May 8, 2017
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Winners of First-Ever Statewide Game DEV Challenge Competition

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces Winners of First-Ever...

The Inaugural Challenge Received 40 Submissions from Across New York

Winners Awarded Funding to Assist with Game Development and Production

Investment Complements "Finger Lakes Forward" – Region's Successful Blueprint to Grow the Economy and Create New Opportunities

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the winners of the first New York State Game Dev Challenge, hosted by Rochester Institute of Technology's Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity. RIT received 40 submissions for the inaugural challenge from students at state colleges and universities, and independent developers across New York.

"As the digital gaming industry continues to grow across New York, young entrepreneurs and developers are bringing innovative ideas to fruition and fueling growth in this cutting edge sector,"Governor Cuomo said. "I congratulate the winners of the first-ever Game Dev Challenge and look forward to their success as they collaborate with New York’s digital gaming hubs, develop next generation digital technology, and expand their ideas and their businesses across the Empire State."

The Game Dev Challenge invited students enrolled in New York State colleges and universities, and independent developers residing within the state, to bring innovative ideas to production by applying to win awards to support the development of digital games. RIT received 40 submissions for the inaugural challenge and applicants were judged on their game idea pitch, prototype, business and mentorship plans, and development timeline. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul attended the awards ceremony at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester.

"The inaugural NYS Game Dev Challenge highlights RIT's emerging role as a digital media hub," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who attended the announcement. "Through the MAGIC Spell Studios and in partnership with the Strong Museum, RIT is positioning New York to compete globally in a $100 billion industry, creating new jobs and opportunities. I congratulate today's winners and their participating schools, NYU and RPI, and look forward to seeing the next generation of games begin right here in New York State."

In the student category, the winners are:

  • First place – RIT; Nathan Stevens, Michael Ray and Stephanie Stoner for Kingdom of the Tao.
  • Second place – New York University; Weiyu "Ivy" Li, Liyang "Lea" Liu and Zijian "Zed" Zhou for Monsterologist.
  • Third place – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Janice Ho, Diana Nguyen and Neil Clarke for Phony.


In the independent developer category, the winners are:

  • First place – Evan Anthony, Jeremy Abel and Mercy Lomelin from New York City, for Genesis Noir.
  • Second place – Matthew Weise and Clara Fernandez-Vara from New York City, for The Myth Machine.
  • Third place – Waseque Qazi from Buffalo for Shotgun Farmers.


First place winners in both categories were awarded $12,000. Second place awardees received $8,000 each, and third place winners each received $5,000. Winners will also be included in an on-site incubator at RIT, New York University, or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for up to one year and will have access to a mentor network.

Empire State Development's Division of Science, Technology and Innovation designated RIT, NYU and RPI as Digital Gaming Hubs in January 2016, and carry that designation through December 31, 2018. The hubs are supported by $150,000 in New York State funding per year for three years. The goal is to foster innovation and collaborative activities that create new games or companies, as well as provide resources and mentoring that encourage students and entrepreneurs to enter the digital gaming industry. The hubs also assist existing companies with gaming concepts, technologies and trends and host events focused on assisting the gaming community.

Senator Martin J. Golden, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Science, Technology, Incubation and Entrepreneurship said, "This is a great first step for recognizing and encouraging these gifted and incredibly hard working individuals and companies. New York has the best talent and academic programs for the gaming industry in the world. The gaming hubs and this contest are the launching pads we need, but we have to do more to encourage this talent and businesses to stay and grow in New York."

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol said, "Congratulations to these talented and exceedingly intelligent digital media creators, and to the Governor for promoting this important competition. New York boasts a fantastic digital media and entertainment sector. We are proud of their success and to claim their work as an important New York State product."

ESD President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "Some of the digital gaming industry’s most talented and creative minds call New York State home. With efforts like our Digital Gaming Hubs, which are encouraging students and independent developers to design and produce new, innovative digital games, and the Game Dev Challenge, we are further bolstering the state’s growing role this industry."

Robert Mostyn, New York State Game Dev Challenge administrator and Digital Gaming Hub Coordinator at RIT, said, "I am beyond thrilled with the response that we received for this challenge. The quality and amount of submissions that we received reaffirms that fact that New York State has an enormous amount of talent and that we are producing incredible games."

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward 
Today's announcement complements "Finger Lakes Forward," the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. This initiative is focused on growing jobs, increasing regional wealth, driving private investment and reducing poverty. The State has already invested more than $3.4 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan which includes investing in key industries such as photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing.  Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Rochester, Batavia and Canandaigua as a destination to grow and invest in as a result.

The $500 million “Finger Lakes Forward” Upstate Revitalization Initiative announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015 will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs. More information is available here.​

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