My own game

Skjermbilde 2020-02-07 kl. 19.10.15

By Julie Kristiansen Kvamme

I’ve started working on my own game! I’m not putting too much pressure on myself and taking my time with it. And oh my goodness – I did not think I would have as much fun with it as I am!

I am loving being creative just for the sake of creative and also being totally amateur. There’s something very lovely about being completely clueless about something that you start.

I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the characters that I want the protagonist to meet along her journey and I started to draw what I wanted her to look like. I came up with this:

 

 

 

Continue reading

In defense of The Hustle, some pre GDC thoughts.

IMG_3770I’ve had to hustle a lot to get into the games industry. Who I am kidding? I still am. I’ve been thinking a lot about this during these weeks of GDC-prep. Getting meetings has never been easy for me, I don’t just write to whoever I need a meeting with and say … “hey! let’s meet up at GDC” and get a positive answer. Nor has it been easy to get a hold of the right people to book meetings with. I’ve had to ask a lot of favors to get e-mails, telephone numbers and introductions. I have to work at it. I’ve built up a few relationships in the games industry and a lot of these are very dear to me. I believe that’s because I’ve made a very conscious decision to be as honest and true to myself and in my communication as I possibly can in all this hustling. True… I’ve lost myself several times along the way and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve tapped in to the darker judgmental me a few times, too. My goal is to keep hustling but to treat people with respect, kindness and sincerity, because I believe they can work well together.

By hustling I think I mean walking into a room of people that you don’t know and selling … something … and not giving up at the first try. Approaching people via e-mail or in person and making them aware of what you are selling. This word gets a bad wrap sometimes, but if you’re attending conventions for your game, you need to learn how the hustle can work to your advantage. 

Finding the hustler within myself hasn’t always been easy. I need to believe in who I am and have self respect when I’m selling because people react very differently to my pitches, approaches, conversation, appearance, age, gender and humor. I have met so many people who have been rude, been disgusted by me or refused to take me seriously, but it all becomes much more tolerable if you are fighting for something that you believe in and are comfortable in your own skin. It’s so much easier to shrug it off and move to the next “victim”. Asking for money is hard. And I fuck up all the time. I take it too far, or I say the wrong thing. And sometimes I laugh too loud and hard at something that was only mildly funny. Oh … I’ve totally sat in bars in San Francisco with my head buried in my hands having a martini and thinking (sometimes loudly) “why the HELL did I say that?”. Just last year I left a lunch event in tears because 2 people told me that what I do in the games industry is vile, 1 person I had just started doing some extra work for made it very clear that I was not welcome to talk to them, 2 people I was looking forward to seeing were definitely not pleased to meet me and another one insulted me in another way. To be fair, I think that after the first hour I was starting to feel pathetic and must have reeked of insecurity at one point. And right when I was about to leave, a person that I care about gave me a heartwarming hug that completely broke my defensive walls and I had to put on my sunglasses on my way to a pitch meeting, to hide my tears.

Continue reading

Should we be doing more to recruit new players?

Almost ten years ago I was hanging out with some non-game industry friends and we were playing Buzz! – a well known quiz game at the time. I wasn’t working in the games industry yet, but I was well into writing my Masters thesis on MMORPGs, if not completely finished. I was blogging about games here and I was a contributing writer on two other games blogs. I was giving lectures on games and I was constantly procrastinating reading about games. So my friends cunningly tried to avoid the “Video Games” category in the game feeling fairly confident that I would beat their asses without breaking a sweat. Eventually one poor sod had to go up against me. And you know what? I couldn’t get a single answer right. Not one! I didn’t recognize any of the games that were mentioned and I remember the room becoming eerily quiet. My friends were awkwardly embarrassed for me and I was stunned. The only games that were mentioned were kids games that were associated with kids movies. I had no clue about any of them. I didn’t have kids, none of the games blogs I was reading at the time had even mentioned any of these.

Discussing the awesomeness of Firewatch to the a room who hadn’t even heard of it

I think this is one of the first times I really understood how segmented this industry is. 16640695_10158361202625235_6815700435215193673_nAnd now that I’m in the industry I’m constantly disappointed with the lack of knowledge of indie games when I meet gamers. Last year I was in a panel discussing something about games, I forget the theme, but after the panel had been discussing Firewatch passionately for 10 minutes, I asked the audience who had played or even heard of Firewatch. One person raised his hand acknowledging that he had heard of the game (this may be a slight exaggeration but it was dramatic). We were in a room full of people who play games with a passion.

