May’s Journey takes grand prize in sixth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge pitch contest

May’s Journey takes grand prize in sixth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge pitch contest

Chaima Jemmali, Small Squares with Monty Sharma, MassDiGI

Cambridge, MA – February 27, 2017 – May’s Journey by Small Squares won the grand prize in the sixth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge pitch contest this weekend.

In May’s Journey, an educational game that teaches programming through puzzle solving and storytelling, the hero, a girl named May, finds herself trapped in a broken game world. She wants to escape but in order to do so she must find her friend. There is only one way to get out; coding. May’s Journey aims to interest middle and high school aged old girls in computer science by teaching them the basics of programming through play.

Representing Small Squares at the contest was Chaima Jemmali, the game’s programmer and designer.

The game, which also won the Serious Category at the contest, will be released on PC later this year. Jemmali, a native of Tunisia and former Fulbright scholar, began working on the game in 2015 with her colleague Jonathan Yang as part of their interactive media and game development master’s degree program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Yang currently works in Shanghai, China.

“We are thrilled May’s Journey won the Game Challenge,” said Jemmali, now a Ph.D. student in computer science at Northeastern University.  “Everyone with a passion for making games should go. You learn so much from the judges and other competitors.”

The MassDiGI Game Challenge helps indie, startup and student game developers and entrepreneurs shape their ideas and products for launch. This year 33 teams from across the northeast competed in front of a packed room at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center in Kendall Square.

“MassDiGI’s focus on fostering new, creative, business-savvy talent is exactly what the New England game industry needs. Game Challenge alumni have opened their own studios or found jobs at larger studios,” said contest judge Rick Cody, a past Game Challenge winner. “MassDiGIhas helped my own company, Team Future, better understand the business of game development. They’re a tremendous and evolving asset.”

Since the MassDiGI Game Challenge began six years ago, over 200 different teams from around New England and beyond have pitched games and taken home prizes valued at over $100,000. Top past winners include titles such as Intern Astronaut, PWN, Catlateral Damage, Depression Quest, Wobbles and Starlot Derby.

The annual event is a showcase for the expanding game development cluster in the region. Over the event’s two days, dozens of game industry veterans served as mentors and judges.

As the Grand Prize and Serious Game Category winners, the Small Squares team won cash and other prizes valued at about $5,000.

“This year’s contest was the closer than ever before,” said Monty Sharma, managing director of MassDiGI, “We were very impressed by all the teams.  Their creativity and skills improve every year as do their games.”

Other top winners include Lawrence, MA-based BareHand which won the People’s Choice Award for its game Cede as well as the Indie Demo/Alpha Category, Best Technical Plan and Best Business Plan.

“Winning not only our category but the People’s Choice Award is amazing,” said Edwin Jack, BareHand’s founder. “We’ve come to the Game Challenge before and each time we get better and this year we hit it right with Cede.”

Cede is a 3D Action-RPG combining the best experiences of Diablo and Harvest Moon with a unique new mechanic called “combat farming”.

Cede screenshot

Salad Hunt, an arcade-shooter in a casual mobile setting, earned Best Art, Best Audio and was the runner-up in Indie Demo/Alpha Category. In the game, you play as a chef that is surprised to find that the salad ingredients have come alive as cute but mischievous characters that are ruining the kitchen.

The other top Indie winner was Kill the Old Gods by Weeping Witch Studios which won the Beta/Near Release Category.

A team of Becker College and Emerson College students won the College Beta/Near Release Category with OBIO, a game in which you guide your bots through cyberspace, solve puzzles, eliminate viruses and save the internet. OBIO will be released for iOS, Android, PC and Mac in April.

Bounce.wav, an arcade-style mobile game set to synthwave beats made by a team of WPI graduate students, won the College Demo/Alpha Category.

Winning the High School Category was Green Ninja, a team of two students from Millbury (MA) Memorial Jr./Sr. High School.

Other Category Runner-Up honors went to:

  • Serious: MadUnd3ad Studios from Northeastern with Monsters and Memories.
  • Indie Beta/Near Release: Witching Hour with Connexi.
  • College Demo/Alpha:  Sound Lemmings Studio from Northeastern and Tufts University with Node and Dog Squad from Smith College and Hampshire College with Pickup Pup.
  • College Beta/Near Release: Blue Drop Games from Northeastern with Before Common Era (B.C.E.) and Jaderain Studios from Becker with Don’t Shoot Us.

Sound Lemmings Studio also earned Best Design and Balls, another game by WPI graduate students, earned Best Paper Prototype.

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MassDiGI granted Collaborative Workspace award

file_0massdev00MassDiGI is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a Collaborative Workspace Program grant from MassDevelopment to be used for core networking equipment in our New Ventures Center (NVC) at 80 William St. in Worcester. The NVC, a community-facing business assistance center for interactive media and game development students and entrepreneurs, is currently under renovation and scheduled to open in summer/fall 2017.

The $50,000 grant was one of 23 awarded by the Baker-Polito Administration to strengthen community-based innovation and entrepreneurship in the Commonwealth. The awards will go to support the physical infrastructure to supports the growth of new entrepreneurial ventures, while spurring innovation and job creation at the local level.

