The Studio video game grew out of the goal of making a kid friendly “horror” game. The idea is to mix thrills with humor. The overall goal of the game is simple as stated in my steam page. Eat the cookies, and then make your way back to the green light in the studio.
Look how innocent that cat looks, what could go wrong?
Cookies in the game are randomly generated, but I do it in areas. Sometimes the random generator makes it look like cookies will be easy to find, and a few may be. The game increases in difficulty as you eat cookies though, and knowing where cookies may spawn is just part of the gameplay. You need to think strategically as you get cookies, otherwise you may find yourself cornered.
Here are some of the areas to look for cookies, if you’re looking to orient yourself in the game. If you want it to be a mystery you figure out, then just go back and try again instead of looking here.
First thing to remember is that you get a sugar rush from eating cookies of course. It’s a short lasting run boost that gets shorter the more cookies you eat. It could help you though, or could run you in the wrong direction if you aren’t careful!
Seen here is the Mill. A cookie will always generate within the mill. This cookie seen here is part of the Studio spawn cookies that generate in the vicinity of the studio. A hint for cookie location is that they are always associated with a lantern, and the blue glowing podium.
There is some trickery associated with eating cookies within and without the mill. When to eat the cookies and how to make your escape is the thing to think about.
A STONE HENGE
The area we call Stone Henge, has a cookie associated and cats close by who get upset when you take their cookie. The cookie may be close to the stone circle or a little further afield. Again look for a lantern and the podium if you are scanning for the cookie location, but beware of random lanterns around.
As you eat cookies you may notice the cats get more vocal and sometimes more whiney as they get more upset. Don’t let it rattle you, they just want revenge!
The cemetery is a section with a cookie associated. There are hidden pathways here too that can keep you safe from the cats. Take care near the cemetery, the cats pop out of no where once their cookie is eaten!
NICKNAMED THE AQUEDUCT (by my brother)
The aqueduct has an upper level that you must find your way up to. The cats always know where all the hidden ways are though, so look behind and ahead. Can you use the blocks to slow cats down on the stairs?
THE RUINS ON THE HILL
The ruins on the hill hide a cookie. There is a secret place here that is safe from the cats, they can’t get in, but can you get out if surrounded? This is one of the most vulnerable places in the game because the cats that get angered from the eaten cookie are many, but you aren’t afraid of cats!
Close in the vicinity of the studio is a cookie that may be obvious or hidden. From the Creepy Clown of Middletown on one side to the mill on the other. From the start of the forest to the creek behind. This section is one of the easiest finds, but should you eat it first?
Pumpkin Castle has dizzying heights to fall from if you aren’t careful you may fall. Although falling is not penalized in the game, you could be falling to a frenzy of cats below. One of the most difficult places to get through in the game, Pumpkin castle will trap you once the cookie is eaten. You can only escape when you find the lever to open the door again.
There are other things hidden in the game. Pathways built by players long ago that lead to safe haven and give safe passage for awhile. In other levels there are other hidden things around the game that add to game play. Can you find the teleporter?
As the game progresses and you make it through different levels, the cats and evil continue to grow in this game. It gets more difficult. The cats prowl the landscape looking for you before you even eat a cookie. There are clowns, evil clowns and creepy dolls.
My video game, The Studio, which was born out of my Open Studio show of 2017 was released in March. The game begins in my art studio but turns into a horror/adventure once you leave the safe walls of my studio behind. It’s meant to be a humorous take on the horror game, Slender Man in particular gives fodder to my game. From there it freewheels into it’s own adventure with cats being the antagonists, or possibly the protagonists depending on how you look at things.
One main goal of my game was to show the passage of time. The game ages from one level to the next. I like this idea of a changing and evolving game world, and would enjoy exploring the passage of time more in the future. In my mind games should have more animation too. Environments could be moving in these surrealistic places, why exactly do they have to obey the same laws of time and physics as our world?
