Around Australia there are hundreds of people quietly working at building digital games. Invariably the games are made through collaborations between people talented in specific areas, while also demanding that they be highly multi-skilled. Wendy Mclean is one such games developer: she has qualifications in both Fine Art and electronic design and multimedia. After creating many interactive and animated works, Wendy and her partner Andrew Fulton formed the progressive young animation and game creation company Bundle.
ACMI's Vincent Trundle asks Wendy about her work, what motivates her in this rapidly advancing and changing field, and her future as a game developer.
Vincent: What drew you into the game creation field?
Wendy: I was doing a lot of little interactive works and one fairly major one before we moved into games. Which involved lots of playing and indulging. The other member of Bundle, Andrew was more interested in games and dragged me into it screaming and kicking.
Vincent: What's your favourite task in game creation and why?
Wendy: I really enjoy concept development of games, it is so much fun. Just to sit down (usually we have lots of snacks around including chocolate brownies) and start voicing little concepts and ideas that grow. Also this is the stage where we use a lot of paper and pencil and really start to invent little scenarios and characters.
Vincent: And your least favourite task?
Wendy: Often I find the hardest part is redoing stuff. There is always a little tweaking to do and it can become tedious as your mind is usually travelling to the next project. Mind you I am really lucky as we are such a tiny team that there are so many different tasks that if something gets a little dull you just swap tasks for a bit and go back to it when you are fresh again.
Vincent: You co-created Baxter's Biotech Bargain Basement. What inspired the story behind it?
Wendy: It came from all the hype about biotechnology that was in the media. I guess we could see a funny situation or possibility arising from it. A little scientist guy earning a few bucks by doing something that seems harmless; I mean a lot of people already have 'manufactured' pets.
|Image: Baxter's Biotech Bargain Basement, Bundle, 2003. See more at http://www.abc.net.au/gameon/baxters/default.htm Images courtesy ABC New Media & Digital Services & Film Victoria's Digital Media Fund. Produced as part of the ABC Film Victoria Multimedia Production Accord Initiative Game On.|
Vincent: A lot of your work has unexpected, often brutal quirky humour - where does this come from?
Wendy: I think it is just something that we are attracted to. We find it interesting to explore that animal layer underneath the acceptable frontage that society expects. Not making a comment if it's right of wrong but just creating another possibility. I think mostly good ideas are often from exploring a possibility that is unexpected and surprising.
Vincent: What are you currently working on?
Wendy: We are currently creating content for a Greek mythology site that the ABC New Media department and Melbourne University are putting together. We are doing an animation and a game for them.
Vincent: What is your role within that project?
Wendy: The role is varied and a lot of it is shared with Andrew. Some of my tasks are: game concepts, character design, graphic design, animation and project manager.
Vincent: What are the challenges for you in your role in this project?
Wendy: As the project was on a very tight deadline we have had to get a little help, we got a really good sound guy - Mike Kidd - to create all the sound for both the animation and the game, and we got a really talented interactive media designer Justine Henry to help with the game graphics and game animation. This was the first time that we have employed anyone and it was fun, but a new challenge. We had to learn to trust other people and it has paid off as they have both done a fantastic job.
Vincent: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Wendy: There is no one specific place, it can come from anywhere really. A great comic might just click and bounce us onto something we never thought of. It may be a different style or a little sketch of an idea that sets us off. Also generally it is not from just one thing - it seems to stem from a combination of things over time. That is why keeping journals and drawing is so important just to find a history and stem from that history.
Vincent: Are their specific artists or particular works that have stuck with you?
Wendy: Because we don't own a TV we tend to spend a lot of time reading and looking at stuff so there are heaps and heaps of works, artists and writers that have inspired and have stuck to our brains.
There are so many but I will mention just a couple and tell you why they appeal so much to us.
There is a group of Japanese artists: Aya Takano, Yoshitomo Nara and Shintaro Miyake who always seem to get us very excited. Especially their sketches, they are all very inspired from popular culture and comics and you can just see how much they love to draw, which is always inspiring . sometimes it helps to get the pencil moving.
Krazy Kat by comic artist George Herriman because it is just nuts.
Most recently a little Melbourne based comic has inspired me called Brick Dog by Amber Carvan and Mandy Ord. They have been swapping notebooks and bouncing off each other to create this little book. I think I love it so much as it is how I love to work, bouncing ideas back and forth.
Vincent: How did you come across them?
Wendy: Mostly from spending far too long in book stores.
|Images: Indents for ABC's FlyTV (L-R): Nintendo, Bundle, 2001; Tentacle, Bundle, 2001; Eat Spit, Bundle, 2001. See more at http://www.bundle.com.au|
Vincent: How do you see digital games in society these days?
Wendy: I think it is no longer just limited to the land of geeks, the types of games that we now have are amazingly entertaining and it is accepted as a recreational activity. We don't see them so much as a 'waste of time' but as entertainment, like watching TV.
Vincent: What is your goal for the future of digital games?
Wendy: To have games that are more like picking up a little zine in a comic store, all so different and individualised, something that is surprising and interesting. I don't want them to just be an extension of a big budget film.
Vincent: And your future goal/s for yourself in terms of games?
Wendy: To make individual and surprising games.
Vincent: What are your tools of choice and why?
Wendy: We use a lot of tools but initially we always start with loads of pencil and paper. Then we move on to what most people want to talk about . a laptop and graphics tablet (drawing with a mouse is for masochists) and of course our software is Flash.
Vincent: Can you tell us about some of your favourite games and sites?
A nifty puzzle game where you build little contraptions to get the ball to the goal. Anyone can make their own puzzles and upload them, which means it can be hit and miss finding something good, but keeps it interesting.
Simple little games, a very dreamy illustration style. Lots of original ideas; very nicely done.
In german but a fun little game - run around and break windows and set fire to cars while avoiding the police.
The half English/ half Korean text makes it a little hard to find what you are looking for, but the animations are cute. Very cute.
(Fairly) regularly updated comic strips and books to buy from a range of cartoonists.
Claire Robertson is the person who makes loobylu . she is an illustrator based in Melbourne. I love the diary-like style of her site, it's so cozy and makes you feel like grabbing a cup of hot chocolate or getting out into the world. And her drawings are really lovely!
Eun-Ha Paek does some really lovely drawings and animations that are definitely worth a looksee.