After studying the Strawberry Thief pattern closely and doing some drawings, I've started to re-create the game digitally.
My idea is to make an extremely simple game that any of the museums visitors can pick up and play. Therefore, the game needs to be easy to understand, easy to control and have very short play sessions. Hopefully this small game will give people an idea of how art can be interpreted into games. Also, it should be simple enough for me to program the prototype myself!
In the game, you play as the bird from the pattern (the strawberry thief) and you have to collect as much ripe strawberries as possible and get the highest score. Rotten strawberries lose points, and spiky thistles damages you and makes you lose health. This early arcade-style game would be perfect for short play sessions in a museum and is hopefully simple enough for non gamers to understand.
I've began recreating the fabric's pattern in PhotoShop, omitting the birds and the strawberries for the games (as they will be separate to the background)
Due to the nature of the original pattern, this game will be very busy, in a visual sense. I've always like the idea of having simple gameplay with visually over the top graphics.
Here is a quick video of the game prototype that I showed at the V&A at Dundee Digital Mash.
The poor quality of the screen recording coupled with the prototype graphics kind of makes it look like an Atari game! In this video, you can see that the player can control the 'strawberry thief' and collect the strawberries.
While working on my small game based on Strawberry Thief, I can’t help but think about the next idea! As part of my residency, I will spend a few months at Abertay University developing my designs into a game with a small team. So I’m now starting to think about a bigger game idea based on the British Galleries.
So far, I am fascinated by the presence of animals in the British Galleries. They are everywhere! It would be so interesting to turn these unique animals into games characters. I’m growing a collage of animals on my wall. Here are some of the objects that have caught my attention so far...
This figurine was made in Arita, Japan around 1670-1700. The ceramic object is designed in the Kakiemon style – a clear white body with asymmetric patterns and illustrations. These exports were popular in England until around 1840, resulting in English copies of the style. I have an image of this object up on my studio wall, and everyone who visits always comments on the bizarre figure – often wondering what kind of animal it is supposed to represent (I love that someone said it looks like a Pokémon!) The V&A description
of the object calls it a Lion, but I am convinced it is actually a ‘Komainu’ (狛犬) which are statues often seen guarding the entrances to Shinto Shrines.
One of the things I really like about the British Galleries is the many examples of artists being inspired by objects form other countries. These vases are a great example.
Next week, I'll show some artwork/screenshots for The Strawberry Thief game.
, I had the pleasure to be involved with the V&A at Dundee’s ‘Digital Mash 4’ as a part of the NEoN Digital Arts Festival
. The event started with me talking about my residency so far, specifically about my Strawberry Thief game project. I then gave a few examples of museums being ‘playful’ and digitally interactive. I began by showing Philip Worthington’s ‘Shadow Monsters’ installation which I saw a few years ago in the Design Museum, and was also shown at MoMA December 7, 2012–January 2, 2013.
Worthington made the installation as a project for degree in Interaction Design from the Royal College of Art in London. In an interview with DesignMuseum.org, Worthing states that the project ‘grew from a brief about technological magic tricks. I was looking at optical illusions and Victorian hand shadows particularly interested me as a starting point. The subtlety with which a character could be created was already very magical and I wondered if there was room to experiment with these techniques. Looking back to my own childhood, I remembered the feeling of casting huge shapes in the light of my father’s slide projector, creating monsters and silly animals. I enjoy working with simple intuitive things; playful feelings that touch us on a very basic level.’
I feel that a lot could be done with these kinds of techniques in museums. Using projectors is an easy way to bring empty spaces to life.
I also showed the new ‘Digital Dragons’ installation at the V&A, created by Bright Ideas Design with the museum to tie in with the Masterpieces of Chinese Painting
exhibition. The temporary installation uses four projectors, Xbox Kinects and custom code to create an interactive painting. Visitors can interact with the dragons, people and landscapes. The great thing about this piece is that it could be possibly be customised too different experiences and themes to tie in with museum exhibits.
