Game On: Georgia Tech students take home top game designer prize

A group of Georgia Tech students, representing five different majors, just took home the “Best Student Game” award at the Independent Game Festival (IGF) in San Francisco. 

The Festival, which has been around since 1998, recognizes the best and most talented independent game developers bringing new concepts to life. 

Slider, created by Daniel Carr and a group of 34 students, is a “charming pixel art puzzle game” where players must rearrange maps in order to reconnect humanity. 

Carr said the initial idea for Slider dates back to summer 2021 when he and five friends joined the GMTK game jam, a 48-hour game design challenge. 

“We asked: “What if moving the tiles on a map moves the world itself?” Together, we built out the first level in Slider on a 3×3 grid, filled it with tons of interesting puzzles, and managed to score 16th place by community votes at the end of the jam and got a ton of super positive feedback, so we were excited about the prospect of expanding the game after the jam,” Carr told Hypepotamus. 

Over the course of 2022, Carr worked with Georgia Tech’s video game club to bring more of the game world to life. A group of volunteer engineers, coders, designers, and artists to bring the game to life. 

“My main goals for Slider were for it to be an extremely challenging puzzle game that was super approachable. I want players to be able to experience the joys of exploring and puzzle solving on their own. Some of the puzzles can be really hard, but we believe they’re fair too. The game shows the player new mechanics quickly and explores the most interesting interactions with those mechanics quickly, so we hope that we can keep a strong pace of always-interesting content,” he added. “From the non-puzzle side of the game, we want the player to have fun engaging where they want too. We don’t take our dialogue too seriously and have lots of fun characters throughout the game. The artists and musicians also did a stellar job so we hope players will appreciate that too.”

Slider has been a side project for Carr and the team, who are all navigating schoolwork, internships, and jobs on top of designing the game. 

“It has helped to serve as an outlet for our creativity while still being an exciting long-term project we can all look forward to and talk about,” Carr added. 

While Slider was a true side hustle for these students, the fact that a team from Georgia Tech took home first prize at Independent Game Festival showcases the state’s strong game design scene. 

10 Georgia universities — including Georgia Tech, SCAD, Morris Brown, and Georgia State in Atlanta — all have game design and esports-related majors. The state is also home to over 140 gaming-related businesses, according to The Georgia Game Developers Association