I remember feeling a bit saddened by this. How can we discuss the awesomeness of games when the general public has only played 1% of them (totally a made up statistic by me)? The value of us discussing it to this crowd is that they probably went home and looked it up after. But it seems too small to me!

With so many indie games struggling to reach profitability and yet the number of gamers seems to be increasing, I wonder if there is something more that we can do to remind the average game consumer that there’s a rich variety of amazing games out there.

From the inside of the industry it certainly feels like the platforms and consoles are doing their best to promote games and they always make sure to bring indie game titles to their shows and more. I think that’s brilliant. But a friend of mine, who recently left the games industry to work for a young and hip internet company called me one day and said with amazement “Linn! These guys haven’t even HEARD of Steam!”.

Defining and reaching a broader market

This has to mean that there’s an untapped market out there, right? How do we tap into that? Here are three of my thoughts on the topic:

  1. A marketing campaign for games in general.
    I sometimes feel like the world of video games is an exclusive club and it’s

    600_245713792

    Taken from a Code Kids event at The Bergen Public Library

    dangerous to tell others about its wonders and gorgeousness. I guess we’ve just been through a scandelous time because of it. I believe that reaching new markets will take some capital investment. Whilst the industry recognizes that it’s the games from the independent game studios that are pushing the boundaries and coming up with new creative gameplay expressions, more often than not, these studios will not have the funds to market to new audiences. Even if they’re signed with a publisher, I believe the marketing budget is targeted at the audiences that they know.
    So I’m wondering if we should gang together and create a campaign to spread the incredible diverse array of games that are out there? I have no idea what it would look like and where to target such a campaign. But I wonder if it would be worth some time and effort to look into what we can do?

  2. More visibility in mainstream media. 
    This is half the reason why I’m so intent on getting more articles about games into women’s mainstream media and magazines. I want games to be more accessible. I certainly don’t want anybody to feel like they don’t have the skills to play games. There will always be room for specialized media for games that has the knowledge and experience to cater to devoted gamers. I would like to expand our reach to more mainstream media as well, but to do this we need to find another form of rhetoric other than consumer journalism. The work that Spillpikene (Norwegian group of women writing about games) has done on this issue is really impressive and should definitely be considered an example.
    I keep having the same discussion with with people in the games industry and journalists. All of us agree, but we never seem to be getting anywhere. Particularly on my end of things. I keep wanting to start things but never truly following through.
    I’m very impressed with what Brie Code is doing by designing games for non-gamers. I love the attitude and vision of her work. But I also genuinely believe that there are so many undiscovered games out there which the sceptics, the ones who think gaming is a waste of time and boring, would love.
    In search of the right rhetoric, I’m currently working on curating a talk for people who’ve always been curious about games – but have yet to understand their appeal. First I’m organizing a dinner with a bunch of local business women I’ve met on my journeys that are keen to get engaged with games, but have yet to understand their appeal. We’ll see where it goes from there.
  3. Festival/Award/ – Sundance/Cannes for games
    I know what you’re thinking! Not another one, right? We’re all already constantly exhausted and jetlagged because of all the trade shows for games! Yeah …. I almost didn’t put this here. It’s just when I think of the films industry I’m not so knowledgable. Sure … I’ve picked up a thing or two from our local film festival and I’ve been a member of a film club or two through my life time, but I’m not one of those that actively seeks out indie films on iTunes or something. I think of myself as a mainstream consumer of film. But when I see the words “Sundance” or “Cannes” on the film – I instantly think that it may be worth my while. I think BAFTA has done some great work there and many many others. But I’m not finding it hitting home among mainstream consumers yet.

Clearly – I don’t have the answers. But I would like to contribute to the conversation and this is my start of that.

Let’s start talking about advertising games to women

This has been a subject that’s been buzzing around in my head for a while. Should we focus on advertising more games specifically to women, in which case, what would this look like and is it really necessary?

It seems to me that there’s still a template for advertising games that focuses on a predominately teenage male audience. Which makes me feel uncomfortable at times. I also often find myself wondering how I would learn about all the beautiful and amazing games that I play, if I didn’t work in the industry. I follow game developers, game media, game journalists, game academics, game musicians and game artists – so of course I get access to great new games, because this is my life. But if I were just a woman playing as a hobby, where would I go for my information, who’s opinion would I listen to?

We know that women play games. We play quite a lot actually according to the last ESA report:

Adult women represent a greater portion of the video game-playing population (31 percent) than boys age 18 or younger (18 percent).

So I guess we’re doing rather well without having female targeted marketing? And that’s awesome! This makes me so happy! But I wonder if we’ve only scratched the surface?

Let’s not paint everything pink just yet!