Visually, I enjoy using the skills I developed working in visual effects to create and light environments that I feel will be engaging and enjoyable to play through. I replace the trope of the flashlight in my game with being able to create lanterns. I create suspense with even just the meowing of cats approaching unseen as you move towards a potential dead end. I think though one of the things that informed my game was simply casting back to being a kid and playing games like hide and seek in the neighborhood at night where we would use the entire block to hide, or playing capture the flag. It was always dusk when we would be playing and I try to evoke some of that feeling of being in those places, that only you might know about that are hidden away as if made by you with planks of wood in this surreal land.
So these are some of the things I bring to my games. I try to put out updates and improvements on my game while I work on other things in studio.
Last week I made some improvements to game play, I even tested a version of my game that gives falling damage which makes the vertiginous heights have more consequence. I decided to keep things simple for now. I did however add a cookie fueled super run. When you eat a cookie, you get a burst of short lived energy.
Aside from my games I’m busy in other areas of my actual studio. I’m lining up paintings for the Boulder Open Studio 2018 which I was accepted into this past week. So my studio will be open again this year in October, where I will likely have my game open for visitors to play this year as well.
One of the things I learned in my Open Studio was that people were interested in my illustrations and stories. I hadn’t planned on showing or talking about them, but the subject kept coming up until my studio was littered with illustrations by the show’s end.
I had put my books on a back burner while I prepped for the big art show, and finishing up my video game last season. Now I’m working hard at my books again, and even working to get my interactive book, Monkey Marbles back on the Apple store.
The illustration above is one of the pages I’m working on from A Little Space. The story follows a boy who loses his gravity and his adventure through the solar system. I’m hoping to finish up this book in the months ahead, and may possibly start testing some more game ideas as I get some time.
I’ve worked hard to make last minute changes to my game in time for tonight’s midnight release. I just now released it to steam, having put a lot of time in that seemed to get more intent technically and visually the last month. I had removed whole sections of the game and replaced with new models and textures. I streamlined wherever I could and created controls for players to control resolution.
Of course i’m most proud of this model below. It was made by my son Asher who is 8 years old. He begged me to teach him to model using Maya and wanted to contribute to the game. He decided on Randy’s Donuts himself, a perfect addition to my game. He wouldn’t let me touch one vertex on this model, this is his work after lessons for the last two weeks.
In the end I don’t know if any of the hard work I did will get it noticed on Steam. It’s difficult to stand out in a field flooded with video games, the tack I took was to try to create something visually appealing. I’m also on a journey where I’m trying to do more personal work, put it out into the world for what it’s worth. It’s a journey that is born from the desire to not just continue to be creative in my life, but to live a life where I split my time between studio and just being dad, and sometimes being dad in studio.
Partly this exercise was about creating something from beginning to end, and finishing it, creating skills I can build on if I chose to continue with games. I didn’t want this to be complicated with cut-scenes, with voice overs. I wanted to just create something that was fun and do something that I enjoyed doing. I wanted to see if I could get at the essence of making a fun and enjoyable game without having a huge budget (i have no budget unless you count binging on cookies).
I think one of the best parts of developing the game though has been the shared experience I’ve had with my sons. They have been my collaborators, my game testers. There have been countless sessions projecting the game on the wall in our garage and them screaming with delight at the turn of events in game, then them coming up with an idea to make things work better.
In the end they contributed more by learning how to use Maya to create content themselves. I’m proud of the work we did together, and happy to have time together creating something.
In the end I talk about trying to tap memories for people, and creating memories, but the most I can say at this point is that I created memories with my sons, whether I’ll sell more than a few copies I couldn’t say.
Clowns are never a laughing matter, whether in a Stephen King book, in congress, or in a video game. The clowns have made it into my video game, The Studio, that I am finishing up this week and releasing to Steam.
I like to pull things into my game from the real world, the idea is to give a player the sense of familiar, but maybe to exorcise some of those demons from my past as well. Keep in mind this is a game that is meant to be safe for kids to play, so I’m keeping the scary clowns at a minimum. This scary clown, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, comes from Middletown New Jersey. Standing sentinel to bad dreams for decades now, it still greets people as they drive down highway 35.
