I was give the incredible honor of being invited to speak at the Gotland Game Conference in Sweden (video of the talk in my post Defining the Box). They flew me over there and put me up in a lovely hotel, along with a bunch of other incredible speakers and judges that really made me feel like I had to prove something. 🙂 The event is largely organized by Uppsala University’s game development program, so the conference had a high percentage of undergraduates. I decided it was important I gear my talk towards them, and focus on the challenges I’ve personally faced over the years when it comes to my creative and technical career.
It hasn’t been an easy creative journey for me, and despite how far I’ve come, I still wonder how much further I could be if I had proper guidance in many of the areas I’ve pursued over the last decade. Not that I can fix much with one talk, but at least I can be honest and try to make some struggling game designers and students feel understood. So much of what keeps people from achieving their potential is fear of what they don’t know. I wanted to try and dispel a bit of that fog, and help them focus on where the real work needs to be done.
Although many people put a lot of time and effort in making this conference happen, it was Ulf Benjaminsson and Adam Mayes that made me feel particularly welcome, and obviously put a great deal of personal effort into making sure all the guests had what they needed, and had a great time. Thanks guys!
First Year Judging
One of my duties as a guest of the conference was to judge the first year student projects, of which there were twelve. This took place over the three days of the conference, allowing us to take our time playing their games and providing feedback to the teams. The theme for the first years was ‘Theme Park’, with the loose requirement of creating games with physical components, or otherwise novel forms of interaction. Students had nine weeks to put their teams together, create a concept, and execute it, which is no simple task!
I ended up getting along quite well with one of the other 1st year judges, Anders Vang Pedersen of GameIT College. We decided to tackle the games together, as many were multiplayer, and even for those that weren’t it got us in the spirit just competing for high scores. Anders had a lot of really amazing feedback to give, and I feel like we really succeeded in making sure every team was able to take a lot out of their experience. There was a wide range in quality of end product, which wasn’t a surprise for 1st year students. Some of the games weren’t fun and had a lot of problems, but this didn’t mean the team had failed, far from it. We dug into their process, looking for the moments where they knew it wasn’t going the way they wanted or hoped, how they reacted. How they encouraged each other, and became family, or felt increasingly isolated. Some felt trapped, that it was too late to change course if things went wrong, that they wouldn’t finish anything, so instead focused on completion of a game no one was excited about. School is exactly the time to take those kinds of chances, to test your metal! Showing the students that they DID have those realizations let them see that they could trust themselves, and the only possible failure would be ignoring those key moments from their development process.
I’ll admit some of the games were hard to enjoy, but most had fun memorable aspects to them. My personal favorite (and many of the other judges as it turns out) was Crocodile Chow Down, winner of multiple awards. It was hilarious, physically engaging game of swapping out a crocodile’s teeth to chew different kinds of food. Well done!<
I made it to roughly half of the talks, with a few in particular that really stood out to me. Colleen Macklin’s talk Games: What are they good for? was a fantastic examination on what we can do with games. She is brilliant woman, and spending time with her was really inspiring. I have her on my list of people that I Must Collaborate With For Some Reason.
Brendon Trombley was incredibly eye-opening taking a strong look at using games in education with his talk Game-Based Learning on the Front Lines – (Video Here). I also really enjoyed Jason Scott’s talk Every Computer, Ever, In Your Browser, demonstrating his wonderful project to keep games alive and accessible.
So many wonderful new people! I’ve already named some, but I ended up spending extra time getting to know a few of the other judges. There was Ylva Sundström, who had the most wonderful dry sense of humor. A lot of the time it felt like we were the only two in on jokes no one else seemed to be aware of. Joakim Sjöberg of PowerGamer.se who was a clever, laid back fellow that knew his stuff, and was easy to hang out with. Lastly, Mirjam Palosaari Eladhari, who inspired me to expand how I capture ideas, and calm my mind with portable watercolors.
To everyone that put together the conference, but a special thanks to my friend Jerry Jonsson. Jerry and his awesome wife Lina are both alumni of Uppsala University, and started a game company together called Storm Potion. Jerry and I met at Game Connection in Paris last year, as we were both nominated for awards (his for their game Little Warlocks) and placed in a booth together. Aside from both having awesome names, we got to be good buddies! We kept in touch, and he brought me up to the conference organizers as someone they should consider tapping to speak! Thank you my friend, and to Lina as well for being so welcoming and letting me stay in your home and see your horse!