Main Competition

The Heartland Gaming Expo welcomes entries in several different creative categories related to game development and design. The competitive part of the expo competition is composed of three separate, but interrelated parts: the Game Showcase, the Gallery Show, and the 168-Hour Code Jam.

Entering the Event

Students may enter an event by registering your team on the Heartland Gaming Expo website.   There is no fee for teams composed entirely of students.

Indie companies may register by purchasing a registration through our registration system.

General Criteria

  • Across all categories we will assess both the originality and coherence of the entry, so feel free to use these categories to think both within and beyond the bounds of current game design.
  • Entries in all categories will be accepted from individuals, teams of up to 4 students, or Indie game companies.
  • All entries, with the exception of game mods, should be original work and should not include copyrighted material of any kind.
  • Participants are to provide all necessary equipment required for display and are responsible for the hanging and installation of their work.
  • No entries will be accepted or displayed that (in the judges’ opinion) might be considered offensive, overtly hostile, or intolerant. Instead, we encourage games that are respectful of racial, gender, sexual, and ethnic diversity.
  • The exhibition will be held in a publicly accessible space and thus the judges reserve the right to remove from display images or text deemed excessively graphic in their representation of violence, nudity, and sexuality.
  • The organizers of the event also reserve the right remove individuals for inappropriate behavior during the expo event. Examples of unacceptable behavior includes, but is not limited to, use of foul language, verbal or physical harassment, inappropriate body gestures, intoxication, inappropriate or illegal use of computing systems, and theft, damage, or destruction of other individual’s property.

Game Showcase

Computer games represent the ultimate display of technological expertise and artistic expression. Games push the boundaries of hardware and software design, transform art into living visual media, provide a rich foundation for interactive storytelling, and offer a new depth of experience that is integrated with sound and music. Games that embrace the balance between these elements open up new worlds and in these worlds, the designers and developers dictate the rules.

The game showcase is designed to recognize and reward teams that have worked hard to produce games that enrich our lives by challenging and entertaining us. Teams of up to four people can enter complete games, written in any language and designed to run on any platform. Games will be judged based on all aspects of computer gaming, but most importantly how these come together into a final product.

  • The entry will be judged on its originality, aesthetic coherence, and execution.
  • Presentation is an important aspect of promoting your game so will be taken into account as part of the judging criteria. Your presentation (oral and visual) should include an overview of story line and characters, the rules and goals of the game, details of the origin of the content in the game (art, sound, music, software), and any technical or content accomplishments that the team would like to highlight.
  • There are five separate judging categories within the showcase event. They are:
    • Indie developers
    • College and University
    • High School and Middle School
    • Elementary School
    • Game Mod
  • Games may only be entered into one of the five categories.
  • Teams that comprise non-students must be entered into the Indie category, teams with both college and high school students must be entered into the College and University category.
  • Games that are clearly a modification to an existing game as opposed to one that was written from scratch will be judged in the Game Mod category.
  • Entries are also eligible to win the People’s choice award, which will be decided by the public using ballots. Impress the people that visit your game and you could win this prestigious category.

Gallery Show

Participants in the gallery show can enter any or all of the categories and they do not need to have a completed game on display to participate. In fact, we welcome and encourage entries that remain at the conceptual stage or that focus on only a single aspect of game design. So if you have a concept you have been developing or have designed specific images, animations, or music related to games and gaming we invite you to submit them. All entries will be judged by a panel of experts using the following criteria:

Conceptual Artwork: Character Renders, Scenic Renders, etc.

  • Each entry should offer a minimum of three static images all related to various aspects of game design along with a brief statement including a description of the scenario in which they might appear. The images might include but are not limited to character render, scenic or environmental renderings, and storyboard art.
  • Each entry will be judged on its originality, aesthetic coherence, presentation, and execution as well as the feasibility of its execution in a gaming environment.


  • Each submission should offer a short looped (30secs – 3min) animation demonstrating some aspect of game play. This might include but is not limited to an environmental fly-over, a character in action, or a narrative cut scene. The animation should be accompanied by a brief statement of the game in which it might appear.
  • The entry will be judged on its originality, aesthetic coherence, presentation, and execution as well as the feasibility of its execution in a gaming environment.