Continue reading

Jory Prum – a champion in the Norwegian gamedev community

On April 23rd we got the sad news that our dear friend and best “sound guy”, Jory Prum, had passed away after a motorcycle accident a few weeks before. He had been slowly recovering and we were hopeful that he would soon be with us again complaining about a tiresome recovery period. It was therefore a painful shock to many of us and I, for one, have been crying in many public spaces since then.

Jory had an enormous influence on the Norwegian game development community.  Not only did 12238036_461610137361671_2300017370915052368_ohe work on the sound for many of the games but he was also an essential team player of our sales force. We don’t actually have an official Norwegian game sales force, if we did, Jory probably would have led it. Jory understood the importance of networking and communication. He has played a vital role in placing Norwegian game developers on the map in several ways: by introductions to his vast and rock star network, by carrying around and distributing pamphlets on Norwegian games at GDC, by making sure to invite his amazing network to our conferences and events, by giving talks at our schools, by giving talks at Norwegian gamedev events, by giving talks at events that have nothing to do with game development, by naturally taking on the mentorship role for both students and first-time game developers and by constantly rolling his eyes and shaking his head at the Norwegian reluctance for selling ourselves.

But without a doubt he was a champion of sound and he was brilliant at reminding us how essential good sound is in game development. He fought for sound to be taken seriously in both budgets and planning and it infuriated him when it was suggested that students could do sound for games for free, that there was no need to pay professionals to do it.  Jory was a champion for real professionalism and can take a good deal of the credit that so many of our game studios are running successful companies and churning out top quality games.

Here are some of the Norwegian games that Jory worked on:

For me, personally, he seems to have been a larger part of my life than I thought. He was with me when I bought the computer that I’m typing this on (and warned me that I would regret not getting more memory – which I, of course, do), he graced Konsoll with his presence twice, he had faith in the work I’ve been doing and I was privileged to know a good deal about the project he was working on .

It’s unbelievable that he is gone and left this deep void.

 

 

 

 

Konsoll 2015

Yes! Of course we’re doing a Konsoll 2015! This year I am so far behind on everything … hence this post is way too late!

Plakat

We’re growing into a conference that I’m extremely proud of! We’re inviting speakers back that we love and it genuinely feels like we’re forming a special family.

It will be exciting this year, I promise!

So please join us on the 29th and 30th of October.

New Kickstarter from Norway

My good friends at Antagonist are in the middle of their Kickstarter campaign and you should definitely support them!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1854868411/through-the-woods/widget/video.html
It’s a promising game with many very specific nordic features like art inspired by Kittelsen and Hertervig. The nature of and the forest seem to be extremely Norwegian as well as the folklore and mythology that’s put into the game.  But nothing is more Norwegian than these guys with their lumberjack beards and Norwegian sweaters.

Skjermbilde 2015-05-27 19.30.35

They’re a determined group of developers and I believe in them. I believe that they will reach far! I love that audio is such a core game mechanic for their game and it seems they’re trying out some good new ways of thinking about narrative in games. What’s not to love?

They’ve also received some love from the Norwegian game developing community, which says a lot about them. So much love, in fact that a new hashtag was born #ThroughTheBeards. Please join us!!

LinnAntagonist2

LinnAntagonist2

TEDx Bergen

I asked to talk at TEDxBergen months ago but it took me ages to figure out what it was I wanted to talk about – so little room to practice + I was promised a timer on stage – but suddenly realised that there wasn’t one when I needed it!  It’s such an honour to be asked … I hope I get another TEDx chance someday!

My favourite was Jill Walker Rettberg talking about wearables and data! So interesting and well presented!

Some late thoughts on “It takes too much time to make female characters”-discussion – part 1

A few weeks ago there was an amazing internet uproar because of Ubisoft’s claims that it would take too much time to create a female character in their upcoming Assassins Creed Unity. It really was the most pathetic comment that was indeed doomed to be ridiculed and disputed. And thank goodness for that! I’m so pleased that we’re at a place in the industry where we can stop and say “Wait a minute … what? That doesn’t sound right!”. I’m also so pleased that so many male developers are getting involved in the discussion. What depressed me was some of the comments that followed. And I know that I should never read the comments – but my heart just sank. 

The Norwegian game dev scene has so often touched me and given me hope that there is no need to fight on the barricades and shout anymore. I’ve had an amazing conversation with a game developer on female protagonists and how interesting complicated female characters such as Anna Karenina would be in a game. One company embraced their transgender team mate with open arms and another made sure to have females represented in their gaming inspiration presentation without making a big fuss about it. I adore some of these guys and I believe them to be true artists who have the capacity to challenge their minds to thinking differently, outside their own worlds and into the hearts of so many others. 

