How to Save the Environment Through Gaming: Microsoft's Games for Change In Pictures

One is described as SimCity meets Tetris. Another is a hex-based puzzle game that mixes resource management and RTS-like strategy.

All have one goal: to raise awareness of environmental issues, one click at a time. nope Last summer, Microsoft partnered with Games for Change to host the Imagine Cup, which challenged students worldwide to make a game that tackled social issues and encouraged change.

This year's contest, based around the environment and powered by Microsoft's XNA Game Studio technology, received over 160 entries from 10,000 college-age students.

Of those, six games were chosen by a panel of judges to compete in the finals, the prizes of which include cash and an internship at Microsoft. Ranging from simple 2D titles to complex 3D efforts, the finalists are presented in the following gallery.

Because they were all developed within XNA Game Studio, these games can be distributed on Windows and through the Xbox 360 community games service later this year. That means, theoretically, they actually have a shot to further social change.

"Gaming is such a powerful medium," chief XNA architect Chris Satchell explained to Shacknews. "It really speaks to the generations that are growing up now, and it's a shame not to be able to use it to deliver a social message."

Check back tomorrow for more information on Games for Change and XNA-powered social change via an in-depth discussion with Satchell.