This past weekend Guerilla Tea, working with ENABLE Scotland’s East Renfrewshire Local Area Coordination Team, ran a game development workshop in Glasgow for children and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and other similar learning disabilities.
We met with East Renfrewshire LAC Team last year at the ScotCampus Futures Fest in Glasgow. ENABLE Scotland is a charity campaigning for a better life for children and adults with learning disabilities, and they were particularly interested in teaming up with the Scottish Video Games Industry to promote Games Development as a possible career to their members.
The Games Industry, with its fairly insular nature, can at times be its own worst enemy and the Scottish games industry is unfortunately no different. This is something that we’ve found frustrating in the past as the much discussed lack of diversity in the Games Industry is caused, at least in part, by the widely held belief by so many outside the industry that it just doesn’t represent a viable career path. We’re determined to prove to the public that making games is in fact a great career to pursue so when this opportunity arose we jumped at it.
So our idea…
We would run two workshops for a small group of young men with additional support needs, aged between 14 and 20.
The first would introduce them to the games industry, and with the help of industry ‘legend’, Brian Baglow, teach them about the industry, what the roles are, and how we put games together. We would then do some brainstorming and by the end of the day, have a concept to work on for the next workshop.
The second workshop would involve us working with the members, tweaking the gameplay, putting art into the game, and finally releasing it. Everyone involved would end the day with a completed, released game with their name on it.
Last Saturday (February 9th) we held the first of the workshops beginning with Brian Baglow entertaining the group with a talk on the Scottish games industry, helping to dispel the myth that Grand Theft Auto was developed in the United States and hopefully convincing all those involved that there are in fact more than 10 games companies in Scotland. Hugely entertaining and the idea of developing a game about the man himself even arose… Although having Lara Croft as a love interest was the only request.
We then covered some of the roles involved in game development. I think only one person really wanted to be a producer… But everyone was of course interested in testing games, less so once they realised testing isn’t the same as playing.
Our programmer discussed software such as Gamemaker and Unity, and how it makes the creation of games all the more accessible to hobbyists, something which we hope some will seriously look into.
After lunch, the first task was to come up with a team name. By majority vote, the team became known as ‘Lazy Boys’, although a number of other suggestions narrowly missed out. (Sonic Muscle was my personal favourite, but not to be!)
We then jumped into some game concept design with a full on brainstorming session where the participants fired down ideas onto paper for games they’d like to make.
Scope was the word of the day (at least from us, ‘Zombie’ seemed to be theirs). Our challenge was to whittle down their ideas for GTA 6 into something ever so slightly more manageable… Some of the concepts were superb actually, and in the end everyone did understand the constraints we’d set.
After an hour or so we collated all the ideas onto the ever-so-useful ‘Magic Whiteboards’ of Dragon’s Den fame.
So what game are we going to make in March?
Well we took all the concepts and picked the best parts of each, voting on specific areas. The phrase “2D platformer” cropped up on numerous occasions, which then evolved into an endless running game a la Canabalt, which assumed the name On The Freerun.
Lazy Boys decided that the main character will be called Norman; not entirely sure how that happened but it is nicely open to interpretation so we’ll see what weird and wonderful designs the team come up with…
What about a setting and theme? Cyberpunk High-rise. You’ll spend the game running across skyscraper rooftops in a dystopian futuristic world.
This world will naturally be riddled with crime and we needed to come up some enemies for Norman to overcome. There’s nothing quite as daunting as senior citizens with evil intent, so our setting will be populated with pensioners out to put a stop to Norman’s free running endeavours.
Eventually the first workshop came to a close and we will now be preparing for the second ‘development day’, to be held during the Futures Fest event on the 20th March. Team Lazy Boys will be working on the game during the day, creating artwork on paper, which with the help of Guerilla Tea, Adobe Photoshop and a trusty scanner will be put into the final game. We’ll also be tweaking some gameplay elements, and doing a little testing work.
Some great ideas came out of this past weekend, all of which could potentially become a reality thanks to software such as Gamemaker. We thoroughly enjoyed running the event; huge thanks to the LAC Team and Brian Baglow.
Look out for On The Freerun, by Lazy Boys coming to Android and iPhone after March 20th.