Llaura Ash McGee – 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. To round up our celebration of scholars, we have an interview with Llaura Ash McGee. Llaura is one of the inaugural recipients of the Next Gen Leaders Program.

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What do you do?

I make games! I run an independent studio in Dublin, DREAMFEEL, and we’re known for games like ‘CURTAIN’, which follows the unhealthy relationship between two women in a Glasgow punk band, our upcoming game ‘If Found, Please Return’, in which you erase the universe, and art installations like ‘Fluc’ that let participants relax inside a rainy tent and warp the rain to create visual art. You can find my work at http://dreamfeel.org and I’m on twitter @dreamfeelx. I also run events in Ireland, help people make games and lecture in the Dublin Institute of Technology. My interests lie in experimental and expressive video games.

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

I’m from Donegal on the North West coast of Ireland, but I lived and worked in Scotland for a number of years. I studied at Abertay in Dundee on the MProf Masters programme in 2011 and 2012 while I worked on my own indie games, and then I worked in a startup games company Secret Lunch on the game PS4/PC game Shu for almost a year. After these experiences I returned and based myself in Ireland, but I have a lot of connections to indie folks and friends in Scotland and it holds a special place for me.

Why did you choose to apply to IGDA Scholarships specifically?

I got two student scholarships in 2012, which brought me to America and help me meet the wider game development community. I was very grateful for the experience and since 2014 I’ve helped by judging student entries for them. This year they started a new program called ‘Next Gen Leaders’ for folks from minority and marginalized backgrounds who have been working in the industry for a few years. I was really excited for this initiative, and the chance to meet and learn from a really diverse and interesting group of people.

What are you most looking forward to at GDC?

I’m looking forward to exploring the Alternate Controller section of the expo floor, and the narrative summit in the talks. However, most of all I’m exiting to meet and talk with new people and to see old friends again!

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

I’m taking my latest game ‘If Found, Please Return’ and showing it to publishers and planning for the future of DREAMFEEL. Most of all my goal is to learn and come back even more excited to make mind blowing games.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Create the art and the video games you want to see in the world. Make weird, personal and interesting work, then support those who do. And try to look after yourself in the present as well! <3

Kirsty Keatch – 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. Kirsty Keatch is our next featured scholar! Kirsty has been selected as one of 2017s Women In Games Ambassadors.

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What do you do?

My speciality is implementing mobile game audio but I have a few other tricks up my sleeve. People are used to associating sounds with places, events, actions, so my work explores interactions around all the different things sound and music can be, whether playing with intersections between art, sound and digital technologies or blurring boundaries between artist, player and performer.

I’m currently working with assistive music technology company Skoogmusic, a recipient of the UK Games Fund, to develop a music game using the Skoog as controller. I’m still researching a lot of ideas as I’ve just finished university. I have a sound installation which has been commissioned by Edinburgh International Science Festival, so I’m still excited to discover where my personal professional development might take me next.

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

I’m Scottish, all my family are from Dundee and I went to the University of Edinburgh to do Music Technology and then a Masters in Sound Design by research. I spent a lot of time out of Scotland as a child and as a result I feel very European. What I like about Scotland is that it has such a close knit creative community that nurtures and supports creative talent.

Why did you choose to apply to IGDA Scholarships specifically?

I chose to apply for an IGDA scholarship because I was inspired by the stories of other students who had gone over from Scotland in the past few years and how they benefitted from the experience, thanks to the support of the IGDA. Had it not been for these local success stories, I wouldn’t have believed I would be able to cut through on a global scale.

What are you most looking forward to at GDC?

I’m going to GDC like a tiny fish that wants to see what else is going on in the ocean.
I’m going armed with an enormous sense of curiosity because it is such a unique opportunity to find out about games and what else they can be. There aren’t many people researching game audio in Scotland and we rely a lot on online communities so I’m looking forward to actually meeting some of those people in real life. At the same time, I think I might be so inspired by other things I’m likely to come away with an entire change of career direction in mind.

Anything else you’d like to add?