Read the official press release here, MassLive’s story here and WBJ’s story here.

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MassDiGI awarded $583K in federal funding

Read more about it at Gamasutra, Engadget, McGovern.House.Gov, WBJ, Worcester Sun, Telegram.com and GoLocal.

Official press release:

MassDiGI at Becker College Awarded $583K in Federal Funding


The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), a bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce, has awarded a five year, $583,000 University Center program grant to MassDiGI at Becker College to support its ongoing efforts to promote entrepreneurship, academic cooperation and economic development across the state’s video and digital games ecosystem. This is the second such grant for MassDiGI from the competitive University Center program. The first was awarded in September 2011.

“The work MassDiGI does in leveraging our state’s strengths in higher education, technology, innovation and creativity continues to stand out,” said U.S. Representative James P. McGovern (MA-2). “This EDA grant will give MassDiGI the chance to level up their ability to have an even greater impact. I’ve seen their work firsthand and I’m excited for what the next five years will bring.”

Established in April 2011, MassDiGI is the result of creative collaboration among academia, industry, and government, aimed at nurturing the growth of the game industry cluster in the region.

“As chair of the MassDiGI Advisory Board, I am extremely pleased that we have been selected again by the EDA for funding,” said Becker College President Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D. “MassDiGI is one-of-a-kind and delivers tremendous value to the many students, faculty, startups and industry professionals it reaches each year, be they on campus, here in Worcester or throughout the Commonwealth – and increasingly, across the country and around the world.”

“Worcester is proud to be the home of MassDiGI at Becker College,” said Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. “Our city’s future is brighter because of the work they do in helping to foster the growth of our local game development community.”

MassDiGI offers a number of programs and activities which nurture collaboration among students, faculty and the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

File_00spiers0Best known among its offerings is the Summer Innovation Program (SIP).  During this Worcester-based internship program students take a game from concept to market in 12 weeks.

More than 700 students from dozens of institutions around the world have applied since SIP began in 2012. Of those applicants over 100 students have participated from schools such as MIT, Tufts, Carnegie Mellon, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of Southern California, Rhode Island School of Design, Northeastern University, Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Ireland, Smith College, Berklee School of Music, New York University, and Becker College.

SIP alumni have gone on to work at a range of companies including Harmonix, Microsoft, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Amazon, Warner Bros., 2K, Disruptor Beam, Uber, Nickelodeon, Sony, Facebook, and Hasbro or startup their own studios such as Zephyr Workshop, Starcap Games, and Petricore Games.

Among MassDiGI’s other programs are its Game Challenge pitch competition for aspiring game developers held every year in Cambridge, Mass., Live Studio cross-registration courses at Becker and Mentoring on Demand advisory services for entrepreneurs and non-profits.

“The EDA University Center program has been a key to many of the successes of our first five years,” said MassDiGI Executive Director Timothy Loew.  “And, this grant will allow us, over the next five, to build on those successes, deepen our capacity, and scale up our efforts over all our programs and activities.”

“In my work with game industry communities across the globe, MassDiGI shines as a leader for its support of game companies,” said California-based M2 Advisory Group CEO Wanda Meloni. “This funding is a testament to MassDiGI’s outstanding work and the acknowledgement of what can happen when you have the right combination of leadership, collaboration from academia, and support from the local community and businesses.”

Meloni is also the editor in chief of Gaming Business Review and executive director of the Open Gaming Alliance.

With its experienced staff and a cadre of veteran game development mentors, MassDiGI works to help strengthen the area’s games sector, advising on everything from strategy and marketing, to financing and hiring.

“Starting up a game studio as a novice entrepreneur right out of college is a risky proposition. There’s no question we wouldn’t be where we are today without the continuing advice and guidance we get from MassDiGI,” said Petricore Games Co-founder and CEO Ryan Canuel.

Canuel is also the 2016 Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year and a Becker College ’15 and MassDiGI SIP ’14 alumnus.

More information about MassDiGI can be found at massdigi.org or by following @mass_digi on Twitter.

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Boston Globe: VR game that lets you pilot a spaceship won top honors at 2016 MassDiGI game pitch contest

“Whether it’s the Starship Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon, many of us have long dreamt of piloting a spaceship.

Now, thanks to a team of college students, that dream can now become a reality — or more like a virtual reality nightmare.

“Intern Astronaut,” created by Broken Door Studio, a five-student team from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, won the grand prize at the fifth annual Massachusetts Digital Games Institute Game Challenge pitch contest held over the weekend.”

Read the full story here in the Boston Globe.

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GMI Post: Massachusetts is a game changer in gaming

“Amid the unstoppable growth of the multibillion-dollar gaming industry around the world, the state government of Massachusetts joined forces with schools and businesses to establish the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) four years ago.” Read the full story at GMI Post here.