I also discussed a piece I saw at Culture Hack Scotland
– the interactive Carpet ‘Canna Hear the Birds’ which as a judge I chose as my winner.
I thought it was important to show examples of how installations can be made from data/heritage, as this is want the V&A at Dundee would be working on for their own installations. I also liked that this piece of work is not overly digital - it uses a carpet as an input method, rather than screens like most interactives.
After my presentation, we then had the audience come up with their own playful museum ideas. They were prompted with postcards and images showing Scottish Design heritage – from Harris Tweed to GTA to the Jaguar F-Type! The ideas were then presented and filmed for the V&A Dundee team to look over for ideas and inspiration. The V&A at Dundee’s engagement with the public is a very exciting way to explore ideas and build their collections.
Over the past week or so, I have found myself wandering the British Galleries, taking notes on objects, watching the short documentaries in the gallery theatre and generally trying to absorb as much information as I can.
In my last blog post, I talked briefly about William Morris. His pattern Strawberry Thief really caught my attention, and just so happens to be one of his most famous designs. While researching, I saw that the V&A had manufactured various household objects with his iconic pattern.
I have decided to design and make a prototype game based on the pattern for a few different reasons. It would serve as a great warm up for the rest of the residency, getting my brain working and forcing me to think how just one piece can be turned into a game. I feel like I could spend weeks or month doing pure research, but I think I need to just get to work! Also, many visitors and staff members are unsure what a game designer would do in a museum in regards to responding to a specific collection, therefore this would show how a game could be made from one item. Finally, I think that making a game based on a furnishing fabric is quite unusual and it will certainly be very challenging!
So far, I have done a few experiments in a games engine, and should hopefully have more to show soon.
Some of my first hand sketches from the gallery
I also did my first workshop, as part of the Sackler Centre Conference. This was run in the V&A’s tapestry galleries, and therefore only pencil and paper were allowed for this workshop. The task was to come up with game designs based on aspects of the tapestries. Since everyone in the workshop was new to games, I went through game design basics with them. The aim of the workshop was to get them thinking about the initial first part of coming up with ideas and thinking about games mechanics. When the small team presented their ideas, I was very surprised that they had though about things like monetisation through Facebook and the App Store.
The feedback I got from the group was all positive. They told me that the workshop made them think that games design is not as easy as it looks, and that they see games in a whole different light now. This was exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for. And as always it is fascinating to see game ideas from non-gamers!
My studio is on the second floor of the Sackler Centre
and I have been slowly bringing my books and equipment to make this place a bit more personal. My first ‘Open Studio’ is next week on the 16th of October, where the public can come in and chat to me about my work. The previous resident here was Julia Lohmann
, who was a designer that worked with seaweed throughout her time at the V&A (She named herself Head of the Department of Seaweed at the V&A – which is awesome!) I enjoyed looking at her work on her website, and I find it very sweet when I find random bits of seaweed in my studio!
So far, my first week and has been inductions, meetings and generally getting to know the place. I’ve noticed that I love walking through the galleries early in the morning before the public can explore the museum. I had a great opportunity to look around a floor of the British Galleries with the curators telling me about the most popular items, how the gallery came about and its aspirations and goals. I found it so incredibly interesting and I took lots of notes, so I think I will do a blog post about the British Galleries in future. I am also keen to do a few case studies on my website focusing on artists and ‘trendsetters’ of those eras, such as artist and textile designer William Morris
'Strawberry Thief' by William Morris (1883)
While exploring the V&A, I managed to go to the Tomorrow Exhibition, which runs from 1st October to 2nd January 2014. This installation in the former Textiles galleries is a collaboration between contemporary artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. The space has been transformed into a South Kensington apartment, by using objects from the V&A’s collections, as well as work by artists and market antiques. The visitors to the exhibition receive a script which tells the story of the inhabitants of the apartment. It was an interesting experience to read the script of Tomorrow while standing in each of the rooms where the narrative takes place – I think it’s a very innovative way to tell a story while exhibiting historic design.
