Programming with children

(Pictures shamefully stolen from Lær Kidsene Koding)

Last summer I was at Edinburgh Interactive and was for the first time introduced to the highres_245711632wonderful organisation Coder Dojo, which is a program or space for young people eager to learn about programming and technology. Bill Liao, one of the founders, took the stage and started reciting a poem which really moved me. He concluded with the statement “We’re teaching our children how to read but not how to write. We’re teaching our children how to use technology but not how to create and express themselves with it.” – it really got to me.

Ever since then the subject just kept on popping into a lot of discussions and meetings I was having last winter. Of course, a lot of the meetings I was having, were with very engaged technology enthusiasts. But it was uncanny the way I could be sitting in an introduction meeting between Jill Walker Rettberg and Henchman and Goon where w ended up having an opinionated and enthused discussion about the lack of programming in Norwegian education. And this just kept happening. General consensus was that something had to be done and we might as well be the ones to do it. Meetings were had between me, Jill Walker Rettberg from Digital Culture at University of Bergen, Anne Marthe Dyvi from Bergen Center for Electronic Art, some sporadic members of The Game Developers Guild, Martin Lie, Trygve Trohaug from HackBergen and one of my favourite librarians Sverre Helge Bolstad.

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Something’s brewing in Norway – part 3

This is part 3 of a series where I’m trying to describe the lay of the land of game development in Norway. The more I dig the more astounded I am over the talent that exists here and some of the wonderful projects that are about to burst outta here! For more please read part 1 and part 2.

Moving east we arrive at one of the most exciting game developing companies in Norway, Rock Pocket Games. These days they’re developing the gorgeous looking Oliver and Spike – Dimension Jumpers:

Still not convinced? Here’s some more people drooling:

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Something’s brewing in Norway part 2

In part 1 I started introducing the game developers in Norway starting with Bergen. So far I’ve mentioned Rain (keep an eye out for them at GDC – they’ll be at the Nordic Game stand), D-Pad Studios, Henchman & Goon and Turbo Tape Games. I still have a few more I’d like to mention:

Mentalfish Mentalfish logo

This is pretty much a one-man band named Petter Sundnes. I’ve had the privilege of working with Petter on a few potential projects and I enjoy his visions and game developing skills. We’ve also worked with students together and he’s an excellent and patient teacher  while introducing Unity (I’ve even started dabbling with it). His game mechanic skills are excellent, creativity top notch and management skills are great. I hope to work more with him in the future and is my number one choice to bring along for meetings with potential new clients.

Read more about Mentalfish here.

Vostopia

Vostopia is slightly outside Bergen in beautiful Voss. Vostopia’s founding father is Bjarne Rene who has the most impressive game developing CV that I’ve seen around here. I keep describing him as a person with gravitas, by this I mean he is a man with experience and connections and we all value his opinion greatly. But he’s also a genuinely nice and fun guy who’s very willing to share and contribute to building a sustainable game developing industry in Norway. Here’s a little profile piece from our local paper, BT (again – in Norwegian): http://lisa.bt.no/btmultimedia/prosjekt/vestlendingen/#story_13

Vostopia offers avatars or avatar systems for game developers. They’re very versatile and fun and I think it’s a very smart business idea. Are you creating a game in Unity I would definitely recommend having a look. Here’s their demo reel:

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Video Game Confidential: Susan O’Connor

From http://tedxbeaconstreet.com/susanoconnor
Video Game Confidential
Susan O’Connor

Susan O’Connor knew from the age of four that she wanted to be a writer. What she didn’t know was that she would grow up to work in the videogame industry, where the audience runs wild. “In games, agency matters,” says O’Connor. “Players want to control the action.” Out of necessity and desperation, she (and writers like her) have found new ways to tell their stories.

Like magicians palming quarters, some game developers hide their plots in plain sight. Their sleight-of-hand gives players the freedom they expect and the storylines they demand. But these magic tricks come at a surprising cost. What are these game narratives telling us about our world – and ourselves?

Games in O’Connor’s portfolio have sold over ten million copies and generated more than half a billion dollars in sales. In her thought-provoking TEDxBeaconStreet talk, O’Connor spills the beans about what she’s learned about writing, illusion, and desire.

A native of Austin, O’Connor now lives in San Francisco and splits her time between game projects, TV assignments, and surfing.

Something’s brewing in Norway – part 1

I spent the better half of 2012 getting to know the Norwegian game development community. There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening and I thought I’d take some time off this Sunday afternoon and write a few observations, while the local game developers are slaving away at Bergen Game Jam (over 30 participants and a good handful of women – not bad – very proud girl geek heart!).

There’s over 70 companies registered in Norway that are game developers and I’m willing to wager that there’s at least as many individuals dabbling with game development in their spare time but not taken the steps towards professionalisation yet.

Norway may be a very small country but we are also spread far and wide with massive mountains inbetween. Usually what comes out of our capital, Oslo, has the main focus, but I’m wondering if those of us who are a part of one of the “districts” of Norway are also coming into our “own”. We can debate on why later.