Making a video game, or a book or anything takes a lot of work though. From programming to modeling to sculpting creatures, texturing and lighting etc. This is a snapshot of a small part of my library of hundreds of models I’ve created. Not everything makes it into the game, and sometimes you can develop something, whether it’s a story or a game or painting and it doesn’t get finished. Some of the models here come from past work I’ve done and finally finds a home here.
There is some stuff that hasn’t made it in the game and might be spotted in my library. I have pieces from games I’ve played in the past, the clock tower from Myst for instance. Continuing on the idea that there is a collective unconscious in games, then following on that idea is that little bits of memory from those past games might show up. At this point I’m not sure the Myst bits will turn up in my game. If it is done it’s meant as homage and isn’t really part of game play, it’s meant as triggering some of those memories again that players have when in game. I’ve said before that science has said that places hold memories for us. That’s why you can feel the rush of memory when you return to someplace familiar like your home town.
I think the same can happen in games. You could see the clock tower and have that familiar memory of playing Myst on your old PC and being in your bedroom or with friends etc. Places hold memories, and I think that digital places can hold memories because they are experienced by your brain as if they are real.
I’m hoping that people will spend a little bit of time in my game. For the price of a Starbucks coffee, I’ve tried to create a game that will engage people and hope give them a fun experience, and maybe create some new place memories.
My game The Studio, is now on the Steam store, having passed reviews.
I began to create my video game, The Studio in earnest after the Boulder Open Studio. I created the demo version of my game as a virtual exploration of my art show with gameplay outside the virtual studio, giving a little halloween themed adventure. I didn’t create this game as something I wanted to launch on Steam at first, but having made it and had some fun creating it, I wanted to go further and explore some things and put it out there. Ultimately I wanted to do what I had done for the open studio with painting, create something in a contained finite amount of time. I began creating this game in September just before the October show. I finished and began submitting for review at Steam around the end of January.
One of the first things I wanted to explore with the game was to use games as a form of art, the way I use anything else in my studio. It’s an opportunity to create art that anyone can get ahold of and play and explore. As a traditional artist, my approach was to see if I could bring a poetry to the images in my game despite the fact that you’re playing a horror/adventure game. In doing this I rely on my skills in painting, drawing and illustrating, but also things I’ve learned in the time I’ve spent working in many areas of my career from architecture to graphics and visual effects.
Another theme I wanted to explore in game, is time in a video game. The idea here is that as you play the game time is passing. This is just my first stab at the passage of time in a game and I’d like to explore this further. This being my first pass at this idea, I’ve done it in a simple way.
I have a variation on this idea, to explain how that idea would eventually play out, and how it does play out a little in my game imagine that you are playing a game like Myst. When you first open Myst things look pretty new, but then you forget about the game and a year goes by or a decade. The game knows this, it’s a mirror of the real world but maybe even darker (in my idea). When you return over time it has changed, dark forces have taken over in your absence (you shouldn’t have left). The game has gotten more challenging because the hero has left and the world you could’ve played through has now changed to this new one. This will take more resources for me to pull off, and here is the catch, when an Indie artist makes a game like this you really are making a game that you aren’t sure will catch on, the idea of making something so odd that people return years later to try again, well that is a big gamble. So essentially I’ve done this in a contained universe, time passes between game levels and dark forces, doing what dark forces do, have taken over in your absence.
The last thing I wanted to do was to explore gameplay as a form of going into someone’s unconscious. I believe games are or can be like waking dreams, they are the unconscious created digitally and then the impossible is often explored.
I wanted to take things and put in another layer in my game that touches on this. Now I’ve put things from my own unconscious in the game, and I have a few more things I’d like to add. I’m considering reaching out to the game community on Steam and elsewhere, and finding more ideas from the community to hide in my game, more oddities that would make the game a mix of not only my unconscious but sort of a collective unconscious in gameplay form.
I love this idea of having the game surprise people by reflecting the real world in some odd way, seeing something from your own home town that is particularly odd and related to your own town so that your own memories wash over you while you are in a game.
