Sundsvall was awesome, again.
Sundsvall 24 – an organisation that works to connect young talent with entrepreneurs and new businesses – invited us back to their city, to speak at Utbildning & Rekrytering.
Thus we had the distinct pleasure of meeting all the third year high school students of Sundsvall and the neighboring cities, at a fair where higher educations, employers and talent seekers try to attract the fresh young minds before they get their graduation drunk on.
We spoke about what it takes to do well at a game education. And by proxy, what a good game education is. But really, our entire presentation can be summed up in single bullet point;
- Do not apply to a game education thinking you’ll get out of school. (we will beat you)
With a touch of;
- We don’t want you. We want your sister.
We were at an education fair and talked about why you shouldn’t apply to higher education, and provided some options, a couple of strategies to prepare yourself and some ways to test if you truly are ready.
Speaking to a room full of young, male, self-identifying gamers and bored readers, we can only hope we won’t be seeing any of them in our classrooms come autumn.
The other part of the exibition was Ung Företagsamhet – a national version of the American Junior Achievement. Through the projects students get an opportunity to create a product, design a business plan, start a business, run it for 6 months and then dismantle it. We got to see the final products presented by the students themselves on the show floor. We saw import/export businesses, gambling, social services (providing company for old people), beauty, development, health and honest to god inventors.
One group (the only one that had salespeople walking the floor and thus approached us rather than the opposite) had made an all-natural ecological lip balm. They found a place to buy the empty lip balm sticks and invented their own recipes and five flavors (incl. ginger bread!). Most impressive thing? Apart from the excellent approach to exhibits and selling – they have a fully functional website – allowing me to place an order online and pick the product up at once on site.
This girl has made a reflex to attach to your bus card – guaranteeing you always have visibility when you need it; when walking to, from or waiting for the bus. She had loads of statistics on the problem (lack of visibility in traffic, poor reflex discipline and it’s effects) and for her proposed solution. Her product is smart, cheap, flexible and re-attachable – kind of like screen protectors.
We suggested she might want to sell these to businesses as a branding product. Print it with logos, websites or QR codes. Shit – the buss company itself could provide these with their cards.
These people had invented a solution to blankets falling to the bottom of their sheets when sleeping. And they had a collaboration with a local bank to accept card payments and thus sold their invention on the floor. Re-branding velcro and making money off of it – impressive.
Another group made ecological wheat heat bags, entirely produced with local resources and from re-used materials. They had a very strong, well thought out, well executed and consistent profile; all about environment and community.
Every bag is delivered with a small folder detailing the origin of the (re-used) textiles, and info about the farm (just outside of town) where the wheat was grown. Everything is hand made – even the small paper bags you get to carry the stuff home in.
The market for heat bags is well tended to, and they were aware of this – though sales had been impressive they did not intend to continue with this product. But there is always a space for a solid product with unique selling points. Especially when the opportunity costs is as low as for these projects.
The creativity behind useful inventions is always impressive, but what we really appreciated was talking to the properly ambitious groups like the ones We’ve shown you. The ones that had set up web sites to reach their markets. That had payment processors and invoicing systems. That had a well defined message and communicated it clearly. The ones that had done market research and provided excellent data for their solution.
The Ung Företagsamhet-floor was such a highlight, we’re currently looking for ways GAME can be involved with this project for next year. Stay tuned.
Local blogger Emmy Zettergren wrote a piece on SVT Debatt, highlighting the problematic conditions of women in the games industry. Being a regular part of Radio Gotland (reviewing games) and of course a Gute, the radio gave her a lot of play the day before.
The producers then suggested they follow up by talking to us, see how the university deals with the male dominance and sexism in the games industry. Being the only one among us silly enough to put my phone number in public view, they called me.
I’m a bit uncomfortable representing us on these issues. Partly because – sincerely allied to the cause as I may be – I have a chronic fear of (characteristically) putting my foot firmly in mouth and end up alienating the very people I do not want to loose.