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Wooplex Wins Grand Prize At 2015 MassDiGI Game Challenge

The Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) is pleased to announce that Wooplex, a Worcester-based independent game studio, has won the overall Grand Prize as well as Indie Beta/Near Release Category honors in the fourth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge with the game Wooplex. Wooplex is a game based on a beloved Ukrainian cartoon character “Kapitoshka” in which players are challenged to help the main character, Wooplex, and his friends save his world after all of the light was stolen away.

Wooplex is being developed by Oles Terletskyy, a Lviv, Ukraine native, WPI graduate student and Fulbright Fellow, Ostap Hrytsyshyn, a student at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv and Terletskyy’s father Ihor Terletskyy, an artist.

Grand Prize Winner Oles Terletskyy and Monty Sharma

Grand Prize Winner Oles Terletskyy and Monty Sharma

“Winning the MassDiGI Game Challenge means more to us than you can imagine. The experience, especially the mentoring, was amazing,” said Terletskyy.

The MassDiGI Game Challenge helps indie, start-up and student game development entrepreneurs hone their ideas and products for launch. This year over 30 teams consisting of indie game developers and students from around the United States competed in front of a full-house on February 6 and 7 at the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center in Kendall Square, Cambridge.

The annual event is a key showcase for the growing video game development cluster in the region. A cadre of game industry veterans served as speakers, mentors and judges during the pitch competition.

As the Grand Prize Winner and a Category winner, Wooplex receives $2,250, a legal services package from Greenberg Traurig, customized mentoring and public relations/marketing packages, a slot at MassDiGI’s PAX East demo table and computer hardware.

Playtesting Black Hat Oculus

Playtesting Black Hat Oculus

The People’s Choice Award winner as well as Runner-up in the Indie Beta/Near Release Category was Boston-based Team Future with Black Hat Oculus. A two-player cooperative stealth virtual reality game played in the Oculus Rift or on a computer,  where you can sneak past agents, avoid traps, discover secrets or use hacking s skills to disable enemies, unlock doors and more.

“This year’s competition was the closest ever,” said Monty Sharma, managing director of MassDiGI, “We were blown away by the teams, the talent and the creativity.”

Other top Indie Category winners include Medford-based Mob Made Games for Descendants which won top honors in the Demo/Alpha Category. Descendants is a fast paced, tactical hybrid game set in space where each match leaves lasting changes that impact future play-throughs.

Pitching Paper Pests

Pitching Paper Pests

The Serious Game Alpha/Concept Category winning award went to Studio REKS for The Ecokids and the Paper Pests, a game designed by WPI undergraduates to teach the basics of biodiversity in which players are challenged to strategically preserve as much of an ecosystem’s biodiversity as possible after an invasive species is set loose.

Serious Game Beta/Near Release Category honors went to Cambridge-based Skylight Games for Lyrical: Learn Language with Music. Lyrical is designed to train your ear to recognize a range of pronunciations, remember the meanings of words through the stories of the songs and unconsciously internalize word order through addictive repetition.

Play Nimbus, a student start-up from Becker College, won the College Demo/Alpha Category for Private Eyes, a murder mystery party game where you and your friends try to find the culprit among them. Play Nimbus won a Category in the 2013 Game Challenge for Wobbles, a free game now available on the App Store and Play Store.

Maximum Crash, also from Becker, won the College Beta/Near Release Category with Starlot Derby, an action mobile/web-based app where the player battles an alien species known as “Starmen” in a game of baseball where levels change and pull in elements of classic arcade titles.

Winning the High School Category was Dante Hin-Gasco from La Scuola D’Italia Guglielmo Marconi in New York City with Math for Honor.

“The quality of game design coming up from the high school level is astounding,” added Sharma. “These competitors across high school, college and indie levels are setting a very high bar in making, not only technically sound games, but also novel methods of game play that will soon blaze new trails in the industry.”

Other Category Runner-up honors went to:

  • Indie Demo/Alpha: Zephyr WorkshopFlorafiora
  • College Demo/Alpha: Deli Bar Gaming (Becker, UMass Lowell) – Carpe Diem
    • College Demo/Alpha: Two Brothers – (Champlain College) – Hyper Syntax – 2nd Runner-up
  • College Beta/Near Release: Mustachio Games (Binghamton University, Northeastern University, Hampshire College & RISD) – Red Survivor
  • Serious Games Beta/Near Release: DynamicX (Purdue University) – The Shield: By Storm and Knowledge
  • High School: Millbury, MA – Insula Noe

Honorable Mentions were given to:

  •  Indie Beta/Near Release: Urban Electronic GamesWurmZilla
  • College Demo/Alpha: The Hurly Birds (Northeastern) – Get up, Chuck!

The 2015 MassDiGI Game Challenge was made possible through sponsorship and support from Microsoft, Greenberg Traurig, Disruptor Beam, RockStar New England, Proletariat Inc., Thumbspire, MassTech’s Innovation Institute, Becker College, Morse, Barnes-Brown & Pendleton, BlueSnap, Nvidia, Vicarious Visions, Vivox and the ESA Foundation.

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WBJ: Mass. video game industry growing

“As the video game industry enjoys growth across the United States, Massachusetts is reaping some of those benefits, according to a national trade group, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).” Read the full story from the Worcester Business Journal here.

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