The Dead Programmers Society, a team of four teenagers from Sisters, won the coveted Judges Choice Award for the middle school division at the Oregon Game Project Challenge (OGPC) competition held at Western Oregon University on May 12.

OGPC is an annual statewide competition of middle school and high school students that compete for designing an original video game. This year 59 teams competed. OGPC promotes digital literacy, computer science, and collaboration through game development.

Sisters residents of the Dead Programmers Society include Ashton King (8th grade, Sisters Middle School), Grey Louvar (7th grade, Redmond Proficiency Academy), Bodie Dachtler (7th grade, Redmond Proficiency Academy), Matthew Riehle (7th grade, Sisters Middle School), Tricia Louvar (coach), and Stephen King (mentor).

Teams have six months to develop and perfect their game. At the competition, each team has 30 minutes to present their game to a panel of real-world gaming professionals. They judge each game on the merits of computer programming, game design, art, story, and management systems.

Game development comes with challenges. Dead Programmers Society ran into significant development hurdles with technical and conceptual issues.

"I came to the boys at the beginning of April with an itemized list of gaming rubrics they needed to get done," Coach Louvar said. "They had only 25 percent complete of a 26-page document. I told them they had six weeks until the competition. I asked if this was their best effort."

Instead of giving up, they pivoted and started a new game more in alignment with their wheelhouse. The team used professional software systems, such as Unity, Blender, Slack, and Real-Time Board.

Dead Programmers Society competed with a full-fledged working game called "West of the Wild."

It is a choose-your-own-adventure game with twists and adventures spawned from Bodie Dachtler's creative storytelling imagination. Grey Louvar programmed it in C#, a computer language he taught himself. Ashton King composed the original soundtrack with his musical prowess. Matthew Riehle designed the art assets and became the joyful Beta tester.

"The Judges Choice is a bittersweet award because the squad almost disbanded but instead showed extreme grit and resilience," Coach Louvar said. "It felt like an Oscars moment for the team."

The OGPC judges agreed. "It's very apparent that an immense amount of time and effort went into this. Each completed project, no matter how small, greatly improves your chances of success in the future. Keep up the good work," the judges said.

Dead Programmers Society would like to thank Ray's Food Place and Sisters High School for allowing it to use their meeting spaces during the gaming season. To learn more about the Dead Programmers Society and OGPC, go to tms.ogpc.info.