Mona Bozdog – Scholars @ GDC 2017

With GDC fast approaching, we’ve dedicated this week to all representation from Scotland attending the conference thanks to IGDA Foundation programs. Next up in our run up to GDC we have Mona Bozdog. Mona is one of this years IGDA Foundation Women in Games Ambassadors.


What do you do?

I am so ridiculously lucky to do an applied PhD which allows me to combine two of my favourite things in the world: games and performance, and four of my ultimate favourite activities: reading, making, playing and writing. I am a theatre maker, a playwright and dramaturg who occasionally directs. My PhD, by its long title: Connecting Performance and Play. Establishing interdisciplinary design methods for the development of games and performance, is a partnership between Abertay University, The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, The National Theatre of Scotland and The Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities. Which means that I am based at Abertay University in Dundee but benefit from resources and mentorship from all four institutions. What I am really trying to do is to draw on knowledge from both fields and develop interesting and meaningful (I hope) experiences for audience/players. I am a firm believer that the two fields can benefit so much from looking and learning from one another. Just think of the potential of combining all the sensory information that our bodies receive in a physical environment with the infallibility and the almost limitless potential of virtual environments. This is what gets me really excited.

Where are you from/what is your connection to Scotland?

I am from Romania, from the beautiful North-West, known to the world as Transylvania. No, no vampires please! I came to Scotland in 2012 to do an MLitt at Glasgow University in Playwriting and Dramaturgy. I fell in love with Scotland in general and one bearded Scot in particular and here I am four years later. I lived and worked in Glasgow for three years and moved to Anstruther when I started the PhD, in 2015. I know what you are thinking right now, fish and chips! But I love the East Neuk, the sea, the fog horns, the walks, the lot, really!

Why did you choose to apply to IGDA Scholarships specifically?

I never dreamt that I will actually get selected. I am a theatre maker who has just started to explore the potential of game design. But in theatre, as well as in the games industry (and everywhere else for that matter), nothing gets me more passionately vocal than diversity, equality, and justice. This feeds right into my other soft spot, which is this ridiculous and COMPLETELY unjustified belief, that some people seem to hold, that creativity resides in some sort of genius-bestowing creature that descends on some people while ignoring others. I think this is (if you’d excuse my Latin fiery-passion), absolute rubbish. All people are creative, and all people have a creative voice. It is just that some have been encouraged to express those voices more than others. Or had more time and resources to express them, than others. Or have been held down by disbelief, by not believing that they have anything worth saying. You are not creative enough, or talented enough, or good enough. Or why would anyone listen to what you have to say? Or who cares? IMG_0706
Well, I care! Because I can only see the world through my own eyes and that is
inaccurate, limited, and a tad boring, to be completely honest. I want to see how it looks like through your eyes. I want to see/hear/feel what others feel, and think, how they see and what they’ve been through. That’s how I understand to understand the world, to enlarge one’s field of vision. The world looks, feels, smells, sounds, tastes different to every single one of us, and that is what creativity is, finding a way of sharing that with others. And the barrier to entry for women in finding and expressing that creative voice is high! The barrier to entry for women expressing any kind of voice is high. Which means that the image we now have of the world is one-sided, flawed, skewed and incomplete. This is why I feel so completely humbled to receive the Women in Games Ambassador scholarship. Because I do feel like women everywhere need to be supported and encouraged to speak, speak up and speak loudly. IGDA and IGDA Foundation are amazing for doing this, for providing this support and encouragement for new voices to rise and be heard.

What are you most looking forward to at GDC?

The blushing, the fidgeting, the fear of looking stupid, the nervous giggling. All these things that happen when you are constantly surrounded by the people that you greatly admire. I only started learning about games a year ago, so most of the speakers and attendees at GDC are the people who helped shape the way I think about games. Add the amazing sessions and tutorials in Design and Game Narrative, the Experimental Gameplay workshop and the Alt.Ctrl.GDC Showcase, a bit of sunshine and San Francisco and you get an idea of how terribly exciting this countdown really is.

Is there a specific goal you’re hoping to achieve at GDC?

Well advocating is part of who I am so I guess I take that with me everywhere I go.
In October I designed a live experience on Inchcolm Island that was based on Dear Esther (The Chinese Room, 2012) which was an amazing learning curve and offered me so much strength for pushing my research further. I am working towards the development of a game and a performance that are designed to accompany and complement each other, so I would really like to talk about that, and get as much feedback and input as I possibly can. The research never sleeps.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Play nice and be kind to each other.

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