A South Forsyth High School alumnus and his teammates took a top prize in the 10th Microsoft U.S. Imagine Cup for creation of a computer game.
Chris Reid worked on the design of “Redux,” a sustainability game that won first in its division in the contest billed as the “world’s premier student technology competition.”
The Imagine Cup, according to a news release, asks students to “create technology solutions to help improve education, health care and the environment, among other areas.
“Many students use the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and their own personal experiences to find inspiration for their projects.”
Reid, a 2009 South graduate who attends Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and his three classmates were one of 22 finalists for the national competition earlier this spring in Redmond, Wash. More than 113,000 teams registered.
They named themselves Dr. Fishbowl, after a character they’d created in a previous game together, and took first place in the game design: Xbox/Windows category.
Dr. Fishbowl won $6,000 and $10,000 donations for their university, as well as laptops and other prizes.
“We were pretty proud of our product,” Reid said. “We didn’t think it was a shoe-in, but we were confident that we had the ability to win.”
The team used the book “Cradle To Cradle” for inspiration for the game’s concept.
“The idea of [the book] is the way that we look at our product lifecycle is all wrong,” Reid said. “We look at it linearly, like from some natural resource into the product that we want, and then you forget about it after it becomes waste.
“[The authors’] argument is that the byproducts themselves can become raw materials for new products so there’s no end point.”
Dr. Fishbowl translated the concept into a resource management game, a category that “Roller Coaster Tycoon” could fit in.
In “Redux,” players create products for a city to use, but they must find a physical place for the byproducts or find another use for them.
“The idea is that a good player keeps all of these resources cycling around,” Reid said. “You have to think about sustainability in order to win the game.”
Reid said his team decided to enter the competition after a Microsoft representative gave a presentation on their campus.
They’ve worked on several projects together, including a recent endeavor creating an “interactive crowd-input game” for a concert in Madrid, he said.
Reid, a human-computer interaction major, doesn’t plan to enter the game industry after he graduates in December.
“I’m looking at applying game design principles in non-game contexts,” he said. “[My major] is the intersection between design, behavioral science and computer science. I look at improving interfaces and the way that people actually behave with computers.”
The Imagine Cup was a great way to apply principles of gaming for another purpose, he said, though “Redux” is intended to be fun and engaging as well.
The win and the prize money for the team was “icing on the cake” in the contest, Reid said.
“For us,” he said, “it was really more for the opportunity to get out there a little more and meet other like-minded people, which I think we succeeded in.”