Getting going: SIP15 orientation week – 5/26/15

Getting going: SIP15 orientation week

By Shengmin E., sophomore, Becker College with Devi Acharya, sophomore, Brandeis University and Sai Timmerman, senior, IUPUI

With final exams ending for college students across the US, we are looking forward to a whole summer of fun and games. The students of this year’s Summer Innovation Program (SIP) are no exception, but for aspiring entrepreneurs like us, “fun and games” takes on a whole new meaning.

Shengmin E

Shengmin E

There is no opportunity quite like SIP. From 214 applications to the program, 24 interns were chosen representing 15 institutions from California to Ireland, working to create games over the next 11 weeks. Every one of us has something that made the selection team say “wow,” and we now put our skills to the test.

Orientation got going at 9:30am sharp on the morning of May 20. MassDiGI managing director Monty Sharma took the podium and, assisted by executive director Timothy Loew and producer Walt Yarbrough, introduced us all to the ropes of the program. Concepting exercises began the very next day.

Students mixed and matched into random teams, combatting challenges with creativity, building  problem-solving skills, and striving to harness the essence of “fun.” To cultivate fast decision-making skills, every prompt was a race against time. There was little time before the groups shuffled again and a new challenge became the focus.

Jake the Lion

Jake the Lion

Visiting SIP was guest speaker from the Worcester Bravehearts baseball team accompanied by team mascot Jake the Lion. The team presented a challenge to the us: make a game featuring Jake.

In addition, we also were challenged by Boston Children’s Hospital to come up with a game with engaging mechanics to help combat attention deficit disorder.

All in all we came up with a dozen great ideas for games. Which projects will we build? We narrowed it down to just a handful and by the end of week one, we’ll be solidly on our way and several of these great ideas will become the foundation for published games by the end of the summer.

You can follow our SIP15 journey all summer on Twitter @mass_digi or by liking MassDiGI’s Facebook page.

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Growing the team – 5/6/15

Growing the team

by Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI

djlWe are excited to announce David Lennon has joined MassDiGI as our Technical Director. David brings a wealth of engineering experience to our team – something we need in order to grow our operational and technical capabilities. His addition will allow us to better deliver our programs and services – be it the Summer Innovation Program, Live Code, Mentoring on Demand etc. – and expand our own game development activities. David, who is also currently consulting to Metaversal Studios, was most recently executive director of engineering at Turbine. Welcome aboard, David!

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TouchTomorrow at WPI: June 13, 2015 – Worcester, MA

Join us at WPI’s TouchTomorrow, a festival of science, technology and robots – and visit the MassDiGI table featuring early demos from SIP. More information on TouchTomorrow is available here.

When: June 13, 2015, 10:00am to 4:00pm

Where: WPI, 100 Institute Rd., Worcester, MA 01609

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Boston TechJam: June 11, 2015 – Boston, MA

Drop by Boston TechJam and visit the MassTech Collaborative booth featuring early demos from MassDiGI SIP teams. More information on Boston TechJam  is available here.

When: June 11, 2015, 4:00pm to 9:00pm

Where: City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA

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Western Mass. Creative Economy Summit: May 15, 2015 – Greenfield, MA

The Creative Economy Summit is a major regional event designed to increase the capacity and success of the creative industries in Western Massachusetts. This annual convening of the creative sector provides the opportunity to network, address public/private partnerships, gain business and technical skills, and access practical information about available resources. Keynoting this year’s summit is MassDiGI’s Tim Loew.

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Free speech in a culture of outrage – 4/26/15

Free speech in a culture of outrage

By Christopher Ferguson, Ph.D., associate professor and department chair, Stetson University

Last month ex-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling publicly identified two young men who allegedly posted sexually threatening comments about his daughter. These comments were replies to a twitter feed by Schilling congratulating his daughter for committing to the Salve Regina softball team. Just last month the New York Times Magazine carried a piece on Justine Sacco, whose career as a PR executive imploded after she tweeted insensitive and racially charged remarks about AIDS in Africa before getting on a flight to the continent. Taken together, these incidents bookend the struggle modern society continues to wrestle with regarding free speech in the internet age. How do we balance civility and courtesy with respect for free speech, even offensive speech, when anyone can say anything publicly? And what are the proper ramifications for offensive speech? Is free speech only about the First Amendment?

The hateful, misogynistic and threatening comments toward Schilling’s daughter represent one end of the spectrum. If these statements threatened assault on the young woman as news reports suggest, they would constitute harassment or incitement to violence and wouldn’t be constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. But what if they were not physically menacing but were vicious, demeaning and bullying? Here I’d argue that even non-assaultive hateful speech targeted at specific individuals can threaten free speech, to the extent that they serve to silence the voices of marginalized or underrepresented groups. Young women (and their fathers) should be able to celebrate their successes without being exposed to a cascade of misogyny. Schilling was quite right to call out his daughter’s harassers. Whether a legal matter or not, these individuals should not be shielded from the professional and personal ramifications of their actions, as their behavior specifically sought to silence the voice of young women.