I’ll give you two examples that I’m thinking to add to the game in the next week, the Food Circus clown from Middletown and the Quick Stop made famous from the movie Clerks by Kevin Smith which is the “main street” in my home town (it’s a tiny town). That would give me two recognizable pieces to add to my collective unconscious collection. Those two things would make a connection between my experience and the game player, letting them also have their own unique experience to these things.
Time is growing short though for me to make ambitious changes, and March 12th release is right around the corner. I’m hoping people will join me in this odd adventure, and hopefully if they do I can continue exploring some of these themes and others in the future.
I worked hard this year putting together new artwork for Boulder Open Studio 2017. Four weeks ago I began working part of my time on a virtual studio, for people who couldn’t be here and finished a few days ago. To download this game you can scroll to the bottom of this page for the sign up. Currently this game is only for Windows 64 & 32 systems but I will be publishing it to other formats soon.
My actual studio, as hung for Boulder Open Studio 2017
When I had the virtual studio done I thought it would be fun if I could expand it into a Halloween theme game. This is a simple one level game for anyone (or their children) to explore outside my studio.
My virtual studio, created for Open Studios 2017
I’m making it available for free, as part of my push this year to get my work out into the world, even somewhat simple Halloween diversions like this.
Step outside the studio to play. Kids may enjoy my halloween theme.
I’m hoping lots of people can enjoy my October Halloween game, and hope to make it part of my yearly Open Studio exploration should people enjoy it – if you want to play continue below to download.
Virtual Studio / Halloween Game Download
Prepping some images to print for Boulder Open Studio, these works will be printed on paper among others and sold. I’m selling originals and prints of the same work, some of which may be details to create a print-series that makes for hanging in a space together.
The first two here are 12″x12″ and the last is 15″x20″
I’ve been hiking the Colorado rockies a lot this summer, getting new reference and ideas. I become more familiar with the peaks from different angles, different times of day and more in tune with what appeals to me as a painter.
My goal is to look for contrast in lighting, diagonals, and foreground interest, but I don’t really know if I have anything useful until I go through my photos back in my studio. Often out of thousands of photos I will find only a couple I like.
Sometimes my hikes don’t lead to anything useful. I can do a fake hike on google as a visual planner, but it can’t tell me whether I’ll find what I want, just roughly how long it will take to arrive.
I find that often it’s moments when I’m without my art supplies or camera when I see something just perfect, it’s probably because I tend to ride my bike at dusk along the foothills.
It’s also probably why I over-prepared for one of my hikes this past week, carrying 20lbs of art supplies on my back as I climbed up towards 12,000 feet in rough terrain. I felt every one of those big rocky steps downward on my knees and didn’t crack open my drawing pad once as I was trying to locate as many new places in one stretch as I could.
Even though I am still looking for new views of Colorado, I still return to others like different views of Hallet’s Peak or Long’s Peak which are some of the peaks local to me. Soon I’ll head out toward Aspen though, to find new views. In some ways I’m very lucky, I live within an hour of some amazing National Parks. Even Aspen is only a little over 3 hours, when it used to take me six to drive to Sequoia when I lived in Los Angeles for similar hikes.
I’ve spent a lot of time either in the mountains taking photos of the Rockies for my Colorado Rockies series, or painting in my studio. After weeks of prep and painting I was accepted just this week, into the Boulder Open Studio tour that happens each October here in Boulder County.
This will be a time for artists to open their studies up to the public and collectors, as well as show our work in the library gallery downtown Boulder. It’s an honor to be included in the tour.
Lately I paint mostly on wood. I like painting on MDF, which has a coat of paint to start off, but MDF is a bit fragile. If it were to drop just right it could damage part of the board. So I’ve taken to attaching wood struts on the back of my boards using a two part epoxy that is solid. I’ve also switched from MDF to thin plywoods.
I like painting on plywood because of two things. The firmness of the board allows me to lean in and draw and later to just work on the painting without the give of canvas. I also like the texture that plywood adds to my painting. Even though I sand, and put three coats of gesso on my boards, each sanded, the plywood texture comes through a little. This allows me to use that texture to get some nice results while painting. The boards have a nice tooth, and I can swipe and dry brush over these raised areas and it just adds to the painting.
