[Dundee-based developer Charlie Czerkawski looks back on his experience working with ENABLE Scotland for a series of game development workshops aimed at students with learning disabilities.]
My name is Charlie Czerkawski and I'm the CDO of Guerilla Tea, a Dundee based game and app developer. Several weeks ago Guerilla Tea worked together with ENABLE Scotland's East Renfrewshire Local Area Coordination Team to run a few game development workshops for young people who have learning disabilities.
ENABLE Scotland is the country's leading charity supporting children and adults who have learning disabilities and their families and carers. The charity campaigns for people who have a learning disability to live full and independent lives.
Several months ago Guerilla Tea met with ENABLE Scotland quite by chance at Futures Fest, an annual careers fair held in Glasgow. There, we discussed the video games industry, and the organization mentioned the fact that a number of their members were extremely interested in video games, specifically how games are made and the possibility of it as a viable career path.
Guerilla Tea is a young, ambitious company and as we continue to grow the business we are interested in exploring a number of different aspects of game development. It is widely known that there is still very little structure in place and routes into the industry, and prospects of career progression are still somewhat unclear. However, one aspect that we have had to come to terms with as we have learned the business is that the industry can, at times, feel fairly insular. Considering the increase in popularity of casual and mobile games -- and the ease with which games can be developed and published -- we wanted to try and reach out and promote game development as a great pastime, and potentially a great career.
The meeting with ENABLE Scotland's LAC team came at an interesting time for us. After some lengthy discussions within the company, we all felt that this was worth investing some of our time into. After months of careful planning we decided that as an initial event, we would work with a small group -- around 12 young people supported by ENABLE Scotland. We would run game development workshops where we would introduce the group to the Scottish games industry and teach them the methods and some of the more user-friendly software involved in game development. During the course of the two scheduled workshops, we would work with the group to decide on a game concept and move it towards a working design. We would then build the game and ultimately release it on iTunes and Google Play as a completed product.
Workshop 1 - Concept Design
Our first workshop took place in early February, during which we met with the group and began with an introduction to the Scottish games industry by veteran Brian Baglow. The talk itself was extremely entertaining and Brian covered the Dundee game development scene, which is recognized as a hub of game development in the UK. He talked about the existing game companies and a little about the history of the games industry. A few myths were dispelled in the process, including the notion that Grand Theft Auto was developed in the United States!
After a short lunch break, we set about doing some basic concept design with the group. The first thing we needed to do was come up with a team name for the group, and we took a number of suggestions, eventually deciding on the name ‘Lazy Boys' by majority vote. There were a number of catchy names suggested -- ‘Sonic Muscle' was my personal favorite!
Our idea was to basically structure the two events in the fashion of a game jam. We then told the group about the idea behind a game jam. We informed them of the fact that games normally take months or even years to make, but here, we speed up the process to cover a single weekend, often losing a few nights' sleep. These workshops, however, would take place over two separate days, and wouldn't involve working throughout the night.
We set team Lazy Boys with the task of coming up with some ideas for games, noting down suggestions on paper. The main lesson we were aiming to teach the group here was project scope. Given our limited time and resources, there would be a lot of features and gameplay elements which would simply be unachievable. Our challenge was to keep the concepts within the umbrella of simple, pick-up-and-play casual games. The group understood the idea of scope extremely well, and there were a lot of concepts for games ranging from several different takes on the platforming genre to ideas for text-based quiz games.