WORCESTER, Mass. – May 18, 2009 – Out of dozens of entries from across the United States and Canada, five Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) students have won high recognition for their video game creations from the 2nd annual Massachusetts Game Challenge (MGC), sponsored by 38 Studios, the video game company founded and chaired by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. An awards ceremony was held April 29 at the company’s Maynard, Mass. headquarters.
First-year student Elena Ainley, 18, of Hudson, N.H., and senior Brian Hettrick, 22, of Tokyo, Japan – both Interactive Media & Game Development (IMGD) majors – placed second for their creation, Munch’s Lost Timepieces, and each won a $1,000 prize. Coming in third and winning $500 each for their game, KickBack, were computer science first-year students Daniel Bjorge, 18, of Swansea, Mass., and William Decker, 19, of San Francisco, Calif.; and IMGD sophomore Samuel Rogers, 20, of Concord, Mass. This year was the first that two WPI student teams placed in the top three of the 2-year-old contest, which was opened this time to colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada. In 2008, a team of WPI first-year students placed third in the contest’s inaugural year.
"Since its founding in 2006, 38 Studios has had a mission to support universities that support careers in game design," said Schilling, who attended the awards ceremony and posed for photographs with the WPI students. "WPI has been a great partner in achieving that goal. The university’s game design students have backed that up in both the MGC I and this year’s MGC II by submitting entries that were outstanding in thought, implementation, and execution."
"Munch’s Lost Timepieces is wonderfully endearing," said MGC Producer Rich Gallup, "with a bright, cohesive art style, cute characters and sound effects, and simple game play that is accessible to all ages. KickBack’s allure is found in its implementation of a strong, original codebase and challenging game play experience with unique mechanics. Most importantly, both winning games from WPI are great fun."
After announcing the winners – all three finalist teams were from Worcester institutions – Gallup pointed out, “Apparently, Worcester’s the place to be for making games!”
The WPI students’ collaboration on their games started in February 2009, when the university’s Game Development Club held a 38-hour GameJam on campus for aspiring video game developers. During GameJam, student teams worked together to create video games in a three-day session. Participants had the option of entering the game they created at WPI to the MGC, which invited teams of two to three students from colleges and universities across the United States and Canada to show off their talents in the one-of-a-kind video game design contest. Their game needed to feature the 38 Studios mascot Munch, and his alter ego, Mean Munch.
WPI launched its first-in-the-nation IMGD major in 2005, and Schilling serves as a member of its advisory board. The four-year undergraduate program blends both the artistic and technical aspects of game creation. Students receive a base education in both the artistic (art, music, and story), and technical (programming) aspects, and then select an artistic or technical concentration as the focus for the remainder of their program. They are also required to study social and philosophical issues associated with games and related media. The IMGD major (http://www.imgd.wpi.edu/) is administered by WPI’s computer science and humanities and arts departments.
"We are very impressed at how well our students did in this year’s game challenge,” said Robert W. Lindeman, assistant professor of computer science, and IMGD faculty member. "After a team of our first-year students placed third last year, we knew our students had the right combination of skills to do well. But, as this year the field of competition opened to the whole country and Canada, we knew it would be that much more difficult to place well. Taking two out of the top three is excellent. The fact that so many of our first-year students and sophomores are placing so high in the MGC is a sign of how high the quality is of the students that are being attracted to the IMGD major."
Brett Close, president and CEO of 38 Studios, noted: “38 Studios greatly appreciates WPI’s support of its game design student mission. The university has an excellent Interactive Media & Game Development major, and it’s offering something that’s unlike most college and university programs in the country. We want to engage Massachusetts and build this area into one of the strongest game development industries in the country. By far, we noticed that the most solid MGC entries were from the Worcester area. Those students have the passion, ambition, and drive. We’re proud of the WPI students and look forward to seeing more of their accomplishments.”
About 38 Studios
38 Studios, an entertainment and IP creation company founded in 2006 by Curt Schilling and based in Maynard, Mass., is creating an original fantasy IP driven by the creative and artistic visions of pop culture icons R. A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane. Entertainment products will include a massively immersive online entertainment experience that transcends the traditional MMOG genre, novels, comics, toys, movies, TV, and more.