By Harold Goldberg
We have a variety of ways to give back at the New York Videogame Critics Circle. And, as a multicultural arts education-oriented nonprofit organization, we continually look to fostering creativity in others when we plan our work.
Our yearly scholarship contest, for instance, focuses upon game narrative. Before we announce the winners, this year’s work presented a particularly compelling challenge for the two Bronx high schools involved in projects that began last February and only recently were completed.
The work began with the conception of and the writing of a poem that was journalism-oriented and social justice-oriented. (You’ll see these poems below.) Based on the poem, a short pitch was written. After that, hard work on narrative proceeded for what would become meaningful levels in Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet3. At the same time, work on crafty level design, artwork, and music proceeded apace.
The team of four led by Kimari Rennis, called Plant Gang included Ayisha Entein, Darrell Blackwood and Justin Matos. The group showed a brilliance for combining smart game level design in LittleBigPlanet 3 with thoughtful free verse that touched upon a variety of social justice issues including bigotry. Kimari showed leadership throughout the process, leadership that inspired teammates to do their best.
Plant Gang team won first place.
Iverson Figueroa led team Money Fall. He and Christopher Ogigie came to our program for the first time from the Bronx High School of Business and are from, what Iverson describes as “a poor zone the Dominican Republic.” They learned quickly and created an inspiring social justice poem about poverty, greed and the fragility of friendships. Their LittleBigPlanet 3 game level design was, at times, deviously hard to play. Players who have read the poem will understand that poverty is terribly hard – and realize that friendship can be hard, too.
Money Fall won second place.
We love working with The DreamYard Prep School and The Bronx High School of Business via the DreamYard Project. Beyond scholarships, we have seen that our long term, paid internships have had a positive effect on the character, self-esteem, entrepreneurial knowledge and writing skills of current high school students and former students who are now in college but still work with us. The top people in games journalism and at game companies know their names and enjoy working with them. Once they’ve graduated, we’ll work to find them jobs in the industry or in journalism.
Here are their poems:
The Errors Of Humanity
By Justin Matos
Same blood, same mind
Different skin tones means different treatment
That can go as far as death
How can this be justified?
The same effort, sweat and tears
Put into the same exact job
Yet 78% is earned out of the full 100
All because of an extra x in chromosomes
Viewed as weak, meant for the kitchen
When in reality, meant for greatness
The givers of life are seen as less than
What is viewed as the righteous truth?
Maybe because of superiority
Or even because of fear
Either way, we are the population
That fill up this green ball floating in emptiness
Worshipping the higher power
With swords bathed in crimson and hatred
Interpretations are made in different ways
Buildings erected in their honor
A place of prayer, holiness and merry times and jingles
Only to be interrupted by the loud bangs of guns
Or the crackling of fire flowing in the breeze
With the passage of time, these things have been running rampant
Only to be persistently fed with undying fuel
It can end, all of this. Or not, nobody knows
What we do know are the scars left and can only speculate how it can finally cease
Time to join hands, brothers and sisters of the world
And let us close the book on this discrimination
For this world cannot thrive
If we refuse to strive together.
By Iverson Figueroa and Christopher Ogigie
Lisa is 15,
Sleeps under a ceiling of cing,***
Lisa desires what she can’t afford,
With it all her problems shall
She looks at it through a
Glass window, so close but
So far her empty pockets made
She met the answer at school,
They accepted her as one more
They all had what she wanted
That’s why she wouldn’t
Back then she joined them with a
Purpose in mind but that
Purpose was banished from her
Mind, now she had a friendship
Something she never before got.
The day of her 16 they arrived
Her eyes of exaltation reflected
Colors similar as the sky, now
Her desire was complete so
Months pass through,
The lies Lisa talks to her
Friends, as time outsmarts her
Lisa is once again by herself.
From the friends she has
Betrayed, only their backs
Is what she sees, feets won’t
Match as she is not part of
Time alone is her teacher
Her desires were too
Early fulfilled. A group of friends
Was all that she needed.
***Iverson explains that a ‘cing’ in the Dominican Republic is a small living space made of corrugated steel or tin.
You can play the associated game levels by searching in the LittleBigPlanet 3 community under PlantGanG and Money Fall(final).
Journalist/author Harold Goldberg is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle and the New York Game Awards.