A couple of years ago I don’t think I would have had enough experience and understanding of games to get the most out the conference. I’ve read the blogs of girls who have gone before me and I think that’s helped to prepare me. It’s a huge honour to be chosen as a Women in Games Ambassador and I won’t take a moment for granted!

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.

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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.

James Wood – Scholars @ GDC 2017

With GDC fast approaching, we’ve dedicated the next few days to all representation from Scotland attending the conference thanks to IGDA Foundation programs. We’re kicking off our week of feature posts with an interview with James Wood. James is one of this years IGDA Scholars.

jwoodWhat do you do?

I am in my last semester of study as a Computer Games Technology student at Abertay University here in Dundee. In my free time I attend as many game dev related events as possible, volunteering and jamming when I’m able. I just returned from a weekend in Belgium helping out at the Screenshake festival there which was very fun and inspiring! Whenever I’m travelling or feeling exhausted I tend to work on tiny personal projects. Everything from twitter bots to custom controllers. I love finding the interesting intersections of maths and art and programming helps me to unwind. I also spend an evening every fortnight at the local Code Club assisting kids as they make little games and interactive experiences.

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

I was born and raised in West Linton, a small village near Edinburgh, often people are surprised when I tell them I’ve lived in Scotland my entire life because my accent does not reflect my heritage. When I was entering high school my family moved away to South Africa for a year and I gained a twinge of their wonderful accent leaving me in limbo. Often people swear I’m American or Australian but in my mind I’m Scottish and I have the kilt and decades of country dancing to prove it.

Why did you choose to apply to IGDA Scholarships specifically?

Upon moving to Dundee to study I was excited to begin networking with other developers and very quickly learned about the IGDA through the University. They asked for volunteers to help at a night of talks hosted by Abertay. I leapt on the opportunity and when the event came about it was everything I’d hoped and more. The organisers and speakers were so welcoming and willing to discuss all the questions we had. Even though we were first years and these were industry veterans they treated us like old friends. I’ve only ever had wonderful experiences volunteering at IGDA events and without them I would have missed out on so much. The scholarships are a brilliant programme and the IGDA give their scholars so much more than a trip to GDC with all the different opportunities out with the conference.

What are you most looking forward to at GDC?

I am very excited to meet some of the creators who have inspired me throughout my life and to see them discuss their passion at the various talks. Perhaps even more alluring is the prospect of discovering new developers who are thriving in small independent collectives around the world and learn about their process. As well as independent developers I am also fascinated by virtual/augmented/mixed reality and games for education. Hopefully at GDC I can get insight into the bleeding edge of these technologies and research fields. I am also looking forward to exploring the city, attending some parties and perhaps finding an arcade to sink some quarters into.

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

After graduation I plan to join a local collective along with two long time collaborators. We hope to sustain ourselves by creating and distributing small games finding funding and work for hire when necessary. Although we have spent time researching our options and approach I know GDC will give me the opportunity to meet creators already in collectives and learn about the challenges they have faced and overcome. By the end of the conference I hope to have a network of developers in similar set ups as well as a new understanding of how to make ends meet as an independent today.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I urge anyone who has begun making games or studying in the hopes of joining a studio to find the nearest place you can volunteer. Volunteering is a brilliant way to meet new people, learn new skills and most of all help out in any small way you can. Through volunteering I’ve met some of my closest friends, collaborators and mentors and been to more events than I can count

IGDA Scotland Scholars @ GDC 2017

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There’s only one more week left until the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and we hope you’re as excited as we are! Over the years we’ve had a multitude of scholars that have represented Scotland at GDC and this year is no different. We have 4 scholars across the IGDA Foundations IGDA Scholars, Women in Games Ambassadors, and Next Gen Leaders programs.

Every day this week we’ll be doing a feature interview with each of our scholars – James Wood, Mona Bozdog, Kirsty Keatch and Llaura Ash McGee – so that you get a chance to know them a bit better and what this opportunity means to them.

