Amsterdam Seminar Trip

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From Monday 8 to Friday 12 February, I went to the Netherlands with some students from Bachelor and Master from ZHdK Game Design. The goal of this trip was to meet the Dutch game industry at his current state and make some contacts.
I was actually more motivated to get to know some of my bachelor colleagues. We arrived on Monday noon in Amsterdam. We had the day free to visit the city and I contacted Hamza to meet him there. I drank with my colleagues one of the most tasteful beer ever, the I.P.A.

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I then went on meeting Hamza, we ate at a Japanese restaurant. I showed him Splash Blast Panic. He was involved in the game jam entry, so the changes since then surprized him in good. We talked a lot about our lives, what we were heading to. As I realized he lives in Utrecht and that I was also going in Utrecht on Thursday, he invitated me to his place on Thursday evening.
On Tuesday, we began our visit of Dutch Game Studios, with Orange Games, a conglomeration of several Dutch studios, known for Governor of Poker. As all students in Game Design mostly aspires to create games in the paid model, the reaction against the free-to-play model of Orange Games was mostly indifferent. They give us one of the most disgusting set of cards.
On the evening, we went on to visit Little Chicken, an applied games company. Even if their products were more interesting, the presentation was so boring that I nearly slept. There was no passion in the pitch, no will to make us learn something. It was just a genuine presentation of the company, IN ONE HOUR.

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With Simon, we then went on a bar where we could play chess (I hate chess). He beat me twice, but never to easily. During one of the game, a girl came to ask where were the set of pieces to play chess and I answered in French, as I heard that they were speaking French before. I quickly learned that they were studying in Lausanne and when Simon left after the second game, I stayed the night with them.
I really like the openness and the quality of the discussion as we were sharing our different experiences either with EPFL or with UNIL. I manage to speak about game development and my area of research with game jam without feeling completely like a outcast geek, and we settle to do something the day after.
I already had all my nights booked for the weeks, but on Wednesday, we met an artist from the NDSM Werft, an area of Amsterdam that used to be the docks, was abandoned and were now reused by hostel and artists. I found the idea of artistic utopia interesting, but the whole place seemed like ruined and not even completed (after 14 years).

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We then wen to meet ijsfontein, a “playful learning” company, mostly doing applied games. His talk, that nerved Philo, was a condensé of shit/fuck/boring words linked to concepts. I found him very pretentious and arrogant, without actually being that important. I mean, talking trashy and trying to impress students is maybe gonna work for high school students, but maybe not with game designers who already work very hard for their projects.
We finally went to meet Jeroen van Mastrigt from the FreedomLabCampus and his several experiences around the game industry. Compared to our trashy speaker from ijsfontein, the man was super humble and ready to answer any question with expertise and not false honesty. He made us travel in the future of the game industry and technology. A very nice experience before running to take the tram to meet the Swiss-French/French girls. We went to eat at the Blue Dutch. We ate specialities from the Netherlands. We then went in a random bar, I trained my pitch for the day after and they gave me useful advices. We finally went in night clubs and, if you know me, I am completely not in my comfort zone in night clubs. But they managed to decomplex me about that, so for that bravo.

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On Thursday, we went in Utrecht to the HKU (Utrecht University of the Arts). Several students pitched their game and I pitched my research topic for which I wrote a paper for the International Conference on Game Jams, Hackathons and Game Creation Events. The professors from HKU really liked my subject and a really interesting discussion went on after the pitch. I took the business card from one of the lecturer to keep contact.
We visited the city and then went to the Dutch Game Garden, an incubator for indie game studio and a pillar of the success of the Dutch game industry. We were welcomed by Eline Muijres and began with a talk about a serious game for old people to force them to be active. Eline Muijres talked about her experiences as indie game developer and presented the Dutch Game Garden. I immediately joked that the Swiss version of this model would be the Swiss Game Challet, and if it ever happens, I sure want my beer for the awesome name.
I visited Hamza and meet his girlfriend. I was very happy for them, as they are in the process of moving to a new bigger house and Hamza seems more happy than ever.
We went back in Basel and then Zürich on Friday. It was a wonderful human experience. I was not impressed by the game studios we visited, and by the status of the Dutch game industry, but I supposed that is my pirate anarchist view of game development that speaks for me. I would say, make art not Swiss Francs.

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Ludicous 2016

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From Friday the 22th to Sunday the 24th of January, I was at the Ludicious Festival in Zürich. The lineup of speakers was incredible, John & Brenda Romera were the rockstars, but even others like Sergey Galyonkin from Steam Spy, Ru Weerasuriya from Ready At Dawn (that released the not so good Order 1886) or Thomas Grip from Frictional Games. And much more of course.

Switching between interesting talks and taking a lot of notes (I have 10 pages of detailed notes) was my main activity. I learned a lot of things on Interactive Storytelling, Game Development philosopies, Game Jam as Pre-Production process, Game Data Analytics. I had the pleasure to meet very interesting people like Vesa Raudasoja from Finland who organize the Finnish Game Jam (the Finnish locations of the Global Game jam at the Art Museum in Helsinki) and who is now running forthe election of IGDA Board Director. But of course, there was also the Swiss Game Award, with the gala:

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Probably, people will remember me from my amazing moustache. Cloud Chaser won the Audience Award and Feist won the Swiss Game Award. I was eating with the swiss-french, Mikhail Chatillon from Microsoft, Sylvain Cardin from MindMaze, and Basile & Ben from Digital Kingdom. We laughed so much of everything. A let’s player was playing all the nominees’ game, but he played so badly that we could not stop laughing (wine was probably not completely out of the equation).

