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  • 10 Indie, Student Game Competitions: A Shortlist for Your Submissions

    - Alistair Wallis

    Now entering its 10th year, the Independent Games Festival, or IGF, is arguably the most prominent and visible of the indie games competitions. The IGF was a coming of age party for a few runaway successes, including Narbacular Drop, which later became Portal, Everyday Shooter, Gish, and Darwinia.

    The competition is divided into four sections: main competition, mod competition, student showcase, and new to 2008, the mobile awards.

    Awards for the main IGF competition are given out in seven categories:

    • Seumas McNally Grand Prize
    • Excellence in Visual Art
    • Excellence in Audio
    • Innovation Award
    • Technical Excellence
    • Best Web Browser Game
    • Audience Award

    Mod awards are given to the best single player FPS, multiplayer FPS, RPG, best "other" mod, as well as an award for the best overall entry.

    The student showcase provides travel stipends to 12 of the best entrants

    When: The awards are announced during a ceremony held during the Game Developers Conference. (The 2008 GDC is set for February 18 through 22.)

    Submission guidelines, in brief: Submissions for the IGF generally open in June and close in October. Entry for the main competition is open to anyone over the age of 13 developing games independently, with an entry fee of $95. The student competition has no entry fee and is open to developers over the age of 13, provided they can prove that they're either attending college or high school.

    Judges for the IGF are pulled from various sources, ranging from game journalists to former winners and industry veterans. Winners are rarely predictable due to the makeup of the judges panel -- there's no specific kind of game that necessarily appeals to the IGF jurors.

    The 2008 contest will feature 178 games in the main event and 125 student entries. This number is increasing with each successive year as the IGF gains in prominence with the community and makes for an intensely competitive event.


    The Slamdance competition has only been around for three years, but already stands as one of the most prominent contests around, though the reasons for its prominence might be the cause of some concern. Earlier this year, the competition was noted more for the controversy surrounding Danny Ledonne's Super Columbine Massacre RPG than anything else. Slamdance founder Pete Baxter dropped the game from the competition and subsequently, almost half the other finalists dropped out, leaving the competition without a winner after jurors withdrew Official Jury Selection for all finalists.

    When: Previously, the event was held concurrently with the Slamdance film festival in Park City, Utah, generally from mid-January until the end of the month. The 2008 event, however, has been separated and will take place toward the middle of the year in Los Angeles.

    Submission guidelines, in brief: Entry is open to anyone producing "interactive and electronic" games independently. Submissions for the 2008 competition are not yet being accepted, though the web site notes this will take place either in the coming weeks or early in 2008.


    The Independent Game Developers Showcase is sponsored and run by ECD Systems, an anti-piracy and content protection company. The contest has been running for two years, and while it has yet to reach the prominence of competitions like the IGF, it has nonetheless seen an impressive selection of titles entered. Last year's general category winner was Naked Sky Entertainment's Roboblitz, with Grubby Games' Fizzball taking honors in the inaugural casual competition.

    Finalists are selected by web site visitors, with winners selected by a panel of judges from the 10 most popular titles within each category.

    When: For last year's contest, entries were accepted from the time of the Game Developers Conference (March 2007), and the winners were announced during the Austin Games Conference in September 2007.

    Submission guidelines, in brief: Entry is open to any independent developer, as well as student developers; in fact, the first runner up in the 2007 competition was Synaesthete, produced by DigiPen students. Details on the 2008 contest are to be announced in early 2008.


    Intel's Game Demo Contest focuses, as one would expect, more on how the title interacts with the processor more than anything else. There are two categories in the event: Best Threaded Game and Best Game on the Go. Best Threaded Game asks entrants to make use of multi-core processing in an obvious and inventive way, while Best Game on the Go aims to show advances in laptop gaming.
    Additionally, other awards were offered in the 2007 event, including one for best use of GarageGames' Torque engine.

    When: Similar to the Developers Showcase, entry opened in March and winners were announced at the Austin Game Developers Conference. Details are yet to be announced, but it does appear that the company is working toward a 2008 contest as well.

    Submission guidelines, in brief: The contest is not exclusively independent and is open to any individual or company not currently possessing an "existing technology enabling account" with Intel. Nonetheless, winners have included DigiPen students and numerous one-person efforts, with the main prize in 2007 in the Threaded Game competition taken by Bottomless Pit Games' online multiplayer shooter Harmotion.


    The Imagine Cup, run by Mircosoft, is a student competition comprising nine categories, not all of which apply to game development:

    • Software Design
    • Embedded Development
    • Game Development
    • Project Hoshimi
    • IT Challenge
    • Algorithm
    • Photography
    • Short Film
    • Interface Design

    The cup is always a themed event. The 2008 Imagine Cup's theme is environmentalism, and entrants must "imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment."

    The game development contest focuses on the use of Microsoft's XNA framework -- in particular, the Game Studio Express. If that sounds restrictive, then maybe the prizes will make it seem more worthwhile. In addition to cash prizes for winners and a flight to Paris for the finalists to compete in the finals, Microsoft will give game winners a booth at the PAX Penny Arcade Expo, the largest gaming expo in the U.S.

    When: Registration initially opened in August 2007 for the 2008 competition. Deadlines for submission vary by category, and entries go through a series of judging. In the first submission phase, students entering the game development category send in a short demo of the game; the deadline for this is in February 1, 2008. Only 20 teams will progress to the next round from there, with just six going to the finals. Winners will be announced at the finals in Paris in July 2008.

    Submission guidelines, in brief: Submission guidelines vary by category. Entrants must be enrolled in either high school or a college, and must be at least 16 years old. Game submissions need to be appropriate for an ESRB rating of T or lower, and should be less than 200MB in size.


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