Advice For An Imagine Cup Team

The following is a guest post by Pat Yongpradit. Pat is the computer science teacher at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. His students competed in this year’s Imagine Cup in the Game division and were one of the top 10 teams in the US. This is pretty impressive when you realize that most of the other teams were from colleges and universities. I asked Pat to write up some information and advice for potential future Imagine Cup teams. His reply is below.

So you’ve learned XNA, have made a couple cool games, and want to flex your skills on the national and international stage and tackle a social cause as well? Then the Imagine Cup is right for you. The Imagine Cup is an international game and software design competition that encourages students to use the technical skills to address social issues.

Do you also enjoy distracting yourself and your peers with impromptu video game challenges, spending 100 plus hours on a project in addition to your homework, and being berated by a mentor for still not having a functioning prototype with one week before the deadline? Then the Imagine Cup should be renamed the “Your Name Here” Cup, because it has your name written all over it. (Of course there isn’t actually a physical Imagine Cup like there is a Stanley Cup...that is kind of the reason why they called it the “Imagine” cup.) Assuming you know what the Imagine Cup is, here is some advice, not in order of importance.

  1. Most importantly, come up with a basic version of your game that you can be satisfied with and build off of, if and when you have extra time. Many teams end up with some code here and there, but nothing completed that sticks together and resembles a game.
  2. Get a good artist. There must be some digital art kids in your school who would jump at the chance to work on a real game.
  3. Do not put programming brilliance above sound game design skills. Plot. Progression. User Interface. These things are probably more important than a really cool physics effect.
  4. Realize that a good project will take dozens and dozens of hours... more time than you will definitely have allotted from the beginning... so plan for the fact that you won’t plan enough time.
  5. Make small goals with clear deadlines. Delegate the goals. Impose consequences on those that don’t make their deadlines. If they are a scrawny programmer, make them do push-ups. If they are a buff programmer, make them do push-ups with the scrawny one on their back. Just don’t punish anyone by taking the Xbox away, for what will 70 percent of your team meeting time be spent doing?
  6. Take the Xbox away.
  7. Lastly, and definitely most important of all... take the Xbox away. Now.

You can read more about Springbrook’s High School Imagine Cup Team at