Live from Norway

It's been four days in Hamar, Norway: Erasmus+ STA teaching visit to the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences. I came here with my wife Aleksandra and colleague Piotr to work with students of game art and game programming. Coming from Gamedec.UKW, we brought lectures and mentoring sessions focused on game design, storytelling, and integration of theme, mechanics and aesthetics. The general idea was that our contributions should cover these areas which are less emphasised in the IT or Art-centered curricula they have.

We loved it. Yesterday we talked to 3rd and 2nd year students, giving feedback on their games, apps and gamification projects. I was impressed by the clarity of ideas and well considered reasons for particular design choices. Today - 1st year students working on level design, with a good command of IT skills and nice - sometimes brilliant! - artwork. All these were work-in-progress, still a long way to completion. All the better: it's more likely they will make good use of our feedback.

The teams are heavily dominated by artists, by the way. 3-4 artists and 1-2 IT people was the typical build-up. So, my most frequent advice was: pick up Henry Jenkins' "Game Design as Narrative Architecture" and make the most of environmental storytelling. Not all your games need a developed story, not all need complex mechanics, but all need visual design. 

Having neither training nor talent (sadly) in visual art myself, I couldn't tell them how to create better artwork. But I could tell them what they can DO with artwork to better communicate messages, show stories and the storyworlds. That's how I would channel the creative power of the multiartist teams. And I found it extremely rewarding to see many of them lighting a fire in their eyes at the newly discovered creative prospects.

I also learned some things myself.  Exchange of ideas goes both ways. I made it clear at the very beginning, saying: let's abandon the lecture mode now. Being a teacher or student is just a temporary function which does not define us. What matters is we are all fellow designers who come up with good and bad ideas and learn from one another. Not everything the teachers would say will be a good idea. Some of it will be crap. And even if every one of our ideas were brilliant, you can't implement them all in one project. Be selective, be critical about all our feedback. Make your own choices. Just be able to say WHY you want it the way you do. 

I hope I'll play some of these games one day. The lesbian coming out shooter. The two vampire games. The two gamified fitness apps. The SF farming strategy. The tank duel. Give'm all to me when ready!

P.S. On a personal note: we are grateful to our hosts at Campus Hamar for the invitation and warm welcome. And to the amazing hosts we stayed with (homemade jam...) And to the unexpectedly friendly weather!

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