Entrants must use the Microsoft XNA Game Studio Express software to be considered. Game Studio Express launched late last year and allows users to compile and share Windows games. A subscription fee of $49 for four months is required to enable Xbox 360 compiling. Microsoft has not yet elaborated on the criteria by which the games will be judged.
Along with the prize money, winners will be flown to Microsoft and be given the opportunity to present their creations to the Microsoft games management team, with a possible Xbox Live Arcade deal hanging in the balance. The first place winner will have a chance to intern at Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business.
"We're using video games as a medium for creating and fostering positive social change," said Games for Change co-founder Suzanne Seggerman. "Some of the most interesting games I've seen recently tackle the economics of oil production; alternatives to conflict and war; the tragedy in Darfur, and they all identify ways you can take action in the 'real world.'"
Sony launched their own socially-minded program earlier this year with the PlayStation 3 version of Stanford's Folding@home project. Folding@home uses distributed computing to simulate the folding of proteins, furthering research into disease like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Mad Cow, cystic fibrosis and cancers.
Microsoft gaming VP Peter Moore responded to the Sony project with skepticism last month, but promised that his company would act accordingly if it saw a clear benefit from folding data. "We continue to look at this and see whether there's real value," he said. "But I'm not quite sure yet whether we're seeing real tangible results from the PlayStation 3 Folding@home initiative.
"If we truly believe that we can in some way marshal the resources of a much larger installed base of Xbox 360 owners, with a processer [sic] that's of equal power to the PS3, then you have my commitment that we'll look at that."
Those interested in the Games for Change Challenge competition can find more information on the official website.