Theorify’s Vince Close and Jasmine Bulin score big at Games for Change.
The X Prize Foundation, in collaboration with Google, is challenging privately-funded spaceflight teams to successfully launch and land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon, while transmitting specified images and date back to Earth. The Google Lunar XPRIZE, as it’s called, comes with a $30M payday—the largest ever of its kind—to the first team to complete the challenge.
One of the seventeen teams from across the globe, Space IL from Israel, will attempt to make history through this program by launching a dishwasher-sized, 388-pound spacecraft to the moon, where it will hobble and jump across the lunar surface to complete its mission. And Long Beach indie game maker Theorify, a techy group of awesome nerds and proud geeks who make games that educate, plans to help them get there.
To get their clunky space rover to the moon on the least amount of fuel possible, Space IL plans to use crowdsourced trajectory and landing data, gathered from a computer game, in a process that Theorify specializes in, called “gamification.” Gamification, in the simplest sense, means solving complex problems by modeling them as a game.
In April, Space IL hosted a “Shoot For the Moon” challenge at Games For Change, a conference that caters to developers of games with educational and social value, to find a game developer who could gamify the collection of the data they need.
“We spent six weeks on the project—we only had a few weeks to submit—and had to pitch it to the audience in ten minutes,” said Jasmine Bulin, Director of New Game Development at Theorify. “It started with just me and then I pitched it to three people I work with. Even after we submitted our concept, we kept working and working and working: black-and-white drawings to colored outlines to prototypes.”
Competing against two much larger entities—Ohio State University and veteran game developer Chris Crawford—Theorify’s Academy concept stood out: it was fun, playful, and cartoon-like—which developed out of, in the words of Bulin, figuring out how to engage people who “aren’t geeky about space.”
“At first, looking at the other designs, we couldn’t help but think, while standing in front of a ton of people at this massive conference in New York, that we might be the odd man out,” Bulin said. “Ohio State is chock-full of great 3D artists while Chris Crawford is just an industry stand-out. Their work was nerdy and sophisticated and while ours was nerdy, it was nerdy on a whole different level.”
That different level wowed the judging panel, who handed Theorify a $25,000 check to develop Space IL Academy in partnership with Games for Change and Space IL. Once approved, the game’s data will be gathered and used to help Space IL land their craft on the moon.
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