First off let me introduce my home town:

Bergen

There’s so much excitement in the air here in Bergen. We’ve got a unique community here that is all about sharing and boosting each other’s projects. We meet once a month for beer and informal chats and it’s quickly turning into one of the highlights of my month.

At present I count 9 game developing companies in Bergen and nearby districts. I’m sure there are more, so please let me know if I’m missing something.
Rain Games
Rain is very currently adding the finishing touches to their game, Teslagrad and it looks beautiful, or as Nathan Grayson from Rock Paper Shotgun puts it:

“Titled Teslagrad, the outwardly Braid-esque (read: hand-drawn and utterly gorgeous) sidescroller deals not in time-bending, lionsheep-smacking hijinx, but instead traverses terrain by magnetizing objects and characters.”

January 17th, 2013

They’re a very passionate group of game developers and artists with a very clear vision of the worlds they are creating. They’re very dedicated to their craft and the results are obviously gorgeous. Here’s a clip of gameplay:

 

It should be finished and ready for release March/April 2013 – so look out for it!

Other media mentions of Teslagrad:

Indie Statik

Gamereactor (Norwegian)
Bergens Tidene (Norwegian)

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Konsoll

I’m extremely embarrassed that I haven’t been blogging for such a long time! I have so much to tell. I haven’t even mentioned Insert Coin here yet – which is an insult to my communications profession. Can we just say that I’ve been very busy and I’ve been having a hell of a lot of fun!

So remember how I was writing about a game event in Bergen in October? Well we frakin pulled it off!

We collaborated with several others in getting this done so the program tended to confuse people, and at certain times even ourselves. So it was a difficult concept to communicate which will be much better next year when we’ll be more independent.

 

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Me and the film business

So I’ve had a brief encounter with the film business the last 3 weeks and it’s been so much fun and way too much work than I had time for. I was in charge of getting extras and to be perfectly honest, I amazed myself at what I managed to accomplish and get. I have a really lovely network that are just so incredibly helpful and lovely!

It’s a web series made by the incredibly hillarious Pistol Shrimps and Flimmer Film. The webseries is amazing! I had such a great time and needed to be away from the filming as much as possible because I was in stitches. A lot of fun! But new territory for me, so I made a lot of mistakes which in return taught me so much. Scary as hell to be out of my element at this age, but so humbling! And such a privilege to be around such a lovely group of talented people!

The loveliest thing about working with these guys was that they have fans! They have inspired teenagers to tell their own stories and make their own films and I think anyone that reads my blog knows that I adore FANS! And I LOVE it when teenagers find new ways of expressing themselves.

So here’s a lovely little short that was made by two fans after our big zombie shoot on Friday! Isn’t it lovely? I think they’re great!

Huldraheimen

So Huldraheimen is my version of 826 Valencia and Ministry of Stories. I’ve been talking about this for over a year and the name of the project is credited to a dear friend from our work together with The World Peace Game Bergen. I’ve been smitten by the 826 Valencia project ever since I saw Dave Egger’s inspiring TED talk:

Dave Eggers TED talk

Isn’t he inspiring? How can we NOT help him fulfill his dream? So basically Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegaristarted a tutor and writing lab with a street-front student-friendly pirate supply store in San Fransisco for lokal kids in the community, called 826 Valencia. It’s caught on in several cities around the world with different themes such as The Echo Park Travel Mart in LA, Brooklyn Superhero Supplies Co. and Monster Supplies in London.  So when Ministry of Stories was at The Story in 2010 selling Monster Supplies – I was even more smitten. But some ideas and dreams take a long time to take shape – and this one has for me. I’m still very uncertain why it’s so important to me to create such creative spaces for kids. I’m fairly certain that it is personal – so let’s not go there. One thing is for certain, though! I LOVE hearing children tell stories! Their imaginations are just so awesome, pure and uninhibited! There’s something so magical about these places and it’s lured me to start my own.

Huldraheimen logo by the fabulous Tini Malitius http://tinimalitius.com/

The theme I’ve chosen is Trolls. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that trolls are too old fashioned and boring for kids, but I think so! I believe that through some fun writing workshops we’ll manage to spice up the Troll stories from ancient. I’m also extremely keen on not only focusing on traditional writing. Can we not, for example, have a workshop that is all about developing an app for a Troll? What kind of app would be useful for a Troll? And why not even consider creating a game that a Troll would enjoy? There are so many fun levels that we can experiment with!

Again – I only have the project proposal in Norwegian so far – I’ll get around to translating it soon, I’m sure: Prosjektbeskrivelse Huldraheimen 31_05

So I’m begging for money and also talking to as many educators as I can possibly find! If this is a project that you would like to help with please let me know! I’ve got the interest of the people building The House of Litterature in Bergen and I would so love to have something up and running there when they open in December!

There’s so much more to tell and I’ll be starting a new blog about this project soon so stay tuned! ;)