E3 is not an event typically thought of as a showcase for the next generation of video game designers. The trade show is a spectacle reserved for the immediate future and big money console makers like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo as well as the publishers, accessory makers, and digital services that support them. There’s a hall for indie games each year, but they’re a footnote to the mainstream. It’s encouraging then to hear that the Entertainment Software Association, the lobbyist group that hosts E3 each year, is spotlighting the true next generation of video games with the E3 College Game Competition.
The ESA has invited universities and colleges with game design programs to select one game developed by their students to represent their school. Finalists from the competition will then be included in a showcase at E3 2013.
“The collegiate game competition is an important step for the ESA in encouraging and rewarding students pursuing careers in video game development,” said ESA CEO Mike Gallagher, “Our learning institutions house so much innovation and talent that will shape the future of our industry and ESA intends to honor student achievement and provide a deserved spotlight at E3.”
The ESA is under increased pressure in 2013 to represent the video game industry as a positive force in young people’s lives. Following the spate of shootings in 2012 that culminated with the massacre in Sandy Hook, Washington has renewed its scrutinizing of the video game industry, particularly the effects of violent video games on children. Following the introduction of the Violent Content Research Act of 2013, the ESA has sworn that it will cooperate with the US government in monitoring the industry.
“We will embrace a constructive role in the important national dialogue around gun violence in the United States, and continue to collaborate with the Administration and Congress as they examine the facts that inform meaningful solutions,” read a statement from the ESA.
E3 is always a showcase for the most violent video games in the industry. Trailers for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and others at E3 2012 showed myriad game characters killed in hails of gun fire. The E3 College Game Competition will be a needed counterpoint to those sorts of titles at E3 2013.
Schools interested in competing can submit applications to the ESA from Mar. 15 to Apr. 19 at ESA@theESA.com. The ESA does say that it will provide “guidelines on specific design, concept, and key asset requirements” to competitors but has yet to respond to inquiries regarding what those requirements might be.