The theme for Imagine Cup 2011 is imagining a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems, so, um... how does the game design category fit into that... exactly?
It seems like a fair question: gaming represents different things to different people, but it's fair to say that it's not generally considered a beneficent art form that gives back to the planet along the lines of the Imagine Cup's thematic guidelines, being the UN's eight Millennium Development Goals
, which include causes such as ending hunger and poverty, reducing child mortality and combating widespread disease.
So, to clear the air over this potential puzzler and restate the justification for the game design category's inclusion in the wider Imagine Cup program (and by way of implication, point out how game devs worldwide can be part of “the solution” too, if they want), Jon Perera, General Manager of Microsoft Education, asked Australian game design captain Andrew Parsons to make the case for gaming at yesterday's IC captain briefing session. Here's what Andrew had to say:
Australia's Andrew Parsons (image credit: Microsoft)
“Game design is all about making a game that's fun but at the same time raising awareness of those issues. So we obviously recognise that [games] won't necessarily fix problems, but they can certainly educate and help raise awareness. Now there are some games that are educational as well, and that's actually one of the world's issues: education. And in fact I'll just highlight one game [from this year's IC competition] because it does try to address [issues] and fix a problem, a game in the mobile category [that] helps asthmatics and asthmatic kids, by attaching an extra device to the phone for them to blow into, and it makes a game out of it, so that's [an example] of a game that tries to address those kinds of problems.”
The game Andrew described is Azmo the Dragon, a project from the US team. In the 2011 game design category it's alongside student entries including Brainergy from France (which tackles environmental sustainability), The Book of Elmy from Poland (education and sustainability) and FireFighters: Whatever It Takes, a real-time strategy title from the Czech Republic team, which brings gaming attention to the cause of wildfire prevention.The writer travelled to the Imagine Cup finals as a guest of Microsoft.