Nationwide search for a star is over: High profile panel selects The Dark Side of Mars as overall winner

The winner of Microsoft’s national Kodu Kup competition – an all-girl team -  has been chosen by a panel of high-profile judges drawn from the education sector and the games industry, following the final round of the competition held at the company’s Reading headquarters. The competition, designed to excite and inspire school children about the possibilities of coding and Computer Science, was launched in January 2013 at BETT. 

The winning game was designed by Holly Bridges, Shauna Coates and Kayleigh Bennett from Afon Taf High School in South Wales. Their game, entitled The Dark Side of Mars, wowed the judges for its originality and creativity. The game was billed as a scary, first person horror show, which went down well with the panel. The judges were also deeply impressed by the team’s presentation skills and the hard work they had put into developing the game. The girls beat off competition from ten other teams from across the UK.

The Kodu Kup finals.
Photograph: Rosie Hallam.

(Afon Taf High School Winners)

During the event, eleven teams of budding young game developers presented their game designs to a panel of high-profile judges, led by Gary Carr (Creative Director at games studio, Lionhead, home of the multi-million selling Fable titles), Theo Chin of independent games developer, IndieSkies and Microsoft ‘Innovative Teachers’ Nicki Maddams and Ray Chambers.

“We were so impressed by the level of imagination, creativity and hard work which had clearly gone into all the game designs we saw during the event,” said Gary Carr, Creative Director, Lionhead. “For us, the winning design stood out because the team had not only created a brilliant game, but had also conducted market research and used the findings to improve their game. They clearly worked very well together and we were so impressed with how they presented their idea. These kids should all be really proud of their achievements and we hope that this competition has given them a taste for what a career in game design could be like.”

Kodu is a visual programming language built specifically for creating games by Microsoft. The Kodu Kup was developed to offer UK school children, aged between seven and fourteen, the opportunity to design a brand new computer game, using Kodu. Entrants were tasked with developing a game that matches to one of three themes – water awareness (developing a game that tackles the environmental issue of water), Mars exploration (a game that is centered on the exploration of Mars) or a retro arcade game.

“The UK has a world renowned games industry, which is always looking for fresh talent. We developed Kodu and the Kodu Kup to encourage pupils from a young age to consider taking their Computer Science studies further, which in turn could lead them into the world of games development,” said Steve Beswick, Director of Education, Microsoft UK. “We’ve had over 500 children enter the first ever Kodu Kup, and we hope that next year we will have even more entries so we can build on the success of this year’s competition.”

The tool itself is already widely used by teachers in schools across the UK. So far, it has proved an effective tool to deliver basic programming and problem solving skills to school children, in a stimulating and exciting way which keeps their interest and maintains their enthusiasm for learning.

The top three teams will each receive an Xbox 360 with a Kinect. The overall winner will win a trip to one of the world’s most exciting game developers, Lionhead.

The Kodu Kup is part of Microsoft’s commitment to helping young people get the skills they need for the world of work, through its ‘Get On’ programme. This was launched by Prime Minister David Cameron and Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer in November 2012. ‘Get On’ will help 300,000 young people get inspired, get skilled and get a job over the next three years.

About the Kodu Kup

The Kodu Kup was launched by globally award winning, Innovative Teacher, Nicki Maddams and judges, Theo Chin and Gary Carr at BETT 2013, on Thursday 31st January.

The schools represented

1.            Bushfield School, Milton Keynes

2.            Barlows Primary School, Liverpool

3.            Cadoxton Priamry School, Barry

4.            Hampden Gurney CoE Primary, London

5.            Afon Tâf High School, Merthyr Tydfil

6.            Lister Community School, Newham

7.            Minehead Middle School, Minehead

8.            Oasis Academy, Bristol

9.            Putney High School, London

10.          Walthamstow Academy, London

11.          Afon Tâf High School, Merthyr Tydfil

For more information on the Kodu Kup, please click on the following links:

Kodu Kup backgrounder: https://www.slideshare.net/secret/5lgnVaHIBW3NXh

Slides – Competition information: https://www.slideshare.net/secret/P9kmW1GZONa5x

For further information and enquiries, please contact:

T: Media hotline: 0845 602 5628

E: UKprteam@microsoft.com