I know some people have a prejudice against working on board. The traditional media for ages now has been canvas, but even during the Renaissance they worked on board, and much of that is still around. I think there is some misunderstanding that perhaps to pick the wrong board might mean your art will not be around forever, but here’s the thing, is there anything more fragile than canvas? How easily it can be ripped, bumped or destroyed. Over time it absorbs the moisture in the air and warps.
At the basic level art in some way is acknowledgement not just of the endurance of nature, it is an acknowledgement that the Rocky Mountains I love to paint for instance will be gone some day too. Art acknowledges and bears witness, but the flipside is that it acknowledges the fragility and passing of this world.
So in some ways when I’m painting or even up high in the Rockies taking photos and being a witness to the Rockies there is a subtle sad mourning, for the rockies and all things that come to pass. I can sit up there, feet planted in the snow and I take an array of photos that I’ll later stitch together in my studio as panoramas with super high resolution. I use those panoramas to pick what I’ll work on next. While I’m sitting there, as the witness, I feel at some subtle atomic level I can feel that tiny shift of the Rockies receding as they are. Some day they will be gone, and already in New Mexico they have receded into the Earth again. It is sad, it is beautiful, it is part of this incredible changing world we live on and sometimes all you can do is bear witness to that one moment.
Art is just another thing that will not last forever, there is no best board or canvas I can build, it too shall pass.
I’m going to just go out on a limb and admit it. I have artist dysmorphia. Yes, it’s a term I made up a few weeks ago being tongue in cheek with my wife about something that seems to be a real thing if I’m being honest.
My artist dysmorphia is about how I see my art. While i’m up close an in the zone, I’m usually in a pretty good head space with my art. My brush is flowing, or I’m using the palette knife to get the effect I want. I’ll spend hours, sometimes the entire day and then occasionally I go across the room and sit on my tiny couch in my studio to look at what I have.
Suddenly the satisfaction I was feeling dries up. At times I’m not even sure what I’ve painted, it looks distorted suddenly. The depth or texture I was going for seems to collide into an ungodly juxtaposition of noise and I can no longer see the image. I muscle through it after a my disappointment, and start mixing colors and then up close I start to slide back into the zone, lost in the painting.
Some days I can fend off this dysmorphia until the painting is actually done. Sometimes I’m in the middle of the painting and I can’t figure out if I’ve done anything good at all. I sit and wonder at times like this. Do other artists feel this way? Do famous actors watch themselves on screen and the dysmorphia kicks in where they can’t stand to see their own face? For a writer, maybe Neil Gaiman himself, they look at their work and wonder, “what the hell did I just put on paper?”
Maybe some of the dysmorphia is about getting into the zone, giving yourself to that flow of energy and opening yourself to the muse, that drives you to create. Many artists talk about that feeling that the work, the writing, or the performance or the art comes through them. Maybe this is part of the dysmorphia?
An alternative explanation is that perhaps the dysmorphia tends from that place of perfectionism, in which nothing is ever good enough. In that position it’s an unkind voice that is always criticizing the artist, writer, performer.
Still, I do what artists do, I keep going through the dysmorphia sometimes not sure what I’ve created at all, creating not because I consider what I do good or great, but creating because the spirit needs to create period.
I’ve spent a lot more time up in the Rockies painting hoping to get into the Boulder Open Studio this year, trying to finish up a series. Some of these are large, the largest is six feet long, the smallest 3×2 feet.
I’ve released my game Neverest to Steam Greenlight today as planned. It takes a login (being part of the Steam community) to vote for a game, but you can see my release on this page if you view all releases, or search for Neverest.
https://steamcommunity.com/greenlightSandgrens | Swedish High Heel Swedish Clog B011SBRNXQ Sandals for Women | Svart 29e69ca
In the midst of being a home-schooling dad, playing architect to design the barn/studio, as well as designing and building big barn doors myself, I’ve been finding time here and there to work on my video game and other art work. I fit it in almost anywhere I can, sitting in outside a class my sons are taking, or late night when we are on vacation. I also was gifted a three day weekend in a cabin retreat in the rockies to push on my game by my loving wife Sheryl.