So perhaps I had been too smitten by this younger,  more independent generation of game developers, that I was temporarily was blinded and forgot my responsibility as an grown woman to watch out for sexist attitudes. So – for the record – here’s some of my responses to some of the comments I’ve been hearing about the issue. 

1) “I don’t want to be told what to create just because women are feeling left out! Let them create their own games!”

This comment annoys me on so many levels, I suppose mostly because it makes me feel guilty about not becoming a game developer myself – just to prove a point. Luckily we have so many wonderful women developing games, not just for their gender but for the mainstream gaming market. Like Brenda Romero, Kim Swift, Anna Marsh and so many more! It’s not about that.

I’m not saying that you – working on your very first game with a team of three should be forced to create female protagonists in your game – it would be nice if you did – but I’m not going to come knocking on your door if you don’t. I’m a big believer that all artists should start with what they know. 

But for a series like Assassins Creed – with 7 hits under their belt and rather large teams working on different areas – HELL YEAH, I expect them to consider female characters. And it really doesn’t take a genious to figure out that something else is going on when one representative says that it would be too time consuming to create a female character and an earlier AC-artist calls them out on the comment being bullshit. And yes … when you’re a series that has sold over 73 million copies – too f’ing right, I expect them to have diversity in their games. 

And urgh … Assassins Creed has already done this which made it kinda hurt some more. Ubisoft have later revealed that Unity, although having a cooperative multiplayer function, there’s still only one character you can play. 

As artists I feel that game developers have a responsibility to challenge their own world view. I expect you to think of more ways to express your story than through a white male. I swear – we really do want it. 

I have no idea if this is true but I sometimes get the impression that someone out there (perhaps marketing departments, which is my world) is telling game developers that gamers don’t want female characters, or any diversity what so ever. Which has to be bullshit – I refuse to believe this!

I remember being rather confused about some of the marketing for Tomb Raider: Reborn which portrayed a completely different Lara Croft than I experienced while playing it. Lots of the advertising was about sex, when the creators made an amazing female character that I respected and felt proud to play. There seemed to be a mis-match between the creators and marketing strategy which was terribly sad. Although, googling through some of the advertising now – I can’t seem to trace back to any of it – was I just dreaming?). 

 

Observations from the Norwegian game industry

As I’m figuring out what my official thoughts on what we should be doing in Norway to make the industry in Norway grow – I thought I’d use this blog of mine to brainstorm publicly about some of the impressions and thoughts I’ve had along the way. I’m still working through them, so please feel free to share your opinions, thoughts and insight.

The state of Norway

There are 99 companies in Norway working on game development with less than 400 employees. In other words we have a lot of indies with about 4 to 5 people. Norway has one large studio, Funcom, which has moved most of its production to Montreal. Other than that our studios are small and function either as start-ups or as a side company for a larger advertising or tech agency.

That said, there are about 10 independent game studios that have been doing rather well for many years. Most of these have found additional income through “work for hire” from different industries such as education, advertising and, of course, oil. I don’t have official numbers to back me up, but I think the oil industry in Norway gobbles up the best minds in Norway within programming. Understandably so, as it is one of Norway’s top industries next to shipping. They have money, security and prestige. I’m an oil brat myself – so I’m definitely not complaining.

But Norway isn’t very good at the entertainment industry. I feel extremely guilty and unpatriotic towards my country writing that, I mean, we did produce The Fox after all! We have an amazing government that funds the arts and we’re so lucky that they recognise computer games as a culture industry and game developers will in 2014 receive record support of € 3 million. I’m certain that this is more generous than many other countries and we are indeed very lucky. But it’s not nearly enough to build a commercial and sustainable industry. We need to start taking the culture industries seriously and we need to invest in creating a commercial industry that can pay and invest in itself.

And the time is now. If ever there was a time for independent game studios to blossom it is now and Norway has a lot of wonderful talent. We have struck gold talent wise, now all we need to learn is how to polish and make it shine. And also mine it responsibly to sell globally so we can invest in more mining to cultivate more gold. I’m not certain I feel comfortable with the mining analogy – but you get what I mean, we need to think sustainability while selling and growing.

So I’ve spent the last couple of months looking into what other countries do. I’ve had a dream job these last few months, acting dumb and soaking in as much information as I possibly can about the game industry. I have a severe handicap as I’ve never worked for the game industry – only studied it for many years. But luckily I have been so priveleged to meet companions on the way who have been more than willing to share their opinions, experience and outlook with me. Some have been negative and rude, but most have been absolutely lovely and just as idealistic as I am.