About the Grant
Beginning in 2016, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Public Understanding of Science, Technology & Economics program has awarded a yearly grant to fund game development at the NYU Game Center. Students who are making games that portray science & technology with originality and insight are connected with scientists early in their development process. Over the course of the year, the students work with the scientists to integrate the subject matter and the games. After graduation, students can apply for a grant that gives one game resources to develop and launch the game to the public.
As described by the Foundation the, “The program’s primary aim is to build bridges between the two cultures of science and the humanities and to develop a common language so that they can better understand and speak to one another–and ultimately to grasp that they belong to a single common culture.” At the Game Center, we share the Foundation’s goals and believe that games are uniquely suited for building bridges between science and humanities. In his 2014 talk at the Game Developer’s Conference, Department Chair Frank Lantz outlined our agreement with Sloan, “There is a deep schism in the contemporary world between rationality and emotion, reason and intuition, logic and feeling. Games, more than any other form of culture, offer deep insight into this conflict. If we observe them closely, games can reveal the subtle and complex connections between science and art, between objective facts and profound truths, between the fearsome power of conscious, deliberate thought, and the mysterious values that guide and limit that power.”
Thanks to the support of the Foundation, our students have developed numerous games that explore science, technology, and economics during their time at school, and we have financially supported the ongoing development of three games after graduation: Mendel, AstronoME, and Hyper Ecofarm.
2016 Awardee – Mendel
Mendel is a science creativity sandbox. Pilot a probe on a far away planet, gathering samples from the weird native flowers and breeding them together to make new hybrids. Watch their genes merge and mutate, producing strange new creations to grow in your alien gardens.
About the Development
Developer Owen Bell: Mendel came from a desire to make a game about creativity, but grew to become a way of sharing a fascination with genetics. I first started looking into as one option among many for how to generate the plants. I was hooked from the start. The sheer range of possibilites encompassed in genetics, from the power of a single gene to the complexities arisen from many, was inspiring. Driven by these discoveries, Mendel adapted, becoming not just about creating beautiful flowers, but also a vehicle for sharing my enthusiasm for this science I was learning about. I wanted to give everyone a chance to discover the same awesome revelations that I had. Now, rather than just being a patch of virtual soil for growing digital plants, Mendel is also a lab. It is a space for players to conduct their own experiments, to make something beautiful and, while doing so, discover the wonders of genetics for themselves. Others have shared in that vision too. Recognizing what I was trying to do, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awarded Mendel the Public Understanding Award, it is the first game to recieve that honor, and with their help I have been able to finish the game as I wanted to make it.
Owen was interviewed by the Museum of the Moving Image about the development of the game when the grant was first awarded. The interview is available here.
About the Developer
Owen Bell is a game developer and digital artist based in New York City. He graduated from the NYU Game Center MFA program in 2016. His current interests center on projects that encourage human-computer collaboration. You can learn more about Owen and follow his work here.
2017 Awardee – AstronoME
AstronoME is an educational science card game inspired by real astronomical techniques. Players will explore celestial bodies in the night sky using two distinct tools: an abstraction of a telescope and spectrograph. By decoding the information hidden on the cards, players will satisfy research goals and earn points in order to beat their opponent.
About the Development
As of fall 2018, AstronoME’s launch plan is currently threefold. First and most major, AstronoME is under review at the American Museum of Natural History to be sold through their Museum gift shop. Second, AstronoME will expand to other store locations, beginning with other scientific institutions. The final phase of the launch plan is to translate the digital files to the web for a free downloadable print-and-play version for science educators.
About the Developers
AstronoME was developed by Danny Nanni and Zachary Barash. Both of them started designing games together at the NYU Game Center, where AstronoME was first conceived. Danny is now a full-time Design staff and faculty member at Purchase College and Zachary is a Senior Designer at the popular horror miniatures tabletop game Kingdom Death.
2018 Awardee – Hyper EcoFarm
Hyper Ecofarm is a real-time farming strategy and fast-pace resource management game that simulates ecofarming. The game is inspired by the Chinese integrated farming system. In Hyper Ecofarm, players are trying to building up an ecosystem, and balance the system dynamically to keep the farm running.
About the Development
Hyper Ecofarm is in pre-production phase, and will be into production phase before October. 2018. The expected publish time for App Store is the end of the 2018.
Shiyun graduated from the MFA 2017 and has been developing Hyper Ecofarm since then. Like Owen, she was interviewed by The Museum of the Moving Image about the development of the game and her plans for the future.
About the Developer
Shiyun “Vanilla” Liu is an indie game designer and game developer from China. Dreaming of making games, she graduated from Communication University of China with a bachelor’s degree in game programming. Then, she moved to Brooklyn to study for a Master’s degree in game design at New York University’s Game Center. She likes simple rules that can enable players to strive for new strategies. She is also enthusiastic about simulating systems of the real world in games.