But one the most learning experience was on Sunday, the Unconference. It was not a conference day and everyone can propose a mini-talks of 5 minutes. I presented my experiences with 2 years of One Game A Month:

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Of course, I was not the only one who was talking during the mini-talks session from Unconference. We had Gino Yu who came from Davos to the Unconference by inviation from my teacher Mela Kocher. He had some amazing insights on the mental model space and the physical state. For example, if we have a jump scare in a video-game, we will have a physiological response that is the same that if a real lion attacks us (typically adrenaline rush to make our body ready for any decisions we can make). He gave a Ted talk about meaningful media.

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In conclusion, it wasw an overwhleming learning week-end and I probably have to digest all the informations I learned in the following weeks. But what I can say for sure is that I am as motivated as ever to follow my dream and to create games.

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Junior Research Conference & Player Q

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Thursday the 12th was a very long day. My Zürcher colleagues took the train at 6am from Zürich to arrive in time at ECAL in Renens. I was smart enough to go the day before and sleep at my mother’s place with Andi. We slept well and were all fit for the conference.
The JRC (Junior Research Design Day Conference) brings together all the master students around Switzerland from Bern, Luzern, Basel, Zürich, Geneva, Lausanne. I was expecting to meet some new people, maybe in my domain (Game/Interaction/Media Design).
The whole morning was about talks, 4 trios of students presented their project and the workshop they would organize in the afternoon. At the end of each trio, there was a little discussion. Those talks were very heterogeneous. From textile design about religious cloth of the Renaissance, to designing waste containers for the third world (especially Kenya, a nice project from our ZHdK colleague Joshua Uerli), to the world of sound design (behind the scene of movies’ sound), finally with colour blind perspective.
Just before noon break, we could register to one of the workshop and I had the chance to be one of the first, such that I could register to the world of sound workshop. I hesitated with the “selfies” workshop, but sound was the most interesting one for my game design skills.

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The workshop was amazing. Even if it seemed disorganized, we began in the dark (the most awkward start I ever had). In the introduction, we had to identify some sounds. Fire? Wood? Water? Plastic? Quickly I understood that it is a very hard process to identify from what a sound comes from.
Then, we had a sound extract from a movie. We had to identify the whole sequences of sounds and draw it. I understood that the identified sequence had no coherence as I was trying to interpolate it. Still in the dark, we had to form groups (best team forming ever as you just go to the nearest group next to you). Light came back and then we had one hour to produce a sequence of sounds out of our drawings.
I was with a group composed exclusively of HEAD girls, so we could speak French. The first thing you see is that every members of the group have a completely different set of images. Someone heard something nobody did, or someone is sure that a certain sound had certain features. After we organized our storyboard to have a set of precise sound to produce and we then went on sound production.

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We went out to make some walking on leaf sound. We went on a computer room to record some keyboards sounds, etc… We then came back with a set of separate sounds. We did not have the time to mix them. Other groups had completely other production process. Some of them did an accapela version that was hilarious.
At the end, we had to hear our sequence of sounds with the movie images. Our sequence had three perfectly synchronous sounds that came out of nowhere. We just played the sounds on iTunes. The workshop process was super interesting: Sounds->Visual->Sounds.
After the workshops, we were invited to an apero and in the traditional way of Waadt, you had white wine and red whine. I started with the white one and it was very tasteful. All my swiss-german friends were on beer. I then switched to the red wine that was disgusting. We discussed with a bit and then with Andi, we went on Player Q, an LGBT event.
I was already a bit drunk, but I did remember the address of the event: Rue des Côtes-de-Montbenon 18. At least, that was what was written, because actually, the VoGay space was at Rue des Côtes-de-Montbenon 15. I was angry at the organizer and made him the remark when we finally figured it out.
With pizza and drink going around, we first watched a documentary named “Gaming in Color”, that shows this rising Gaymer community in the US. That was one of my first impression: the claims of Gaymer comes from the gay movement of the 80s and does answer to American problematic. It gives a place for gay people that are gamer, two different communities that have none in common.

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As a game designer, it is always important to know that such communities exist and that they have a place, not just in the communities, but also in our games (as characters or themes). The thing is, I create games around the themes that interest me and the LGBT thematics does not interest me, so even informed, I won’t create games around those themes.
After the documentary, a Smash Bros tournament was organized with only female characters allowed (Kirby and Jigglepuff were considered female, but Pikachu not). I’m not a huge fan of the WiiU version, and the fact that female character are really slow made the tournament less entertaining for me, but I did meet some very fun people, even not as a member of the LGBT community.
In the end, I liked the Player Q, but there is still something that buggers me. Do we need the Gaymer tag in Switzerland? I don’t say that Switzerland is a perfect place for LGBT people, but the problematic are not the same. The fact that space like VoGay are available, seems to show me that the problematic is completely different than in the US. I don’t always like some US phenomenon that comes in Switzerland like it is all-truth.
It was a long day, but I learned a lot of things from sound design to LGBT gamer community in Lausanne. Next stop, finishing PROCJAM (the procedural generation game jam).

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