A student-designed iPad game that shows children the benefit of reducing their carbon footprint has won a National iAward – and will now represent Australia on the world stage.
Having received his prize at a gala dinner in Melbourne, RMIT computer science student Josh Caratelli now has the chance to represent the country in the international round of the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Awards in Colombo, Sri Lanka, later this year.
Established in 1984 by the Australian Information Industry Association, the iAwards recognise and celebrate the achievements and innovation made in ICT across all areas of the economy.
“Winning both the State and National rounds, in addition to having a chance to represent Australia in Sri Lanka, is extremely exciting – it’s a dream come true,” Caratelli said.
“But for me, personally, it’s validating: that all the hours and late nights we worked on Smog Game have been worth it and that at least we’re on the right track for when we launch later this month.
“The awards and the prestige are an amazing motivator to ensure I stay on target and keep enjoying what I love doing the most.”
“Smog Game started as a passion project back in high school with my environmentally-minded school friend, Liam McLachlan, who became Artist/Additional Designer on the project,” Caratelli said.
“It’s an endless runner – that is, you literally run until you die – for the iPhone and iPad, with the aim of inspiring players to learn more and care about the dangers of environmental pollution and how we can collectively reduce our ‘Smog’ on Earth.”
While developing the game during his final year at Elwood College, Caratelli was also studying programming as part of the VCE Extend program at RMIT, which he sees as crucial to improving Smog Game’s quality and rate of development.
"Undertaking VCE extension studies at RMIT helped immensely in alleviating some of the technical issues I had, as I’m primarily a self-taught programmer, but after I began to be formally taught programming at RMIT, Smog Game’s code quality and rate of progress shot up,” he said.
“To be candid, taking the VCE Extend program was nerve-racking and exciting all jumbled into one big mess!
“But RMIT provides a very welcoming and friendly environment to its students and by the end of the program I had made a fantastic group of new friends, had a taste of university life and had a nice ATAR boost going into my exams.”
After getting so much out of VCE Extend, choosing to study computer science at RMIT seemed the obvious next step.
“From experiencing both the quality of the courses and the people during VCE Extend there wasn’t a chance I was going to study anywhere else if I could help it,” Caratelli said.
“Having worked in the industry for several years and speaking to numerous professional developers, both here and overseas, RMIT Computer Science was the obvious choice for its quality of content and recognition in the game development industry.”
Despite only just starting his degree, Caratelli is already well connected in the local games industry, with several production credits in addition to Smog Game, but sees his degree as the key to securing his long-term future in games development.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be working in the game development industry for four years now, on some cool projects, with some amazing developers, and even had the opportunity to speak at events such as PAX Australia and Oz Comic-Con thanks to some amazingly supportive people,” he said.
“I’d love to continue doing what I’m doing, but in a more full time capacity at an established studio, though I’m only at the beginning of my journey and I have a lot to learn and a long way to go.”
Smog Game will be released at the end of this month, ahead of Melbourne International Games Week, and will be available on the Apple App Store.
The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) is the peak representative body and advocacy group for the ICT industry in Australia. The AIIA established the iAwards in 1984, to recognise and celebrate the achievements and innovation made in ICT across all areas of the economy.
Story: Daniel Walder