Huge thanks to Jonathan for the opportunity to speak to such a huge audience about my work. I started out making obscure-ass adventure games and now it’s showing up as news on one of the major gaming websites. That is bananas. It’s more than bananas. It’s papayas.
I’d like to personally thank Gorm Lai for giving me the opportunity to keynote the 2013 Global Game Jam. It was a humbling experience to be writing for such a talented and driven audience, and I hope my video provided at least a few ideas for getting the most out of a jam. I’m very much looking forward to playing the results.
Edit: And if you ain’t seen the video yet, here it is. : ) My keynote starts at 3:30.
P.S. By popular request, here are the ’social network’ comics that appear when I’m encouraging people to spend more time with their local friends.
(Click for full size)
Ah, social networks. One day, a hip new media company will trademark the phrase “Go Be Social” and the word will lose all trace of its original meaning.
I’m flying home this weekend after more than two months solid on the road, but rest assured I’ll find time to participate in the Global Game Jam in some capacity. : ) If you want to keep up with more of my nonsense, I highly encourage you to follow me on Twitter.
By the way, I don’t think I ever posted this here, but my most recent game jam creation was called Around the World in 100 Cards. If you’re interested, it’ll teach you to recognize foreign alphabets as a gestalt, e.g. by learning to spot the differences between the Thai alphabet and the Cambodian one.
This is making me think there should be a jam where the theme is just “Global.” Although that could just be my pun sense tingling.
This will be the year that my team and I release Gravity Ghost, hooray! We have every milestone scheduled from now until our (as-yet-unannounced) ship day. Now all that’s left is a metric craptonne of work. I love it when a plan comes together.
I invite you to follow our progress at the Gravity Ghost devlog, where you too can learn the secrets to indie game development. You’ll also find tangentially game-related comics, like this one.
Although we’re a few weeks in already, I like to use the new year to evaluate my goals for the next 12 months (besides “more puns”, which is always on the list).
Here are a few of my professional goals for this year, in no particular order:
- Teach game development/programming to more young people (next week ends my third year of teaching the Indie Game Sprint at Columbia College, so we’re off to a good start : )
- Learn C# (or rather, learn it properly, not just enough to make simple prototypes)
- Improve my illustration, especially digital painting
- Start doing something comics-related with some regularity
- Learn more about DIY marketing
- Teach/lecture in more new places
- Find more silly words that rhyme with blog
I’m happy with how my independent games career has come along these last 8 years. It still astounds me that this actually is a career. Back when I started, “video games” were always big-budget studio titles. Having any creative input on a video game at all meant you needed to have 10 years of industry experience (or so the prevailing wisdom said).
My game development started as a hobby in a practically non-existent niche (I didn’t hear the word “indie” applied to games until about 2008 – before that, we were “amateur” or “freeware” developers). I expected my audience to be in the hundreds. So much has changed. Thanks for sticking with me and supporting me and my work – I’m so lucky to be able to create the worlds I do.
Last week at E3 was amazing. I got a chance to demo the game to a ton of people, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Like, overwhelming enough that I had to calm myself down with coffee. The whole thing was pure developer soul food (the positivity, not the coffee. Well, maybe the coffee too).
One of the people I talked to was Evan Narcisse of Kotaku, who was kind enough to feature the game on-camera. So head on over to Kotaku to see the first-ever video footage of Gravity Ghost to grace the internet:
Another exciting thing I forgot to post here is that I’m now updating the Gravity Ghost devlog pretty regularly. So hang out if you want to hear me wax poetic about things like animation, inspiration, and probably coffee again.
Head on over to the Gravity Ghost devlog if you’re interested in seeing how I think about animation and character design. It turns out that designing a character who is both dead and endearing is quite a challenge.
If you’re reading this site, there’s a good chance you’re open to the idea of making your own games. I’m here to tell you that making your own art isn’t as difficult as it sounds, especially if you’re interested in improving your drawing skills. It’s a good way to level up your art really fast, and leave each game looking better and better.
