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NFTS Graduate Year Project – The Beginning

First, welcome to the new and improved website! It’s still undergoing some changes, a lot of structural stuff still needs work. It will be smart and snazzy, one day, and then maybe will get decrepit over time.

An ageing website, hmmm…

Anyway let’s get straight onto the rather exciting process of documenting my graduate project! This will be the focus for the next year of blogging. Commitment or what?!

Here’s a condensed version of opening graduate brief that each NFTS Games Design student received:

 “The graduate project is a substantial piece of practical work – a working game of your own conception, design, development and implementation. The game you choose to make can take a variety of different forms or formats and be targeted at any particular platform or combination of platforms you decide on, (PC, web-based, mobile, tablet, console, custom hardware etc)

It could be a completed project ready for release, a prototype of a much larger project, or the first few chapters of a suite of episodic releases. Crucial is that the end product is polished, competent, original and innovative. Something which has a potential playing audience, however small.

Use this opportunity to create a game project which pushes the boundaries of the medium and genuinely delivers an engaging, meaningful and edifying experience to its players, making its mark as your calling card for a creative future in the world of games.

What a tantalising prospect! I’m not sure of the limitations similar MA courses set out for final-year projects but I feel excited and grateful to say the least! I’ll come back to the broad foundations laid down in this brief from time to time, although with so many degrees of freedom to operate within I expect I’ll be constructing (with the help of tutors, peers, team members and games testers) a lot of the rules to this project as I go.

After working on some commissioned work during January it was liberating to jump back into the freedom of conceptualisation! The Christmas holidays were focused around Unity tutorials and some games jammyness, so ideas for the grad project took the form of the flickering of light bulbs. These occasional flashes looked something like this:


Some ideas followed me all the way from the start of first year:

  • For example, a kind of ‘documentary game’ really intrigued me even though I felt I had attempted such a direction with “Anuli and Obi”. The very real RFA Fylingdales (a British air base that is part of America’s Ballistic Missile Early Warning System) and its history of controversy surround the local opposing protesters stood out as a potential source of investigative journalism, kind of in the same vein as groundbreaking podcast Serial.
  • Then there was the inspiration I received from Christos Reid (aka failnaut) after visiting last year’s GameCity. Christos challenged a group of us to talk about an autobiographical experience, and to discuss how games can reflect personal struggles. Culminating with a panel from Christos and Zoe Quinn, I was sure I could take my own experiences and discover an interesting mechanic to marry with a personal story.
  • The influence from my research into music festivals and play would perhaps always have led me to conceive of a dancing game. I imagined a while ago multiple players bouncing around an open space, trying to outdance each other, and it just seemed simple enough to work!

Josh Unsworth and I spent a dedicated January afternoon sharing such thoughts and concepts, with an aim to discuss 10 or so game ruminations.We each wrote down some personal key parameters we would measure the ideas up against. Out of the half-baked concepts that stuck out, a certain pattern started to emerge; looking long and hard at my options I realised I really want to innovate beyond the screen. My placement with interactive theatre group Coney taught me a lot about the importance of “liveness” and “presence in space” in both theatre and games design. Entice by these principles I started adapting the core essence of the themes of my ideas (interdisciplinary, social, engaging) into something more akin to an art installation.

As you’ll later discover my dear readers, this shift from the boundless accessibility and distribution of the digital age to a limited yet dedicated series of occurrences (dare I say… Happenings) of a game is not an easy sell to the modern games designer. Platform is everything when it comes to intuitive, fun, well designed experiences, and outside of the digital world it can be considered highly challenging to make a game with these qualities. Board games are a perfect example, which require hundreds of painstaking hours of testing to perfect.

I’ll talk in my next post about the pitches I gave to HOD Jon Weinbren at the start of February, and the roads I took to get to each pitch. Until then, peace y’all.

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