XozGaming is an Imagine Cup game development team made up of two high school juniors from Lick-Wilmerding High School. Julius is the artist and Xander is the programmer behind their XNA Game – Strain.

Strain is a Windows real time strategy game where you defend the world against a global pandemic.

I sat down with this team for a while today and asked them a bit about how they got started. Xander is a self-taught programmer. He started with web development and some PHP and moved on to C++. For this project he had to learn C# and XNA of course. I asked them how they heard about the Imagine Cup and got a surprising answer. “My Mom told me about it” Xander told me. Apparently his mother was doing Internet searches for scholarships and other things that might help Xander get into college and found the Imagine Cup along the way. Xander looked at it, thought is seemed interesting and brought Julius in for the art work. They asked their math teacher to mentor them. I heard from their mentor that there will be a software design course at their school next year largely as a result of the excitement XoZGaming has brought to the school.

XozGaming was competing against hundreds of teams in order to get to Redmond this weekend to compete in the US Imagine Cup finals. All of the other teams here are from colleges and universities. Many of the teams they beat out included upper level undergraduate and even graduate students. Hard work and talent got them very far very quickly. They seem like really great people as well. I really enjoyed talking to them. I’ve told then that they should plan on competing again next year as well.

Of course making it to the US finals of a national competition like this has to look good on college applications. It’s also given them a great start in learning important things beyond game development. Things like presentation skills, team work, and project/time management. Once here in Redmond they have taken advantage of learning opportunities in the form of seminars and conversations with other competitors and Microsoft employees. They have feedback on their game from game industry professionals. A lot of value in things like that.

This morning they compete against three other teams, all from universities, for the chance to be the top XNA game team in the US Imagine Cup. Win or lose though they are big winners in my book. Good luck to them today!

EDIT: They came in fourth which while I am sure was dissappointing is still a big win looking at all the competition they beat to get that far. More final US Imagine Cup results here.

Patrick Godwin (aka @ximplosionx), a high school senior himself, spent some time with XozGaming and you can read about his impressions of them at 2011 US Imagine Cup Finals–Day 1  and 2011 US Imagine Cup–Day 2: XozGaming. Late Edit: Patrick has a video interview with the team at 2011 US Imagine Cup Finals–Final Day Presentations