A group of students from Nepal will be competing for a $50,000 prize in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup student technology competition next week. They’re competing in the video-game category, but their entry stands out for another reason: It’s a first-person shooter in which players track down and kill poachers.
The game is set in a futuristic world where decades of poaching has knocked Earth’s ecosystem off-kilter and left the planet a barren dessert. The last hope for restoration involves sending a cyborg back in time to hunt the poachers.
The game is called “Defend Your Territory.”
Just in case there was any doubt, I asked game co-creator Alex Rumba if it’s supposed to be a statement about illegal hunting in his home country. We chatted over Facebook Messenger as he worked on some last minute tweaks before he heads for the Imagine Cup World Championship in Seattle next week.
He said he chose poachers partly because they make good villains — as we all know from Disney classics like Tarzan and Mighty Joe Young. But Rumba also wants to educate players about what’s happening in the real world.
He didn’t want the game to have human-on-human violence, so that’s why it’s a cyborg being sent out on the “killing mission.”
The goal “is to let people know about poaching,” Rumba wrote. “Let people know about the rarity and value of wildlife and what may result if the system of nature gets disturbed for selfishness. Every life counts is the logic.”
Defend Your Territory has already won three competitions in order to make it to the final stage. If the team is crowned the winner in the games category at the Imagine Cup World Finals next week, Rumba and two friends he’s building the game with would go home with $50,000 and compete for the overall Imagine Cup prize, to be handed out by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
If that happens, Microsoft wouldn’t be the only tech giant to help fund an anti-poaching project. Google donated $5 million to the World Wildlife Fund for an initiative to use drones to find real-life poachers.
Editor’s Note: GeekWire co-founder Todd Bishop will be a judge during the 2015 Imagine Cup World Championship.