Becker Students Win MassDiGI Game Challenge

Published on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
80HD Games: Jonathan Neimi, Chris Gengler, Andrew Neimi, Emil Ritter, and Ali Swei

80HD Games: (l-r) Jonathan Neimi, Chris Gengler, Andrew Neimi, Emil Ritter, and Ali Swei

News coverage: Boston GlobeMass. High TechBostInnoBoston Herald

Three teams of students in Becker College’s nationally ranked video game design and development programs earned top spots in a competition with 25 other teams of game developers in the first-ever MassDiGI (Massachusetts Digital Games Institute) Game Challenge, held April 13-15 at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center in Cambridge, Mass. Contestants included students from top schools in New England as well as professional, independent game designers.  Prizes were awarded in various categories by judges,  chosen from the video game industry. Games were rated  based on playability, salability, novelty and technical achievement. Each team had to include an oral sales pitch as well as a copy of the game or concept.

80HD Games won the grand prize and the Best Game Concept distinction for their game, “Nano Swarm,” in which players direct machine-gun and flame thrower-dodging swarms of self-aware nanobots with the touch of a finger. The members of 80HD Games are sophomores Chris Gengler, of Northampton, Mass.; Emil Ritter, of Sharon, Mass.; Ali Swei, of Chestnut Hill, Mass.; and Andrew Neimi and Jonathan Neimi, both of Fitzwilliam, NH.

“80HD used a game mechanic for ‘Nano Swarm’ that makes it compatible with the touch tablets and smartphones; the judges agreed that separated them from the pack,” said Tim Loew, executive director of MassDiGI. “There were a lot of great entries; it was very close.”

“It was inspiring—and a bit intimidating—to be around so many mentors from the video game industry,” says Ritter, whose sentiment was echoed by his teammates. “The mentor sessions were crucial in taking what we thought was a good idea for a game and evolving it into an immersive and fun experience for the players.”

The MassDiGI Game Challenge grand prize includes full access to a MassDiGI 2012 Summer Innovation Program (SIP) team (valued at $20,000) to help polish their game and get it ready for launch; $6,000 worth of legal services from Morse, Barnes-Brown, Pendleton PC; access to award-winning industry mentors; a cash award; and other prizes.

Two additional teams of Becker students were also recognized. Zephyr—junior Breeze Grigas, of Oxford, Mass. and freshman Jeffrey Garuti, of Middlefield, Conn.–was a runner-up in the Wow! This Could be Good category. Quark—juniors Bailey Applegate, of Sturbridge, Mass.; and Thomas Bouwman-Wozencarft , of Medway, Mass.; and freshmen Curtis Geter, of West Haven, Conn.; Alex Jersey, of Lenoir, NC; and Jason Tripp, of Hyannis, Mass.;—received an honorable mention.

“At Becker College, an emphasis is placed not just on learning about video games, but learning how to make real games,” said Paul D. Cotnoir, Ph.D., director of design programs at Becker. “This broad-based process draws not only on the craft of video game design, but also on business, psychology, history, and communication. From this wide-angle perspective,  Becker game students are constantly working and reworking their game ideas from the day they walk on campus to the last semester of their senior year.”

“It is a testament to the talent of our students and a great validation for the Becker faculty and curriculum to have industry professionals think so highly of our students’ work,” says Terrasa Ulm, professor of game design at Becker. “This is all the more satisfying considering that this year’s grand prize winners are just sophomores.”

Students who are entering their junior or senior year of college and looking to break into the interactive entertainment industry are welcome to apply for the MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program to help bring the winning MassDiGI Game Challenge concepts to market. Accepted applicants will work alongside a team of other students on the Becker College Worcester, Mass. campus. Students accepted into the program will receive free housing over the summer, as well as a stipend. To apply, students should visit The deadline for applications is Monday, April 23.