ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The first ever youth game jam, ROCtheChange Game Jam, came to Rochester Institute of Technology Saturday. The event was not only to honor and celebrate the birthday and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s but to promote youth civic community action.

The day long game jam held at RIT, was a collaboration between RIT, AT&T and the School of Interactive Games and Media at RIT.

More than 70 local public-school students in grades 8-12 brought their imagination, teamwork skills, and desire to make social change to this event. Additionally students and faculty from the School of Interactive Games and Media participated.

“The AT&T & RIT ROCtheChange Game Jam is an innovative collaboration that builds a bridge to the future for Rochester’s youth and provides them with the digital literacy that is necessary for success,” said Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans.

The students were challenged to incorporate ideas of social change into the themes and actions of the digital video games from the following topics: Go Green, Stand Up, Speak Up, Equality for all, and Mental Health Awareness/Support. 

Students and faculty were also able to attend discussions from experienced game makers about what it’s like to work in this exciting industry and learn about career options. 

The game jam was created to expand digital literacy skills, computer coding and game development opportunities for Rochester-area students, especially those from underrepresented schools and communities and to encourage them to consider the technology industry, which has a pervasive diversity gap

“Representation matters in any kind of media, whether it be books, movies, or games,” Elouise Oyzon, associate professor in RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media and mentor for the event said. “The best art reflects us and the human condition. It builds empathy. In the game space, the player is literally in the character’s shoes. This is an opportunity for these young creators to make experiences that will do just that.”

To eliminate economic barriers and promote an all-inclusive experience and to bridge any digital divide issues, the event was free, and all technology and development resources were be made available for all students.

“AT&T is proud to collaborate with RIT to develop and support this unique experience for these students, as it further enhances our commitment to providing resources for digital literacy educational programming throughout New York to address the digital divide, and builds upon our vigorous efforts to bridge the diversity gap in the technology industry,” Amy Kramer, president, New York, AT&T said.

Final digital projects at the AT&T & RIT ROCtheChange Game Jam were scored by a panel of judges made up of game developers, local tech experts, community leaders, and education experts. Each submission was scored on its potential impact on the category entered, the quality of execution, and creativity or novelty within the work.