The art for my firsttwo games was largely created in MS Paint. And while I wouldn’t actually recommend that if you’re interested in having wrists that work, it did sure teach me a lot about making readable game art.
It sat on my bottom shelf for many happy years. But this story does not have a happy beginning. One Christmas morning in the early 1990s, something went terribly wrong.
Perhaps in the previous month of screaming at toy commercials I had forgotten to actually write a Christmas list. Perhaps I had misplaced my faith in the psychic powers of Santa Claus. But whatever happened, the present I opened on Christmas was not the one I wanted.
Knowing it would be a full year before I got another toy anywhere near as good, I drowned my sorrows in some hot cocoa and probably took down a gingerbread house.
By the time I remembered the Lego, the entire set had been put together by my nerdiest cousin.
Suddenly jealous of MY toy, I carried the whole thing into my room and started playing out of pure stubbornness.
There was much to be done in this little Lego universe. The first thing I did was depose their leader with a ritualistic beheading. Then I replaced him with an interim leader of my own choosing.
The set had some kind of vague underwater mining theme, the long-forgotten Aquaraiders. I’d never had a Lego set as big or complex as this. The ladyfig’s head had come from a windsurfing set whose accessories were an umbrella and a tea table.
Despite my pessimism, I soon discovered all sorts of wonders.
Yes, My Little Undersea Mine (TM) was not the idyllic paradise it first appeared to be. Soon a scout returned from a recon mission, and things took a turn for the worse.
And with that, Lego had made itself a lifelong fan. Hell, I bought a Lego VW Bus yesterday.
Which brings me to this:
By now, a lot of people have weighed in on the “Lego for Girls” thing better than me. But as a little girl who unknowingly played with “Boy Lego,” I just have a couple of observations about the new ‘Lego Friends.’
1) The minifigs look totally different and probably couldn’t actually be friends.
2) The pieces are a different color palette and wouldn’t mix that well with other sets.
3) Some of the sets have a lot of pieces, but where’s the room for creativity?
My point is this: There are no shortage of plastic, barely-poseable dress-up dolls aimed at young girls. But Lego always had the promise of letting you create something totally original using only what was in front of you.
Countless young girls will play with these “girls only” sets and not ever know what they’re missing.
And as a former sea captain and occasional shark whisperer, I’m glad I was a kid in 1993 and not today. Otherwise things may have turned out differently.
It’s probably the difference between “Best Friends 4 Life!” and “Lifelong Fan.” Just sayin.’
Follow the rest of my nonsense on Twitter. Or check out my upcoming video game here.
Edit: I just found out Mom kept my Lego. Here’s Captain Erin, back at the helm. And holding a knife.
Surprise! Here’s what I’ve been doing all these months. My team and I are proud to announce our new game, Gravity Ghost. Hop on over to that site for a much more detailed breakdown of the game, with many colorful images for your eyes to enjoy. : )
You can follow our development on the brand new dev blog, on Twitter, or as always, by following me (@Livelyivy). Hope you like it!
I just realized all my games are about robots, dead girls, or communists.
I have written an article! It’s here on Gamasutra, and it’s called “The Top 10 Weird Children of Video Games and Neuroscience.” I’m glad so many people are finding it useful and informative.
Several people have asked me for the list of studies I referenced, so I’ve listed them all at the end of this post. For the most part only the abstracts are available publicly, unless you belong to a school or workplace with access to academic journals. Or, you’ve got a good friend from university willing to do you a favor (Thanks Effie ).
In the article I mention my high school psychology teacher, Max. Though I haven’t talked to him in years, I decided to send him the article. If you ever have the chance to do something like this, do it! Teachers sometimes don’t know the power of their words until years down the road. I heard back from Max within a day.