Other than my start at V&A, I was honoured as a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit
. This initiative, which is in partnership with Burberry, is a year-long mentoring programme for me and 16 other individuals from TV, film and games. We will get to meet industry leaders in our field and get to go to BAFTA events throughout the year. Breakthrough Brits is launching on the 21st of October with a careers guidance day, followed by a reception at Burberry’s Regent Street store.
I have also been nominated in the Women of the Future Awards
in the digital category and went to an ambassador’s reception event last night were I spoke to college students about their career aspirations.
Finally, I was filmed for an independent documentary about retro games on Sunday. The film is called 1UP: The Rise of Retro Video Games and you can see more about the project here: https://www.facebook.com/1upmovie
We filmed my segment on a very sunny day at Primrose Hill Park!
Mojang took over the Victoria and Albert museum
on the 30th of August with a range of activities including workshops, music, talks and of course art!
On the last Friday of every month, the V&A host their ‘Friday Lates’.
These events often include live music, art installations, lectures, food/drinks, and much more – based on a range of different themes. ‘The World of Minecraft’ was my first Friday Late, and I had such a great time! I am really looking forward to going to more.
At the event, I had a quick chat with Digital Spy, who posted a fantastic write up of the event. One of their favourite parts of the event was how the museum embedded Minecraft related artwork throughout the museum. This was carried out almost like a treasure hunt, as the museum staff would give out guides on what items were in which room. I thought this was such a clever way into making children look at the art and design in the museum. My favourite memory of the event is the DJ playing pop songs – but remixed to Minecraft lyrics!
A few weeks ago I travelled to Glasgow to attend the wonderful Culture Hack Scotland 2013!
Culture Hack Scotland is a 48-hour event that took place on July 12-14 at the Whisky Bond in Glasgow. Culture lovers of all types use this time for make exciting projects where technology and arts meet. This was their third year running the hack and I was told that it was their best yet! The things they create can be influenced by data provided by various organisations, including Creative Scotland, Festivals Edinburgh and Glasgow Arts.
I was originally bought in to judge the final creations, but I found myself doing a games workshop at the event too (Along with a Swallowtail helper!) This was a challenge to me, as I'm used to doing games workshops with children and I was worried about patronising those who came along. Thankfully, the workshop went really well! We had a class size of about 15 people who then formed three groups. We took them through the very basics of games design, as well as showing them accessible game engines they could use to get them started if they wanted think about getting started with game development. It’s hard to teach game design in such a short time, but the resulting game ideas were fantastic:
(There was also an Arduino workshop with Maklab and a 3D Printing workshop with the Glasgow Sculpture Studios/fearsomengine)
It was strange coming into the event on its last day, when everyone was getting around to finishing their projects. When I first got to the Whisky Bond in Glasgow, I couldn’t believe the amazing positive atmosphere that the room was creating. For a group who hadn’t slept, everyone seemed so nice, grateful and helpful towards each other.
The showcase if the projects at the end were very diverse and inspiring. From a project made in twine, Oculus Rift games, interactive benches, data sculptures, API linking, and much more!
'Sing for your stitches' - a sewing machine powered by song!
The judging period took about an hour and was extremely difficult, as all of the projects were so different. I picked ‘Canna Hear the Birds’
for my main winner, a carpet audio installation shaped as a map of Canna where each step triggered bird noises and song. The team who put this together had never worked together before, and used resources they found around the hack to make their project.
We were also allowed to pick 3 commendations. Mine included a point and click adventure game called ‘Team O’Shanter’
which looked beautiful and was based on Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns
. (You can play the game here: (http://boxoflights.co.uk/tamoshanter/)
I also picked the ‘Internet High5 machine’
a hack where you can send high-fives over the internet to trigger a motorised hand strapped to a chair – When this project was presented, the whole room was laughing! And finally ‘Creative Carnage’
a beautiful LED light installation that visualised the orchestral work ‘My Day of Carnage’ by Oliver Searle. It was so hard to believe that these amazing projects were made in just 48 hours!