But what about Justine Sacco? Before a trip to Africa in 2013 she tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” This racially charged tweet makes light of a humanitarian crisis in Africa as well as centuries of white privilege that has held many people of color in lives of bondage and economic deprivation for generations. Was this a message of hate meant to silence African voices, or a stupid, even satirical off-the-cuff comment?

To be clear, I don’t support Sacco’s tweet, which, at best, was ill-advised and insensitive. But I’m also concerned about the “culture of outrage” that has emerged over such events. The New York Times Magazine piece details a frenzy over Sacco’s tweet that seemed more spectator sport than true moral concern. The narrative involved her being a PR executive (who presumably should have known better) and having her fate decided unbeknownst to her while she was on an 11-hour flight. Sacco’s case appears to me to have as much to do with the bloodsport of watching someone’s life splinter in real time as it does any sincere moral concern.

Perhaps more absurd was the case of Breanna Mitchell, a teen girl internationally condemned for the crime of smiling while taking a selfie at Auschwitz (something I suspect most people would unconsciously do). Why does the internet community seethe with rage over slights such as these to the point we demand that these people’s professional lives and self-worth should be ended for all time?

When it comes to saying insensitive, stupid or boneheaded things, if we’re honest with ourselves, most people do this from time to time. If we expected everyone to be fired for ever having said something awful, frankly, the world would be unemployed. In most day-to-day discourse when we say something insensitive, we are given the chance to be confronted and reply, “You know, I was just trying to be funny, but I now realize my comments were offensive. I should have been more thoughtful and I hope you’ll accept my apology.” A careful and constructive challenge to insensitive speech can often set up a situation in which the offender can reflect on what they’ve said and be enlightened why such speech can be hurtful. Sure, some people are jerks and don’t care, but often these situations can be resolve easily with both people satisfied and no one losing their jobs. Unfortunately our culture of outrage deprives people like Sacco of this opportunity.

Of course people need to be careful about what they post publicly. But we also need to think more about whether our outrage fits the crime, and whether our calls for public humiliation do society more harm than good. At what point does this culture of outrage begin to chill not only offensive jokes and tweets, but legitimate dialogue on sensitive issues? How do we have frank and open discussions about race and gender if people are worried that saying the wrong thing might cost them their jobs or place in society?

I think it boils down to what I call sanctimony bias: our tendency to feel better about ourselves by pointing out the moral failings of others. We tell ourselves “I would NEVER make a joke about AIDS” even as we laugh at jokes about a myriad of other public tragedies. It’s hypocritical and it does damage free speech. Sure, the First Amendment doesn’t protect us from professional and personal consequences of the things we say, and free speech should not be a license for public idiocy and bigotry without challenge. But neither should this observation be an open license for cruel overreactions to minor buffoonery that can both damage people’s lives and truly limit freedom of expression.

References:

Curt Schilling: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2015/0302/Curt-Schilling-defends-daughter-from-Twitter-bullies-with-help-of-followers

Justine Sacco: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=1

Breanna Mitchell: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/24/auschwitz-selfie-girl-breanna-mitchell_n_5618225.html

christopher-fergusonChristopher Ferguson, Ph.D., is an associate professor and chair of the department of psychology at Stetson University. His research interests include examining the effects of media on behavior, such as video game violence, thin-ideal media or advertising effects.

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Game Portfolio Review Round-up: April 17, 2015 – Worcester, MA

Students, particularly juniors and seniors, are welcome to join us or a day of portfolio review (and mock interviews) with game industry professionals. This free event is organized by the students in Becker IGDA.

  • Friday, April 7, 11:00am to 4:00pm
  • Becker College, Design Building, 45 Cedar St., Worcester, MA

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SIP15 roster chosen – 4/8/15

SIP15 roster chosen

By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI

Year after year applications to our annual Summer Innovation Program (SIP) have grown in terms of quality, quantity, geographic reach and diversity. This year we received applications from 214 undergraduate and graduate students representing 55 colleges and universities from across the world – making it by far our most competitive year ever.

sip15yellowChoosing only 24 was a challenge. After much discussion, the committee selected a talented group. This year’s SIP teams will be made up of interns from 15 institutions including Becker College, Berklee College of Music, Brandeis University, Champlain College, Hampshire College, IUPUI, MIT, Northeastern University, RPI, RISD, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, University of Southern Maine, WPI – and our first international institution, Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Ireland.

SIP begins on May 19 and concludes on August 7.  Over those 11 weeks or so, with guidance from professional staff and industry mentors, SIP teams will be responsible for all the work necessary to successfully launch their games. There is no internship program like it in the country.

As in previous years, SIP students will receive housing courtesy of Becker College as well as a modest stipend. Most importantly they will all receive the greatest game development experience of their lives. Yes, it may be a lot of work – but it’s also a ton of fun. We can’t wait to get going.

Updated 4/16/15

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