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The Independent Games Festival has announced the eight Student Showcase winners for the fourteenth annual presentation of its prestigious awards, celebrating the brightest and most innovative creations to come out of universities and games programs from around the world in the past year.

This year's showcase of top student talent include the lithograph-sketched 2D logic puzzler The Bridge, from Case Western Reserve University, Art Institute of Phoenix's magic-moth platformer Dust, and DigiPen Institute of Technology's part-psychological-evaluator, part-boot-camp-instructor, possibly-part-malware action game Nous.

In total, this year's Student Competition took in nearly 300 game entries across all platforms -- PC, console and mobile -- from a wide diversity of the world's most prestigious universities and games programs making the Student IGF one of the world's largest showcases of student talent.

All of the Student Showcase winners announced today will be playable on the Expo show floor at the 26th Game Developers Conference, to be held in San Francisco starting March 5th, 2012. Each team will receive a $500 prize for being selected into the Showcase, and are finalists for an additional $3,000 prize for Best Student Game, to be revealed during the Independent Games Festival Awards on March 7th.

The full list of Student Showcase winners for the 2012 Independent Games Festival, along with 'honorable mentions' to those top-quality games that didn't quite make it to finalist status, are as follows:

The Bridge (Case Western Reserve University)
Dust (Art Institute of Phoenix)
The Floor Is Jelly (Kansas City Art Institute)
Nous (DigiPen Institute of Technology)
One and One Story (Liceo Scientifico G.B. Morgagni)
Pixi (DigiPen Institute of Technology - Singapore)
The Snowfield (Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab)
Way (Carnegie Mellon University, Entertainment Technology Center)

Honorable mentions: Be Good (DigiPen Institute of Technology); Lilith's Pet (University of Kassel); Nitronic Rush (DigiPen Institute of Technology); Once Upon A Spacetime (RMIT); Tink (Mediadesign Highschool of Applied Sciences)

This year's Student IGF entries were distributed to an opt-in subset of the main competition judging body, consisting of more than 100 leading independent and mainstream developers, academics and journalists. Now in its tenth year as a part of the larger Independent Games Festival, the Student Showcase highlights up-and-coming talent from worldwide university programs, and has served as the venue which first premiered numerous now-widely-recognized names including DigiPen's Narbacular Drop and Tag: The Power of Paint, which would evolve first into Valve's acclaimed Portal, with the latter brought on-board for Portal 2.

Others include USC's The Misadventures Of P.B. Winterbottom (later released by 2K Games for XBLA); Hogeschool van de Kunsten's The Blob (later becoming one of THQ's flagship mobile/console franchises as De Blob); and early USC/ThatGameCompany title Cloud, from the studio that would go on to develop PlayStation 3 arthouse mainstays like Flow, Flower, and their forthcoming Journey.

For more information on the Independent Games Festival, for which Main Competition finalists were also just announced, please visit the official IGF website.

For those interested in registering for GDC 2012 (part of the UBM TechWeb Game Network, as is this website), which includes the Independent Games Summit, the IGF Pavilion and the IGF Awards Ceremony, please visit the Game Developers Conference website.

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Is this a sign of the encroaching apocalypse or an indication of better things to come? Stanford University used to be one of those top-notch educational institutes that cost an arm and a leg to attend. And now they're offering free courses? I'm not sure what to think about this but I'm definitely not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

There are actually a fair number of courses being offered. I'm not sure how useful Anatomy is going to be to an aspiring game designer but I'm willing to bet that there's more than a few out there who could benefit from the Game Theory (Thanks, Alexey!) classes or the Human-Computer Interaction course. In general, it looks like the courses will consist of eight to twelve minute lecture videos, an assortment of integrated quiz questions, standalone quizzes and various other assignments. And before anyone asks, the answer is 'no'. No, you will not be getting credits. You may, however, gain insight instead and that, as any well-pickled philosopher can tell you, is worth its weight in gold.

You can find out more here.

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Here’s a look inside the Shelton Conn., factory responsible for every single Wiffle Ball that has sailed across backyards since the factory opened in 1959.
(See related article.)

All photographs by Mustafah Abdulaziz for The Wall Street Journal.


Wiffle Ball, Inc.’s one and only factory is located in Shelton, Conn. Here, plastic Wiffle Balls before they are heated and molded.


The top floor of the two-story cinderblock building is devoted to packing and storage. The ground floor has an old office with five desks. And in the next room lies the heart of the 15-employee operation, where two injection-molding machines hum along to produce thousands of Wiffle Balls every day.


A machine sorts and separates the halves that are then merged into one ball.


The factory opened in 1959. David J. Mullany, left, and his brother Steven Mullany, right, runs the company that their grandfather started in 1953.


The ball has always been white plastic and it has always had eight holes.


Playboy magazine once dubbed Wiffle Ball one of the “classic” American brands alongside the likes of Zippo lighters and Monopoly.


Their product is so iconic that a few years ago, the Mullanys trademarked the bright yellow color of their bats, much the same way Tiffany & Co. protects the particular shade of blue on its jewelry boxes.


Here, boxes of bats and Wiffle Balls are stored for shipment.

All photographs by Mustafah Abdulaziz for The Wall Street Journal.

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