, the team will receive sponsored access to Allegorthimic software for one year. The team hopes to continue development of "Chinmoku" in the future.

In "Jazzy Mind," players take the role of criminal investigators and while questioning suspects, they are endowed with the ability to listen to characters’ thoughts and hear their emotions in the form of jazz music.

The creators, Najahi, Parekh, Malone, and Williams, are all graduate students, and created "Jazzy Mind" during a game development workshop taught by Lee Sheldon, professor of practice in IMGD.

"Professor Sheldon challenged us to think outside the box to create new experiences for people to enjoy," Najahi said. "Winning these awards confirms that we created a unique experience by using jazz music as a gameplay mechanic."

For winning the "Allegorithmic Substance Indie Pack Award" at GameFest, the team will receive sponsored access to Allegorthimic software for one year. The group is continuing to develop "Jazzy Mind" and plans to release it through the independent game platform Itch.io, this summer.