Scoring and Sound Design

  • Each entry should include a minimum of three original sound/music tracks of one to two minutes in length (and may include up to ten tracks). The majority of the tracks must be musically and sonically designed to loop effectively (one optionally may be cinematic or a theme song), and may include several layers or intensity levels.
  • The presentation should include a written document (much like a game design document) pertaining to the implementation of the music tracks, including storyline and characters, written description and narrative of the scenario in which each track will be used, description of game levels if applicable, the function of each track (e.g. an action or ambient sequence loop, a general theme song, etc.), and further plans for developing the music for this game or game concept.
  • Entrants are responsible for providing playback at the competition and for accompanying description, posters, illustrations, etc.
  • Entries will be judged on its originality, aesthetic coherence, presentation, execution, and its ability to loop effectively within a gaming environment.

Game Design

  • Entries must fit on standard size (28” X 22”) poster-board(s), and may feature any combination of text and image.  Presentations should be clean and professional including the following:
    • A description of the game’s basic interface.
    • A bulleted outline of basic affordances within the game, describing the limitations and freedoms of the player. (Is this a console game? A platformer? What kinds of movements can be performed? What kind of control will the player have using the input you have selected?)
    • A short survey of the game’s rules.
    • An illustration and/or storyboard accompanied by a brief statement or narrative for the game that describes the world/environment, its important spaces, characters, and progression.
  • A detailed walkthrough of one portion of the game that illustrates some important aspect of its narrative and/or gameplay.
  • Each entry will be judged on its originality and coherence as well as its creative engagement with the affordance and constraints of a specific gaming platform.

Game Analysis

  • Each entry must fit on a standard size (28” X 22”) poster, and may feature a combination of text and image. Entrants are welcome to analyze individual games, and/or examine broader issues in gaming or the gaming community (including game development, games journalism, and gamer networks). Both ludalogical and narratological analytic approaches to analysis are welcome. Each entry should include the following:
    • A clear thesis statement and overview of the entrant’s argument.
    • Evidence that supports the entrant’s argument (including but not limited to screen shots or quotations from online forums).
    • A demonstrated awareness of the critical discourse surrounding gaming (both scholarly and in the popular press).
    • A bibliography that acknowledges any sources consulted or quoted
  • Posters will be judged on their originality and persuasiveness. Lesser emphasis will be placed on visual organization and overall presentation.

168-Hour Code Jam

This year we are changing things up and extending the duration of the 24-hour Code Jam to 1 whole week.  Like the 24 hour version, during the 1 week code jam, teams will be asked to build a game based on a theme chosen by the Expo organizers.  Teams of up to four persons will then design, implement, and present the game to be judged. Non-students are welcome to enter.


Because this is a week long event, we will not be hosting a location.


The Code Jam officially begins at 9:00 AM on Saturday, April 1 and finishes at 9:00 AM on Saturday, April 8.  The theme of the Code Jam will be announced promptly at 9:00 AM on the HGE web page, Facebook page, and by email to all of the teams that are registered.  Teams are responsible for presenting their games during the regular expo. You do not need to pre-register in order to participate, but will need to register to be judged.  Space is limited so register early.


  • Your final entry must be a playable game (cannot be a simple animation)
  • All code must be written during the 168 hour period of the competition.
  • All code must be completely original except for the engine and any external, publicly available, libraries.
  • Use of artwork must follow the general criteria for the gaming expo. For this reason it is encouraged that each team have at least one member skilled in graphic design. The same goes for music.
  • You may use any software to generate your art and music assets.
  • Your game may be written in any language.
  • Contestants may use any game engine they wish.
  • Games will be developed and demonstrated on the contestants’ own machines.
  • Any breach of these rules may disqualify your team.
  • If the contest coordinators believe that any actions your team makes violate the spirit of the rules, we reserve the right to disqualify you.
  • We heavily encourage the use of some version control system for documentation purposes.


  • Best Overall
  • Best Graphics
  • Most Ambitious

Legal Disclaimer

The University of Tulsa and the organizers of the event are not responsible for any losses that may be sustained by the participants if they are removed from the event due to an inappropriate entry or personal behavior. Although every effort will be made to protect the participant’s personal property, The University of Tulsa and the organizers of the event are not responsible for items that are lost, damaged, stolen or otherwise affected due to participation. All intellectual rights for entries shall be retained by the individual participants. The University of Tulsa retains the right to take photographs or video during the event, which may be used for advertising or other publicity.