The real trick now is getting past the self doubt that says a lone developer cannot put out a game with the goals I have, that it’s just not good enough.
Self doubt is insidious. It says no matter how hard you work at something, it’s not good enough yet. Of course there is the part that says an Indie developer can be like an author/artist and create interactive worlds the way an author writes a novel. This is more true in these times when using off the shelf game software like Unreal and Unity allow the artist to create in ways they couldn’t without huge support teams previously. To me so much of this is obeying the urge to create and following inspiration when it comes.
Now, as the new year starts, I feel my game is in a good place to submit to Steam Greenlight. So that’s my goal this week, to cast my lot and see if I can make some traction with Steam, (aside from my goal of hanging four massive and heavy barn doors), both tasks are daunting in their own ways.
All the parts are ready for my steam upload, it’s just a matter of uploading and committing myself to hitting that button. Some images below, but the world of course is much larger than these images can capture, and so many things I just want to keep secret and will not reveal.
It was a year ago that I jumpstarted this game idea having shelved it. I partly lost momentum in game development when I switched to Unreal 4, trying to keep up the momentum now. Some of these ships will appear in game, but not everything I design or even build does.
No, not all these sketches are good, the point is that as an indie developer there really isn’t time for me to sit down and just design for months, but rather it’s sketch, design, test, model, texture, light, game program, test, repeat.
I have a confession to make, it’s time that i told a little bit more of my story, which is really our story and what I’m tinkering with in my art studio this past year. Almost a year ago I dropped everything I was doing in my studio, the paintings, the children’s books and focused on one thing, a game I’m making to help my son (and others like him) with his dyslexia.
This is not a super easy subject to talk about, although dyslexia is somewhat common there is still a lot of judgement of both the child who has dyslexia and even the parents. The child is often judged as not being smart at all, unteachable is a word used, and the parents are judged as neglectful.
What people often fail to realize with dyslexia is that we have people who have brains that clearly work differently than others, and dyslexia is just one example of this. This doesn’t mean dyslexics are not smart, often they have ways of contributing beyond what others can because of a unique way of thinking.
One example is Jack Horner, the noted Paleontologist who has been the inspiration for the paleontologist in Jurassic Park, he graduated high school he says, with a D–. You may not be able to see that correctly, that is a D-minus-minus. In his words his teacher said that he “Failed, but I never want to see you again.”
Alongside the dyslexia is the fact that my wife and I homeschool our sons. We left Los Angeles, now almost ten years past, so that I wouldn’t spend countless hours working on film visual effects and have no relationship with my family. Over the years we have learned to juggle and share family life, and work life.
I moved from putting all my time in the entertainment industry and more time with my sons exploring museums and doing art with them. This is when I began to see the way we educate our children in museums differently, and started to come up with creative ideas for educating them visually, and interactively. I began sketching out ideas of how to use my visual effects skills in this way.
Like my son, I’m a very visual thinker and a tinkerer. Right now I like to think of more dynamic ways to get information across to people, especially when a museum display or some other form is failing to make people see it, and as a visual thinker I do think people have a failure of imagination when it comes to visualization what the world, and universe around us looks like. Listen to this veritasium video to get an idea of how the education system can fail to really inform us about just how vast our universe is for instance.
My family started out on a sometimes frustrating journey with my son’s dyslexia, which makes his own interaction with the world sometimes difficult, and can make even the smartest kids, feel like failures. It can lead to loving family members or friends being shaming and judgmental. It can lead to parents pushing their kids and asking why they “aren’t trying?”
Dyslexia is not related to the intelligence of a person, as we see with many very prominent dyslexics like Jack Horner and Richard Branson. Branson talks about his Dyslexia in the video below, and he like many see it as a positive, not a negative. I want to make it clear, I see my son as gifted, super creative, and his dyslexia as the most obvious unfortunate label that often gifted and creative people receive, making them feel unteachable and like they aren’t smart. Labels like this can undermine a person and make them give up. This is because we live in a world that only has one metric for determining intelligence (generic tests that squash creativity).
