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

Published on Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

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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