VR game Intern Astronaut takes grand prize in fifth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge pitch contest – 2/29/16

Published on Monday, February 29th, 2016

Official Press Release:

Virtual reality game Intern Astronaut takes grand prize in fifth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge pitch contest

Above: L to R - Broken Door Studio’s Kedong Ma, Yingying Chen, Shane Stenson, Sean Halloran, Jake Hawes and MassDiGI’s Monty Sharma

Above: L to R – Broken Door Studio’s Kedong Ma, Yingying Chen, Shane Stenson, Sean Halloran, Jake Hawes and MassDiGI’s Monty Sharma

Cambridge, MA – February 29, 2016 – Intern Astronaut by Broken Door Studio, a team of students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), won the grand prize in the fifth annual Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) Game Challenge pitch contest this weekend.

Intern Astronaut is a virtual reality game that takes on-the-job training to new heights. Made for Gear VR, Intern Astronaut is an immersive and funny game that enrolls the player as an intern tasked to fly a spaceship.

Taking on the role of an untrained intern in the game, players must watch their spaceship’s monitors for urgent instructions from mission control on what to do to keep their ship flying. Any instruction completed incorrectly or not quickly enough will damage their ship until their internship ends with them stranded in space! Every time players start the game their ship is equipped with different control panels and they are given new instructions on how to pilot it, ensuring that every playthrough is as challenging as the first day on the job.

  • View the Intern Astronaut trailer here

Broken Door Studio, which also won the College Beta/Near Release category, is made up of Sean Halloran, Yingying Chen, Shane Stenson, Kedong Ma and Jake Hawes. The game will be released for Gear VR in late spring 2016.

“Our team is thrilled to have won the Game Challenge. It was a great event for all of us,” said Sean Halloran, the team’s programmer. “We got terrific feedback from so many amazing mentors and judges. We learned so much. Everyone making games should go to it.”

The MassDiGI Game Challenge helps indie, startup and student game developers and entrepreneurs shape their ideas and products for launch. This year 35 teams from across the northeast competed in front of a packed room at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center in Kendall Square.

Since the MassDiGI Game Challenge began five years ago, over 175 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 PWN, Catlateral Damage, Depression Quest, Pathogen, Wobbles and Starlot Derby.

Above: L to R - Competitor Chaima Jemmali meets with mentor Wizdy’s Nikita Virani

Above: L to R – Competitor Chaima Jemmali meets with mentor Wizdy’s Nikita Virani

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 speakers, mentors and judges.

As the Grand Prize and College Beta/Near Release Category winner Broken Door Studio won cash, legal services from Greenberg Traurig, computer hardware and game merchandise valued at over $7,500.

“This year’s contest was the closest competition ever,” said Monty Sharma, managing director of MassDiGI, “We were really impressed by the teams, their creativity and skills. Each year we see improvements in the games and in their market potential.”

Other top winners include Worcester-based Zephyr Workshop which won the People’s Choice Award as well as the Indie Demo/Alpha Category for Florafiora, a game they are making in collaboration with Mob Made Games of Cambridge.

“Winning not only our category but the People’s Choice Award is rewarding and humbling,” said Breeze Grigas, Zephyr Workshop’s Co-Founder and Designer. “We’ve been coming to the Game Challenge for five years, each time we get better and this year it really paid off for Florafiora.”

Florafiora is a single-player experience where you help planetoid-dwelling “Seedizens” explore and expand their tiny universe, meeting other cultures and keeping everyone happy and productive.

“With so many exciting games from indies and students in the competition, it was a challenge to make a decision,” said Caroline Murphy, CEO of the Boston Festival of Indie Games, one of the contest’s judges. “To me, just entering the MassDiGI Game Challenge shows a commitment to creating games that speaks to success.”

The other top Indie winner was Jig Time which won top honors in the Beta/Near Release Category. Jig Time is a fun, new photo-sharing app – like Snapchat but with more game elements – that allows users to exchange their images in the form of interactive jigsaw puzzles.

I++, another team of WPI students, won the Serious Game Category with Chinmoku, a mystery game which seeks to teach the player hiragana, one of the Japanese writing systems, through immersive gameplay.

Serious Game Category runner-up honors went to EduSaga, a team from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, with their eponymous Chinese language-learning detective game.

Heist Night, made by yet another team of WPI students, won the College Demo/Alpha Category.

Winning the High School Category was PolyThief made by Nostradingus, a team of students from Millbury (MA) Memorial Jr./Sr. High School.

“We met these students three years ago. Since then their teacher has given them encouragement and brought them to the Game Challenge each year. The students have learned from mentors and from each other how to build an award-winning game,” said Sharma. “It’s great to see.”

Runner-up in the High School Category from Westborough High School was Hoksy with Shelter Shock.

Other Category Runner-up honors went to:

  • Indie Demo/Alpha: Petricore Games with Traveling Merchant
  • Indie Beta/Near Release: Copper Frog Games with Tattoo! A Game of Ink
  • College Demo/Alpha: Omnitone Games from Becker College with HotWired
  • College Beta/Near Release: French Frogs from Becker with Make Bonds Now and Jeremy Slavitz from Tufts University with Metamorphic

Honorable Mentions were given to:

  • Indie Demo/Alpha: BareHand with Big Boi Little Boi
  • College Demo/Alpha: MOTU from Fitchburg State University, Revolver: Rebound from WPI, Convergence from Becker and The Experiment from the Five College Consortium
  • College Beta/Near Release: Lily Leap from Becker

Indie and College Category winners also received prizes including cash and legal services from Morse, Barnes-Brown & Pendleton valued at $1,000. The event is supported by MassDiGI’s annual sponsors and hosted by Microsoft New England Research & Development.


About the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI)

MassDiGI is the statewide center for entrepreneurship, academic cooperation and economic development across the games ecosystem. MassDiGI’s many programs and activities support business growth and enhance the talent pipeline between higher education and the game industry.

For more information about MassDiGI, please visit massdigi.org or follow them on Twitter @mass_digi.

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