As an artist, I am well aware that the world has one metric for judging intelligence, and leaves out wide swathes of others whose brain works vastly differently.
Imagine for a second an alternate universe where instead of children being tested in school for math, memorization, and punctuation, they are encouraged to be creative, open, explore and be funny. They get to do art, build things, play music, and play and there is no test because you can’t test the best way to bring an individual’s gifts out. When you graduate you have to show your gift, a demonstration or sharing without judgement.
Perhaps in an extreme version of this alternate universe if you can’t draw, or play an instrument, make an invention out of a pile of stuff, or do an improv play then you fail. In this universe math, punctuation and memorization are not used as the metric to determine your intelligence, there is a celebration of many kinds of intelligence over memorization of facts.3267390
Perhaps in some way in education we squash that internal education that may have been passed down over many generations. What if we are going against the very nature of a child and family that specializes in something over generations. The family of musicians, or the family that loves to study nature by scuba-diving. What if for every graduate we suppress another Mozart, another Cousteau. This isn’t about saying that we have a “genius” among us, or putting people who think differently on that specialty pedestal, but honoring something deeper in them, a specialty that their brain and spirit are working towards.
My point is that we often test people and give them the feeling that they are less than others based on tests that favor a particular brain type, a particular calling.
Before someone jumps in to suggest the many teaching approaches to “resolve” dyslexia let me say that we have tried several different approaches with professional tutoring that are very involved and take a lot of dedication from all of us, as well as mind/body exercises that are supposed to help balance the brain etc. I’m not saying that all these techniques shouldn’t be used, but so far for us, some have resulted in more frustration, and others in tears being shed. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of great information out there, and a lot of good techniques that have resulted in very good results for children with dyslexia, or that we have stopped trying. I however am very skeptical when I hear that someone thinks they have the cure for dyslexia.
While trying these tutoring programs for my son, I began to tinker in my studio with a video game idea to help kids who struggle. This wouldn’t be a game like “reader rabbit” but a game more like Myst, that i hoped would be something a child would just want to play, and that in a way I could hack their brain by just getting their interest.
I dummied up a test of the game, in software I was just learning (Unreal 4) and showed it to my wife and son. I didn’t show too much, and although I felt I was on to something, I dropped it and returned to writing, while we tried yet another approach for the dyslexia.
After another round that was frustrating for all, my wife asked me one day, what about that game idea I had. I dusted off the game and dove into it fully putting all my energy into learning the software, and trying to bring my visual effects skills up to speed in this new arena.
I’ve worked hard on this game, and I test it with both of my sons, who enjoy playing it. There is still much I’m not saying about my approach except to say this, the idea is that I want my son to have an experience that is fun, that is enjoyable.
I am trying to build an entire world in support of his struggle, but also to celebrate him and other dyslexics like him.
I personally see my son. I see him as smart, I see him as gifted, amazingly creative. If I have problems thinking through programming problems sometimes I talk to him about it to get his insight into other ways of thinking. My son is endlessly creating, he is always learning, he is not afraid to try new things, I see his intelligence each day, and I know there is no way this is going to hold him back in life.
I don’t see my game as an end all to approaches for dyslexia, i’m hoping it can be used as another tool, hopefully a fun one, to engage a child’s brain and creativity rather than pushing them to memorize and work through frustration. I’m not even judging the various approaches to working with dyslexia, but like the variation in personalities and brains, they don’t work for everyone and I just want to tinker with this a little.
There is a lot I’m not saying in this opening confession, what else I’m doing in the game, what some of the goals are. I’m hoping to make something that is artistic, and helpful, but it’s a long slog, especially when you are creating alone. I work daily with sometimes self imposed goals, like how can i make this beautiful, but also have it playable even on not very good computers? How can I make this enjoyable and keep drawing the child in for the ride?
I still have much work to do, but I realize at this point it might be the time to begin talking about this game, and how a visual thinker is trying to work with something I perceive as a visual thinker problem.
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