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

    - Alistair Wallis


    Held as part of the Toronto Future Play conference, the Arcademy Games Awards is divided into three categories: a general indie event, a serious games competition, and a student contest, with a People's Choice award spanning all three. The conference, held in November, has been going for a number of years, though the 2007 event was the first to actually host the awards ceremony as well.

    The competition is judged by numerous industry professionals, as well as video game academics. In the 2007 contest, first prize in the indie category was given to Cultivation, a social interaction-based gardening game; ResponseReady, an emergency simulator, took the serious games category; and drink driving awareness title Booze Cruise won the student competition.

    When: No announcements have been made regarding a second competition in 2008, though the enthusiastic response reported by the event's organizers would suggest it likely. For the 2007 contest, the first round of submissions occurred in mid March; submissions closed August 1; and winners were announced September 1. Winners were invited to attend and show their games at the Future Play conference in November.

    Submission guidelines, in brief: The requirements for this competition were derived from the Independent Games Festival requirements and are thus nearly identical. Only full-time college or high school students may have worked on the game, and student developers must have been enrolled in school at least through the Spring 2007. Professional game developers may not have assisted with the entry; teachers and professors are an exception unless they are a professional developer.


    This competition, sponsored by casual online game publisher Outspark, strives to find a new multiplayer game for the English-speaking market.

    When: Submission are being accepted until January 28, 2008, with the winner announced at the end of February.

    Submission guidelines, in brief: Outspark makes games that draw their profits through microtransactions, so an important factor in the winning entry is a level of commercialization within the design. The game also should appeal to a casual audience and feature detailed server and database infrastructure in the initial design document.
    That might seem somewhat restrictive, but the fact that the game would be awarded funding and a publishing contract makes it all a little easier to take.


    The Norwegian Game Awards aim to show that "it is possible to create games" in Norway.There are two categories in the competition: PC-based games and web-based games, with an award for the best overall design as well. Mods are currently not accepted.

    When: The date for the concept document, which is needed to compete in the category best concept, is February 1, 2008. The date for the second delivery; finalized concept document, game trailer and demo, is April 30, 2008.

    Submission guidelines, in brief: The Norwegian Game Awards are also stringently independent and student-focused. Development teams must be at least 50 percent students, which includes elementary school students through masters level students or similar. PhD students do not count. Games entered must not have been published or marketed actively prior to the competition. Having entered other competitions, being mentioned by media, or having a project web site is allowed.


    GamerIdol is a new developers' competition for Flash games. Sponsored and run by Flash gaming site Playzi, the contest focuses on games created in that format by students. The goal of GamerIdol is to "demonstrate what students can do, unassisted by professionals."

    When: Submissions are now closed for this inaugural contest, with voting taking place currently and winners to be announced January 5, 2008. If the contest repeats next year with a similar schedule, applicants should look for open registration in early October, submission deadline of late November, and voting beginning in December.

    Submission guidelines, in brief: Games need to be 10MB in size or smaller, and must be in beta stage by the time of submission, with one fully playable level included. Games are judged by Playzi members via the company's web site. Developers must full- or part-time students in either high school or college.

    10. VORTEX

    Now in its third year, the Canadian-focused Vortex contest provides a competitive arm to the McLuhan International Festival of the Future (MIFF), a non-profit event founded by Bill Marshall, who also founded the Toronto International Film Festival. Because it's nonprofit, there's no entry fee. Vortex has a stated goal of helping developers learn business skills and get their games to market.

    The contest is broken into four game categories: PC, console, internet, and mobile, though developers don't actually build a game. Instead, applicants submit a treatment for a game, and 48 were selected from that pool (in the 2007 contest at least) to give a 20-minute pitch to a panel of industry experts, trying to convince them their games are ready to move into the commercialization process. Each day a platform winner was selected, who then entered the mentorship process to work with various experts and refine his or her business plan. Finally, four winners from the previous rounds presented their pitches to a jury, who chose the $2,500CDN grand prize winner.

    When: Vortex is generally held in June. Submissions are yet to open for the 2008 contest, but with the event growing in success each year (2007 was its third incarnation), it seems a certainty that this will be announced soon into the new year.

    Submission guidelines, in brief: The contest is for students studying game design, graduates trying to break into the field, developers in the field, and budding entrepreneurs18 years of age or older. Applicants turn in a one-page high concept treatment for a game and a one-page CV before the 48 competitors are chosen.

    * Disclaimer: All information contained in this article was factual as of December 2007, according to the contests' or organizers' web sites and press releases for the most recently available incarnation of the event. "Submission guidelines, in brief" are not comprehensive rules and regulations for the contests. Please check with the event organizers for complete information


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