You can read a much more in-depth review of the event on the SyncTank website,
and I would highly recommend checking out @chrisdonia’s flickr set!
In October, I will be working at the Victoria and Albert Museum as their first game designer in residence. The position was advertised around January this year. I submitted a written application, detailing my ideas about the residency, along with my own artwork and videos. I was then called back for a day at the V&A, which consisted of a 20 minute presentation to a group of V&A staff, and then an interview. For six months, I will work on game ideas inspired by the British Galleries, which will then be prototyped at Abertay University. I will also be delivering some public participation programmes throughout my stay, consisting of talks, workshops and game jams. There are a lot of reasons why I'm excited about the residency:
There are 4.5 million objects at the V&A, so I am excited to come up with game ideas which are influenced on these works of art. I have always found it easier to come up with game ideas which are based on a theme, rather than starting with a blank slate. One of my favourite exhibits in the British Collection is Room 53: Rococo Style. I love the pastel colours and playful curves in the designs. During my undergraduate degree, I looked at Rococo as art inspiration for a game I solely worked on called ‘Fiammetta’: http://gad-ba.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Art
(This is a project I will soon be revisiting with better artwork, code and design!)
2) Games as Art.
As well as being a great opportunity for myself, this residency is a big step for the industry. There has been a long debate centred on video games as art going back to the 1980s. Even Rodger Ebert had strong opinions about games as art!
The V&A – the world's largest museum of art and design – taking an interest in games is a sure sign that it can be treated as an art form. And they are not alone! MoMA also have a game exhibit, (They recently added Minecraft to their lineup!) with one of their senior curators, Paola Antonelli doing a TED talk on the subject.
3) Educating the public. One of the most exciting aspects of this residency is that I will have to engage the public with games design. Not only will I run workshops, talks and game jams, but I will be given the opportunity to open up my V&A studio to the public, where they can see my designs and how I work. I'm really hoping that this will help the public connect with this form of design and challenge any assumptions that they may already have. I am really keen to show how games, digital, art and culture can merge into one.
4) Game Preservation. The V&A taking an interest in games should trigger conversations about preserving games (and games hardware). It is interesting to think about the methods we can use to archive games culture – such as displaying computers/hardware, concept art, preserving source code or archiving through emulation. Of course, there may also be issues, such as how we can keep games that are only accessible through the web/always online.
has a few different partners, including Abertay University
, (where my team won Dare to be Digital, started our company and studied) UKIE
and the V&A at Dundee
. I will be talking at Abertay University’s Dare Protoplay about my residency in August. (http://www.daretobedigital.com/42_Dare-ProtoPlay.html)
I was so thrilled to have so many different publications take interest in my residency; BBC
, Kotaku, Eurogamer, The Independent, Artribune
and Design Week
to name a few. Having games enthusiast press, mainstream, and arts/culture press covering the same story is wonderful! At the weekend,
I will be attending SyncTank's Culture Hack Scotland 2013
at The Whisky Bond in Glasgow. This is a 48 hour 'hack-a-thon' where people in the creative sector will be making exciting cultural pieces. My job will be to judge the creations at the end of the event, and also to hold a 2 hour workshop introducing game creation. This will be the first time delivering a workshop to adults, so I am slightly nervous! You can read my interview with SyncTank here!
We launched Tick Tock Toys on 28th February and it got featured on 40 different App Stores across the world!
I’ve now founded Swallowtail Games Limited and we are working on Tick Tock Toys at Abertay University in Dundee! We started work on 22nd of October and hope to finish the game by the end of January!
The new team!
Thanks to Dare to be Digital, we already have the main game design finished, but now the task is to turn a student game, into a full commercial product. We aim to have about 120 levels, ( 15 levels for free with IAP) The plan is to launch just before the game BAFTAs.
Below is a video of me and other prototype fund companies talking about the grant and facilities at Abertay University.