By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend
Stephen Chalker ’13 won’t have to worry about his senior project wallowing away anytime soon.
The Software Engineering graduate designed a cell-phone game titled “The Mind’s Lie” for his senior capstone project. The game, which teaches students to be conscious of cognitive bias, was put up for download on the Android Market this February and has since been downloaded more than 70 times. It is the first game designed by a Penn State Behrend student to be placed on a public online store.
“It is extremely rewarding,” said Chalker, who worked on the project with fellow Software Engineering students Kit Torrelli ’13 and Joe Grise ’13. “This was the first project that I did that was not just for a grade, but for the public to download and play.”
The game was designed to be used for the classes taught by Kristan Wheaton, an associate professor of intelligence studies at Mercyhurst University, but it can now be played anywhere and by anyone. In “The Mind’s Lie,” players are given a scenario and asked to identify one of six kinds of bias that might be present. They earn points for voting with the majority or for convincing others that a different answer is correct.
The cell-phone version of “The Mind’s Lie” was modified from a board game designed by Wheaton. According to Chalker, that was a challenge as some of the concepts from the board game could not be easily transferred into the cell-phone version.
“This was the first time that any of us worked with Android, so there was a lot of learning involved,” Chalker said. “We had to design everything, and we tried our best to estimate how it would work in the Android environment, but it often would not work as planned when we tried to implement it.”
Many sleepless nights followed for the trio as they worked to perfect the game. However, Chalker said it was a labor of love.
“It was definitely the hardest project I have worked on so far, but it was well worth it,” Chalker said.
The game is currently played by individuals in the intelligence field, and Chalker said downloads grow by the day.
“It is the crown jewel of my resume, and people are fascinated whenever I bring it up,” Chalker said. “I really have to thank Penn State Behrend for having a senior design program where students can get real-world experience.”
That real-world experience has paid off in a big way for Chalker. He currently works in Austin, Texas, as an Android developer for a startup company, Bypass Mobile.
Chalker is reaping the benefits of his work, and the same can be said for Penn State Behrend.
“The Mind’s Lie” may have been Penn State Behrend’s first imprint on the gaming industry, but Dr. Matthew White, lecturer in game development, believes it will not be the last. White said the game has paved the way for future games designed by Behrend students.
“For us, the most important thing about this is that it proved a concept,” White said. “From beginning to end, our students can build a game and launch it on a public store.”