Game Design Students showcase their creations at the Different Games Conference
Despite having just celebrated their first graduating class, Sheridan’s Honours Bachelor of Game Design program has been rapidity gaining momentum. Most recently, students from the program were big winners at the seventh annual Level Up Student Showcase held at the Design Exchange in Toronto. This past month, three student groups from the program redirected their attention from the highly competitive dimension of game development to participate in the Different Games conference and focus on a side of the game design spectrum that is often left off the industry’s main stage.
Brooklyn-based Different Games Collective is a grassroots and volunteer-run group that creates community resources and events to support marginalized voices in DIY and independent games. The interdisciplinary approach helps expand the medium as independent developers continue to innovate in a way that makes gaming more inclusive and more accessible. On June 3, the collective brought their annual conference to OCAD U in Toronto. The event included discussions around themes such as developing an aesthetic and bias in game design, along with a series of lectures from prominent Toronto game developers and critics, and a free arcade event for the public.
Yifat Shaik, coordinator for the Toronto edition of Different Games recently taught the Foundation of Game Mechanics course in the Bachelor of Game Design program. As part of their final assignment in the class, students were given the option of designing a game with looser technical constrictions, allowing their games’ narrative and concept to shine through. Three games developed from this assignment were showcased at the conference’s arcade event.
Monster Girls Gaynerations: Ghoul Friends for Life
Team Members: Keana Almario, Shepherd Cameron, Jennifer Stienstra, Jesse Toyota and Yani Wang
Created by SpooklightGames, a group of second year Sheridan Game Design students, Monster Girl Gaynerations is a queer dating game where the main player is a bartender with the choice of dating a werewolf, Slime girl, Medusa or witch. After a disgruntled patron has turned you into a ghost for serving them a bad drink, your goal is to seal a kiss with one of these characters to break the spell and return to human form.
Different Games was a really good space to explore the limits of what games could be. We’re always exposed to the same types of big games marketed by AAA companies, and we as developers never really get the chance to be creative with the medium. Different Games had everything from wacky controllers to a serene camping tent, so it was really a breath of fresh air.
Keana Almario, Game Developer, Spooklight Games
We got to share our game to other developers and the public, while also getting the chance to see what other game devs are working on.
Jennifer Stienstra, Game Developer, Spooklight Games
Where Can I Play?:
Monster Girl Gaynerations can be played here.
Disco is Dead!
Third Floor Games
Team: Nuha Alkadi, Coulter Baker, Jeffrey Barkun, Jennifer Johnson, Kassandra Kadar, and Melissa McQuarrie
Disco is Dead! was recently thrown into the spotlight after sweeping the 2017 Level Up Showcase with first place wins in the categories of Artistic Achievement, Technical Innovation, and Best Overall Game. The narrative driven arcade game follows the story of two disco-loving cops who must work to save their city from a zombie outbreak. Aside from the game’s strong visuals and funky tone, the most memorable aspect of Disco is Dead! is the custom-designed zombie head controllers, which players must literally slap. Disco is Dead! proves that DIY games are contenders on the larger platforms within the industry.
It was great having the opportunity to showcase Disco is Dead! at the Different Games Conference in Toronto. Being a diverse team of designers of different genders, ethnicities and sexualities, as well as our game using unconventional controller methods, the conference was the perfect place to embrace our wacky game. Disco is Dead! was exclusively showcased on the first day of the conference, as well as the opening party. We got many smiling faces from different types of players that night, from young adults playing with their friends to children playing with their parents.
Nuha Alkadi, Game Developer, Third Floor Games
Where Can I Play?:
Disco is Dead! is available for download on Itch.io.
As its name implies, Blind is an audio game with no visuals involved. Players navigate the world by listening carefully to environmental sound, feeling their way along walls, and following the sound of music. Going against the heavy visual and effects oriented gaming structure that dominates the industry, Blind centres a group of gamers that are often neglected – players who cannot see. This goal of the game is to collect musical instruments hidden throughout the short adventure by finding your way through music. At the end of the game, players will be rewarded with a symphony of the instruments collected.
The concept for Blind was something I had in the back of my mind for a long time. I had played and heard of other audio games, but none of them seemed to be adventure games. I realized this was because of the challenge involved with creating a tangible 3D environment for players to explore blindly, but that was a challenge I wanted to take on. If I could create a simple framework to allow for blind traversal of a 3D environment, I would open up the possibility for many existing genres to be played without visuals.
I wanted to make a world that I could understand just as well as reality when my eyes are closed, so I had to practice actually moving around blindly. I practiced frequently in an concrete stairwell, learning to intentionally make echoes, listen carefully, and feel my way around. My experience learning how to get around was how I came up with my ideas for Blind. To bring the concept to reality, I used my skills in music and audio design to create a world made entirely out of sound. I made ambient sounds to act as landmarks, allowed players to hear their footsteps and hands touching the environment, and composed music to help guide the players.
When I first heard about Different Games, Blind was merely a concept. Even so, I realized that it would be a perfect fit, being targeted towards a minority very often neglected by game creators. I was taking a sound design class at the time, and it was about time to start making the final project. I realized that I could make Blind as the final project, which would take off the pressure of doing it in my spare time, and the prospect of having the game displayed at the Different Games arcade would encourage me to continue to work on the game. I was delighted when I heard that Blind had been accepted, and I spent most of the month before the conference working hard on improving the game. Every game I saw and played there was, fittingly, very different. Playing games made by such a diverse group of people, especially those outside of the industry, made me realize how odd and creative non-commercial games can be. I was proud to be a part of that community of people making weird games.
Nathan Powless-Lynes, Game Developer, Blind
Where Can I Play?:
Blind is available for download on Itch.io.
Sheridan’s Game Design program focuses on providing applied, real-world skill development. Assignments and class work focus on case studies, simulations and lab projects. Students will also complete a Co-op Work Term within the industry. The final semesters in the program are project-based, in which students work in teams to develop a game.
Artwork images © the artists.