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Dartmouth junior’s alternative energy strategies game wins second place in international game design competition

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 07/17/09 • Media Contact: Latarsha Gatlin (603) 646-3661

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Edward McNeill
Edward McNeill '11 (photo courtesy Edward McNeill)

Edward McNeill ’11 found out about Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2009 competition just three weeks before an entry deadline but took a chance and decided to apply anyway. That gamble led to a second place showing for McNeill, who entered the international competition as a one-person game design team, for his alternative energy strategies game ALTERNEX.

The Microsoft Imagine Cup is a worldwide technology competition that encourages young people to apply their imagination, passion and creativity to innovations that can make a difference in the world. In its eighth year, the event has grown into a global competition focused on finding solutions to global issues. Each year thousands of students compete in one of nine categories. This year the competition was held in Cairo, Egypt and more than 300,000 students registered. An estimated 59,000 students from 142 countries participated in the games.

This year’s theme challenged competitors to “imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today,” a reference to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

In the Game Development category, “I competed against about 600 other Game Development teams from around the world,” McNeill said.

Because of the short amount of time he had to prepare, McNeill, a computer science major with a digital arts concentration from Fairfax County, Va., said he didn’t have time to put a group together. “I wasn't even sure if I was going to compete until there was only a week and a half left!”

He chose alternative energy management as the theme of his game. “I already knew a bit about CO2 buildup and alternative energy strategies when I found out about the competition, and I knew that there were lessons about that subject that games could teach well,” he said. “The amount of time it takes to develop a game varies widely with the scope and complexity of the game. I designed this game to be small and focused specifically so that I could complete it in the three week time limit.”

The 2009 Big Green Bus crew
Screenshot of McNeill's game, ALTERNEX (image courtesy of Edward McNeill)

He called his “team” Epsylon Games and his game ALTERNEX, which he describes as: “A hardcore educational game about the development and deployment of alternative energy strategies. By modeling the systems behind energy policy, the game encodes its educational points in the gameplay while preserving the fun factor.”

The first-place team came from Brazil and the third-place winners were from the United Kingdom. His second-place finish is impressive considering he was the only single-person team in the category. For his efforts, he won $10,000 and the luxury to decide what he wants to do next.

“I may revise my game and submit it to other independent game festivals, but I also have a lot of new projects that I want to start working on, so I'm not committing to anything yet,” he said.

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Last Updated: 9/14/09