'Surreal' video game hatched at Drexel earns acclaim

On a journey through darkness, your goal is to make light.

Video game as therapy?

Thomas Sharpe says that was not his intent.

But there is no denying the soothing quality of a new game from this 2016 Drexel University grad and his colleagues.

The game is called Sole, and it is one of 150 finalists for the International Mobile Gaming Awards, from among more than 3,000 entries.

In the game, the player guides a glowing orb, traveling through a shadowy, futuristic landscape. The dreamy soundtrack was composed by Drexel's Nabeel Ansari, a junior on a custom-designed course of study in applied mathematics and music.

The object is deceptively simple: Turn on the lights. In the demo clip, the player activates obelisks that form a network of interconnected light beams.

Sharpe's start-up is called Gossamer Games, housed in a Drexel-based incubator called the Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship. Other team members include Nina DeLucia and Vincent De Tommaso, recent graduates of Drexel's Westphal College of Media Arts and Design.

Sharpe, who cofounded Gossamer while still a Drexel student in 2015, said the group wanted to provide an alternative to the typical video game.

"A lot of video games, they're very action-driven. There's a lot of risk and reward, consequences, and failure and death," he said. "We wanted something a little bit slower-paced and more introspective."

The game is not yet available for sale. It exists only in demo version, so its inclusion among the contest finalists was a pleasant surprise, Sharpe said.

 

Drexel professor Frank Lee, director of the university's Entrepreneurial Game Studio program, is a fan.

“Playing the game almost feels like meditation,” Lee said in a Drexel blog post.

Other competitors for the awards include video-game powerhouses such as Electronic Arts and Nintendo.

The winners are to be announced in San Francisco on Feb. 28.

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