When it comes to innovation, MassDiGI is a Game Changer

Tim Loew, Monty Sharma and Nancy Crimmin with Game Changer award

In a world where innovation and disruption reign, MassDIGI is a key player. That was underscored today by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce when it presented MassDiGI with a Game Changer Award.

“MassDiGI has played a major role in the growth of the digital gaming sector in the region and continues to shape the economic landscape of Worcester and Central Massachusetts in a positive and significant way,” said Tim Murray, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce president.  “The Chamber is pleased to recognize MassDiGI for their game changing contribution to the region.”

The award, presented during the Chamber’s annual Game Changers Business Conference and Expo in Worcester’s Mechanics Hall, recognizes the most innovative companies, colleges and start-ups that are transforming and supporting the region’s economy. This year’s theme was the innovation economy and start-ups.

MassDiGI’s Executive Director Tim Loew and Managing Director Monty Sharma were on hand to receive the award.

“We are really proud of the work we do with the many students that we engage with across institutions in the region, the start-ups that we work with, and the communities”, said Tim Loew, MassDiGI’s executive director. “We feel really lucky to have been able to do this in Worcester, and at Becker.”

Also present at this morning’s event was Becker president and MassDiGI advisory board chair Nancy P. Crimmin, Alan Ritacco, dean of the school Design and Technology, and students from MassDiGI’s Live Studio course.

Tim Mammen of IPG Photonics and Shahbaz Soofi of WooRides also received Game Changer awards.

Read more about the award in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette here.

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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 wins EforAll Summit Innovation Award


Robert Johnson, Monty Sharma and Tim Loew at the EforAll Summit

MassDiGI was honored with the first-ever Innovation Award at the 2016 Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Summit in Lowell, Mass. on November 3. EforAll is an organization that works with mid-size cities to spur economic growth and create social impact within the community. This international conference brings together city leaders, investors, foundations, organizations, and schools committed to entrepreneurship and social impact in mid-sized cities. Summit speakers included entrepreneurs Ted Leonsis, owner of the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NHL’s Washington Capitals and former senior executive at AOL, and Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s.

Speaking about the award, David Parker, executive director of EforAll said, “The Innovation Award seeks to recognize a program that’s doing something different to spur economic development in mid-sized cities. MassDiGI’s nomination stood out immediately and EforAll is proud to recognize their innovative efforts of utilizing the digital and video games ecosystem to foster economic growth.”

Since 2011 MassDiGI at Becker College has been a state-wide driver for entrepreneurship, academic collaboration, and economic improvement in the digital and video game industries across the Commonwealth. Remarking on the award, MassDiGI Advisory Board chair, Becker President Robert E. Johnson said he was “so proud of all MassDiGI and Becker have accomplished over the years. It is great to receive the recognition of such an important entrepreneurial group like EforAll. It really affirms the mission of MassDiGI and Becker to equip future innovators.”

MassDiGI Executive Director Tim Loew accepted the Innovation Award. “Our work with entrepreneurs and students over the years has been rewarding and humbling in its own right – and being recognized for that is very meaningful,” said Loew.

Loew participated in a panel at the Summit entitled “How to Keep/Attract Young People in Mid-Sized Cities.” Panel discussion focused on methods that cities, organizations, and colleges can deploy to retain an energized group of young people looking to make a difference. Fellow panelists included Andy Vargas from EforAll, Justin Kang from City Awake, the civic innovation lab of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Karina Leblanc from the University of New Brunswick’s Pond-Deshpande Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Chris Miller of the St. Louis-based Mission Center L3C which is an incubator and accelerator for high-impact social enterprises.

Alongside MassDiGI, Kyla Pacheco of Action! Worcester won the Top Entrepreneur Award which gave Worcester a large presence at the Summit. Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. stated, “Entrepreneurship has played a pivotal role in Worcester’s past and continues to do so today. And, with the award-winning efforts of MassDiGI and Action! Worcester I look forward to what our future holds.”

Reposted from becker.edu with additions, minor edits.

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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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