“Elsinore,” a video game created by Carnegie Mellon University alumni, won the Most Unique Game Award at this year's Power of Play gaming event.
Presented by Intel and the Washington Interactive Network, the one-day spring conference in Bellevue, Washington, was a “who’s who” of gaming professionals and gaming companies, including industry icons Xbox, Bungie and Blizzard.
“Elsinore,” which can be played on a PC, Mac or Linux, is no stranger to winning. Launched with a 2015 Kickstarter campaign, the game has won six industry awards.
“Elsinore’s” core developers met as undergraduates at CMU, where the concept originated. Team members are: Duncan Boehle, a 2012 graduate who majored in computer science and minored in game design and development; Eric Butler, a 2010 graduate who majored in computer science and minored in mathematics and in 2011 earned his master’s degree in computer science; Katie Chironis, a 2012 graduate who majored in creative writing and human-computer interaction; Connor Fallon, a 2012 graduate who majored in creative writing; Val Reznitskaya, a 2011 graduate who majored in computer science and minored in Japanese; and Kristin Siu, a 2010 graduate who majored in computer science and minored in art.
Chironis said the game was developed and continues to be revised by team members in their spare time. The reason: each of them have fulltime jobs at some of the most influential game development companies. Chironis works at Oculus and Fallon at ArenaNnet, for example.
The Unique Award is notable, Chironis said. The game’s developers playfully liken it to “Hamlet meets Groundhog Day.”
“Elsinore” focuses on the character Ophelia, who foresaw many deaths in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” In the game, Ophelia uses information she gleans to prevent tragedies during four repeating days.
Chironis said the game spotlights “social simulation,” in which effects are more likely caused by character motivation, thoughts and feelings rather than by violence.
The growing popularity “Elsinore” and recognition may help mark a shift in the industry, Chironis said, in which gaming starts drawing more from literature and cinema, engaging a more diverse audience.
While a student at CMU, Chironis received one of the randomly generated prompts by the student-run CMU group Game Creation Society (GCS). The prompt read, simply, “Shakespeare.” Chironis, who in her literature class had become obsessed with “Hamlet,” called her friend Fallon and discussed the possibilities.
“Groups like the GCS are a great example of what happens when you give the keys to the kingdom to undergraduates,” said Assistant Dean for Outreach Mark Stehlik, referring to CMU’s interdisciplinary emphasis for the university community. “With access to classes outside their majors, more university resources, and students interacting regardless of their majors, it leads to award-winning projects like Elsinore.”
Currently in beta, “Elsinore’s” PC launch is planned for later this year, with tablet and mobile platform plans to follow.
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Photo caption: Some of the "Elsinore" team members (l-r): Connor Fallon, Katie Chironis and Duncan Boehle.