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Major gaming festival showcases BYU student project


In January of this year, thousands of teens collaborated with the ghosts of Thomas Edison, Ada Lovelace, Steve Jobs and other renowned thinkers in order to defeat a mysterious villain known simply as “S.” This investigating took place within the confines of “The Tessera,” an alternate-reality game (ARG) designed by an interdisciplinary team of students from BYU and the University of Maryland. Thanks to funding provided by the National Science Foundation, these students created the educational game as a way to introduce teenagers to the world of computational thinking.

Now, eight months after its launch, IndieCade, which has become known as the Sundance Film Festival of the gaming industry, has elected to showcase the educational computer game. IndieCade hand-picked “The Tessera” from a list of over 1,000 submissions, and will judge the game alongside 100 other titles at its International Independent Games Festival in San Francisco this October. While the judges won’t declare any winners before Oct. 6-8, just competing in the competition as a finalist is a major success for BYU’s team of collaborators.

While the majority of the project’s student collaborators study in the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, they received help from students studying computer science, animation, advertising and music. Derek Hansen, associate professor of information technology and the project’s leader, was impressed by the students’ efforts.

“By far, my favorite part of being a faculty member at BYU is working with the creative, self-motivated, and highly talented students at BYU,” he said. “It's great to see them stretch themselves and play such pivotal roles on projects with real impact. Our partners at other universities and institutions have been amazed at the aptitude and maturity of BYU undergraduate students.”