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Game Dev Challenge shows gaming's potential 

Several Rochester Institute of Technology students and graduates emerged as winners in a statewide digital game-development competition, the Game Dev Challenge.

The Challenge drew 40 entries; awards were announced Monday at a ceremony at the Strong National Museum of Play, hosted by RIT's MAGIC Center. But the challenge and the awards ceremony illustrate something more: interest in game development as an important new industry is growing, in the state and in Rochester.

The state has designated RIT, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and New York University as gaming hubs, and the Game Dev Challenge was part of that effort. And Rochester's gaming industry was already showing strength. Several local companies are producing games, animation, and related software. RIT's game development program ranks as one of the country's best.

The University of Rochester also has gaming programs, and the Eastman School of Music is preparing to start a program for music scoring for digital games. The Strong museum, which has expanded its focus and collection over several years to include digital games, hosts the Video Game Hall of Fame.

The Central Library is preparing to set aside two rooms for animation and game development – not for playing digital games but for creating them, says Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation.

Gaming's growth in Rochester may have been ad hoc in its early stages, and overlooked as a local industry, but that's changing. RDDC recently brought together developers and representatives from institutions to discuss a "more intentional growth strategy" for the local industry, Zimmer-Meyer says. They'll be meeting again next week.

The Game Dev Challenge winners

Student developer category: Nathan Stevens, Michael Ray, and Stephanie Stoner from RIT, first place; Weiyu Li, Liyang Liu, and Zijian Zhou, New York University, second place; and Janice Ho, Diana Nguyen, and Neil Clarke, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, third place.

Independent developer category: Evan Anthony, Jeremy Abel, and Mercy Lomelin, New York City, first place (Anthony and Abel are RIT graduates); Matthew Weise and Clara Fernandez-Vara, New York City, second place; and Waseque Qazi, Buffalo, third place.

Winners will share $50,000 in prize money. In addition, they'll be included in a business incubator at either RIT, Rensselaer, or New York University, and they'll have access to mentors.

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