A £50,000 prize is up for grabs for Scottish videogame designers who can successfully deploy game design and game technologies to develop a virtual environment that tests new approaches to increasing access to healthy food.

Abertay University led R&D centre InGAME (Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise) is collaborating with Nesta – the UK’s innovation agency for social good – to launch a funded Virtual Healthy Neighbourhoods Challenge, designed to produce a more accurate understanding of how food environments shape access to healthy and affordable food.

Scottish gamemakers are invited to put forward applications to create the ‘Nesta Playbox’ - an innovation sandbox powered by a real-time 3D game engine.

The Playbox will harness game design to create virtual food environments – such as high streets, shopping malls or supermarkets.

These will be used to imagine, design and test new approaches to ensuring healthy and appealing food options are accessible and affordable for everyone, whoever they are, wherever they live.

After the initial application and briefing process, three shortlisted teams will each receive £5,000 to develop their Playbox pitches. After the pitches are judged, one team will win the competition and receive a further £45,000 to prove their concept.

Deborah Fox, Head of Creative Innovation at Nesta, said: “Our Healthy Life mission is to increase the average number of healthy years lived in the UK, while narrowing health inequalities.

"Our vision for the Nesta Playbox is to provide an evolving, data-rich game technology-based environment that enables Nesta to better map and understand the systemic challenge of obesity and test ways to improve access to healthy and affordable food.

"We're delighted to partner with InGAME and we're excited at the potential of working with Scotland's videogames sector to harness game design techniques and create a Playbox that helps to address our mission and drive positive change.”

InGAME is run in partnership with the University of Dundee and the University of St Andrews. All of the centre’s work is tailored to respond to a clear user need, commercial opportunity or social challenge.

Dr Chris Lowthorpe, Senior Fellow for Collaborative R&D at InGAME, said: “At InGAME, we believe game design techniques and game technologies are transforming the world. Add in the awesome creativity of the Scottish games sector to those techniques and technologies, and the innovation potential for driving positive change is immense. That’s why, in partnership with Nesta, we’ve launched this call for superstar Scottish developers to help solve one of the UK’s most ‘wicked’ real-world problems – obesity.”

Sean Taylor, Director of InGAME said: “The applied use of game engine technology and game design techniques will prove fantastic tools as we strive to better understand how food environments affect our access to healthy and more affordable food options.

"We're excited to be working with Nesta to bring this challenge to the Scottish games sector.”

InGAME and Nesta are seeking high-performing, multi-disciplinary SMEs and teams with advanced game design and game engine programming experience.

The partnership welcomes game development SMEs, professional teams from within established studios, freelance and unincorporated game development teams, plus teams from adjacent media entertainment sectors with the required core competencies.

The call is now open on the InGAME website and initial applications close on Monday 8 November.

Find out more here

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