We’re extremely lucky to have such a close and thriving development community here in Scotland, and we’d like to thank James, Mona, Kirsty and Llaura for agreeing to be interviewed.

Are you going to GDC this year? The IGDA have a schedule of events available here. Our next monthly event will be a GDC Round up in Dundee in March. If you’d like to speak, get in touch with us at info@igdascotland.org.

IGDA Scotland Play Parties 2017

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All of us at IGDA Scotland want to give a huge thank you to everyone that came along to our play parties last week! Whether you exhibited or simply came along to play the exceptional range of games created at game jams throughout the year, we really hope you had as great a time as we did. We’d also like to thank everyone that made the play parties possible; We Throw Switches, Creative Scotland, our venues Hemma, Unit 6 at The Vision, and Drygate, and everyone that hosted a Global Game Jam site in Scotland.

This year we collaborated with our friends We Throw Switches who offered the opportunity for one game from each play party site to be exhibited at their upcoming event GamesAreForEveryone on the 21st of April in Edinburgh. So, we’d like to present to you, our winners!

Edinburgh: Frack The Planet

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“You are the driver of a Fractor-Driller. It’s your job to drive around the planet, scanning with your GeoSonar for valuable shale gas deposits underground. They’re worth money–the bigger the better! When you’ve found one, you stick your drill into it, and start fracking! You have to pump every last atom of the gas out of it if you want to get paid. And you have ninety seconds in which to frack as many gas deposits as possible. Oh, and try to avoid running over those pesky protesters–those lawsuits are expensive!”

Frack the Planet was created at the GCU Global Game Jam site by team “Muling Kittens”; consisting of Aaron Dron, Aidan Dodds, Andy Durdin, David Farrell, Gordon Brown and Luke Drummond.

Dundee: Ola de la Vida

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“The game is called Ola De La Vida, it is a three player game where each player’s physical movements are used to manipulate on-screen gameplay.   To play, players must physically form the ‘Wave of Life’ by holding each others hands and our two maraca controllers whilst standing on Wii balance boards.  Once the wave is active, players must shift their weight from one side of their balance board to the other in order to tilt their part of the on-screen wave of life.  Together, the three players tilt to and fro on their balance boards, whilst holding one another’s hands to help luchador pinatas to make it from one side of the wave (the screen) to the other.  The winning team is the one which saves the most Pinatas before time runs out – but if the players let go of one another’s hands or the maracas at any point, the game is over.”

Ola De La Vida was created at the Abertay University Global Game Jam site by “Smash it Open and See What’s Inside”; consisting of Mona Bozdog, Danny Parker, Lynn Parker and Alex Pass.

Glasgow: Rootin’ Tootin’ Typin’ Tide

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“Our game, Rootin’ Tootin’ Typin’ Tide, is a quick, competitive two-player game with literal hand-to-hand combat on a keyboard battlefield. Using only one hand, players must hit more keys than their opponent to keep their character, and pride, afloat as they coast down treacherous river rapids. ”

Rootin’ Tootin’ Typin’ Tide was created at the GCU Global Game Jam site by team “Multiflair Games”; consisting of Thomas McLuskie, Kevin Martin, Fionn Innes, Rhiain Flaherty, Connall Reid and Paul Hamilton.

Global Game Jam – Talks and Advice!

This past September we hosted a night of talks on the topic of game jams, and with Global Game Jam this weekend in it seemed right to share them again with you all! Here is some advice for both participants and organisers, as well as some words from a team who decided to develop their idea further after the Global Game Jam.

First up was new board member Steven Taarland, talking about his experiences in organising Rainbow Jam ’16. He discusses some of the issues he faced regarding organisation, getting sponsorships, promotion and more.

Next was the winner of several of the Play Party Awards: Team Curvish. They spoke about how they came together during the jam and developed their game further after the play parties, including showing Curvish at EGX Rezzed, sourcing funding and how they plan to bring the game to market.

Finally Brian McDonald spoke about the Global Game Jam, his experience in helping to organise it as a site and as a board member, and several tips for people looking to take part in not only them but other jams.