Partly because I feel that, if someone out there actually cares about gender issues and our education, they should know our department have valued and competent staff that’s (at the very least biologically) not part of the problem.
So I asked Ylva to speak for us, brought along Adam Mayes – our outspoken feminist subject responsible, and I came along simply because I’ve asked two friends to step out of bed at six in the morning, it didn’t feel right to not suffer with them.
We prepared a bunch of data like;
- Swedish industry average 10% women
- Our educations average 18%
- 20% of our teaching staff is female (incl. 1 program coordinator & 2 PHDs)
- We regularly problematize these issues in our classes and assignments
- Our education cover diverse topics like Games and Human Rights and Serious Games
- A bunch of examples showing that our students projects are indeed pretty far from the male-oriented clichés of our industry
The conversation ended up not really being about our education, but still a decent enough interview. Not least because it spawned a lot of reflection and discussion among us, both before and after the airing.
Ever since #1ReasonWhy and Clarisse Thorn making forays into gaming culture and the harassment of Sarkeesian over her (AMAZING!) project Tropes Vs. Women – ever since all those things, I’ve been thinking about making an entire Gotland Game Conference on feminism as related to our culture, our industry and our medium.
As an institution with huge possibility to influence young minds, I believe we have an obligation to speak up when we see problematic patterns and attitudes.
I want to kick start in all our students the (rather difficult) growth process that I’ve personally been going through the last couple of years. I honestly don’t know when I began identifying as a feminist, but I know it wouldn’t have happened without role models. People whom I respect and whose opinion carries weight with me. People patient (and brave!) enough to put their insights, experience and stories out there.
This is not something we can do ourselves. We are proud of the work we do, but in these issues we are equally part of the problem. So I want to invite all of these extremely articulate people and give them an audience and a space to communicate. Give them an opportunity to educate, and engage and spawn allies from within. I want us to uncover the painfully obsolete societal structures that influences each and everyone of us, and stop contributing to the problem.
Robert Bäckström from Fatshark started us out with the tales of Krater.
Krater was released earlier this year, and was designed by an old student of ours – Victor Magnusson. You might know him from the worlds most charming “special editions” we’ve ever seen: Krater – $10 000 Victor Edition – for 10 000 US dollars, Victor would personally deliver the game to your door, anywhere in the world, and cook you a Swedish dinner.
He couldn’t make it himself today because his baby boy arrived three days before the event. Good job man!
Max Tiilikainen gave a great post mortem for Fumbies, released in 2012.
Carsten – our subject mentor for programming – shares war stories from the industry. This guy has been in the business for more than 20 years and is credited in games like Urban Assault, Diggles, Paraworld, SuperBike, MotoGP, Fuel, MK vs DC, Smackdown vs. RAW, WWE, UFC Undisputed, Spec Ops: The Line, and then some.
Speaking of a localization team that felt the need to crack the studio’s copy protection and (very successfully) hack their own, Carsten mused; “when in doubt, the Russians will do it themselves”.
After a hiatus in 2011, the Alumni Days are back in full glory.
At the end of the autumn semester, just before christmas break, we invite former students currently working in the industry and try to learn from them. We’re doing two full days of guest lectures and a discussion panel – hanging or with our people from FatShark, Might & Delight, Happy Finish, PixelTamer, Meow Entertainment, Zeal Game Studio and more.
As always, we will end with a nice Christmas Party to wind down and celebrate the end of our semester. There’s currently 145 people registered for the party – that’s all game developers on the island; our students, staff, all the local game studios and our invited industry guests.
See you out there!
26 pupils from Richard Steffengymnasiet’s media program, mix with 1 Ylva Sundström from the GAME department and pour into a classroom on campus.
The result? A workshop on identifying target audiences, seeing niche markets and developing products to exploit them.
This was doubly fun and educational for us, as we got to work with a very different type of designers this time. There are enormous differences between students and pupils, game designers and game players. We are mostly exposed to active gamers, hobbyists. Only rarely do we get to talk with people who might not even be aware that they do play! It was fascinating hearing these young creatives reason about games and the games market.