1: Replaying the game: hypnagogic images in normals and amnesics [link]
2: Bupropion sustained release treatment decreases craving for video games and cue-induced brain activity in patients with Internet video game addiction [link]
3: The efficacy of playing a virtual reality game in modulating pain for children with acute burn injuries: a randomized controlled trial [link]
4: Television and video game exposure and the development of attention problems [link]
5: A feasibility study using interactive commercial off-the-shelf computer gaming in upper limb rehabilitation in patients after stroke [link]
6: “I feel more connected to the physically ideal mini me than the mirror-image mini me”: theoretical implications of the “malleable self” for speculations on the effects of avatar creation on avatar-self connection in Wii [link]
7: The effect of internet video game play on clinical and extrapyramidal symptoms in patients with schizophrenia [link]
8: The development of attention skills in action video game players [link]
Improved probabilistic inference as a general learning mechanism with action video games [link]
9: Brain training for silver gamers: effects of age and game form on effectiveness, efficiency, self-assessment, and gameplay experience [link]
10: Oscillatory brain responses evoked by video game events: the case of super monkey ball 2 [link]
A few days ago the announcement went out that the NEA is now offering art grants to video game developers. Fast Company asked me a few questions about what this might mean to independent game developers like myself. I answered honestly, although I’m sure other game devs have some differing opinions (also: “a bit of a hit” means “enough to keep me fed and working on new games” ).
Some of the folks I know who make artistic/independent games didn’t feel that the announcement made their work any more or less legitimate, which is why I described their reaction as “eye-rolly.” They weren’t waiting for an official notice from on high to tell them it was all right to do what they loved. They just went out and did it. If anything, this is a sign that the rest of the world is catching up, and not that games haven’t mattered this whole time.
It’s worth noting that governments have long recognized the power of games, and have been funding them for years. The difference is that those games were almost exclusively of the ‘educational’ or ‘training’ variety (the earliest I know of was in 1992). Some countries have been offering art grants for games for several years. I’m most familiar with Canada’s Telefilm, which has funded a few of my friends. The NEA endowment could be a godsend for devs in the US who are otherwise at a loss for how to fund their work.
Shortly after the Fast Company article went live, the NEA got in touch with me and asked if I would clarify their position:
We were thrilled that “one of the Most influential Women in Tech” had seen our announcement and I’m hoping that you can help us correct a misperception. Projects resulting from NEA funding CAN, in fact, be sold. Just like filmmaking organizations can charge for their DVDs or museums can charge for admission, games can be sold. The nonprofit organization producing the game must use the revenues to sustain the organization as well as make good on whatever arrangements they’ve made with creative/production personnel. But they are in no way restricted from sales. Can you help us spread the word?
And I’m happy to spread the word as much as I can. As with any publisher deal, it’s important for developers to know what they’re getting into. But I see this a step in the right direction, namely because it will help new game ideas get explored in a big way. What are your thoughts on the endowment? Would you go for it, knowing your game had to be ‘art’?
A few months ago I started consulting for the Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison, Wisconsin. They knew I meant business when I showed up to my job interview during something later referred to as “Snowpocalypse.” I can’t say much about the project yet, but I’m helping to design an educational game. And the subject matter is slightly more difficult than your average apocalyptic snowstorm.
Shortly after I got the gig in Wisconsin, the entrepreneur magazine Fast Company named me as one of the most influential women in technology. And good lord, they even made a stylish black and white portrait for the occasion. I must have stared at the article for 5 minutes without reading it. All I could hear was a little voice in my head going “srs biznes.”
One of technology’s most influential necks
On the same day of the Fast Company thing, my high school sweetheart messaged me to say that there he was, reading the Onion AV Club, when suddenly he saw this article about me and the Indie Game Sprint. And that’s when I decided to go for a little walk and think about the incredible connectedness of everything in our modern lives (just kidding, I bought a fro-yo).
I’m also putting my nights and weekends into something I’m quite excited about. I can’t say much about it right now, except that it involves this fox.
His name is Voy, if that helps (it doesn’t)
Don’t forget to follow me on the Twitter (@Livelyivy) for updates that happen daily instead of, um, semi-annually.