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May 30th opening of The Hive – Turku Game Hub

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Newly established game hub in Turku – The Hive, have the pleasure of inviting You to official opening party on May 30th from 18:00 o’clock at hub premises (Itäinen Pitkäkatu 4 – Pharma City, 20520 Turku). The afterparty will take place at Saaristobaari (Aurakatu 14).
You are kindly asked to register for free before 25.05.2017:
https://turkugamehub.eventbrite.com

More information can be found on our website
www.turkugamehub.com

for more specific questions please do not hesitate to contact:

Natasha Bulatovic Trygg
+358 44 2077273
natasha@turkugamehub.com

NOTE: One of our close partners THE SHIFT – business conference in Turku (31.05.-01.06.2017) will provide a special offer for game developers:

149€ = 2 DAY PROFESSIONAL PASS + 2 NIGHTS STAY (30.5.-1.6.) AT BORE HOSTEL* Use the code hive
www.theshift.fi

 

WOMEN IN GAMES

IGDA Finland Turku Hub – February Gathering

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The February gathering in Saaristobaari was record breaking! Turku got visitors from Helsinki, Tampere and Jyväskylä – in fact busloads of game developers. There was obviously something magnetic with this month’s theme: Women in Games. We had a stellar panel consisting of Eevi Korhonen from Remedy, Sonja Ängeslevä from Unity (and a spider in the web of the Finnish game industry), Karoliina Korppoo from Colossal Order and Agnieszka Besz from Redlynx.

 

What is it like for a woman to work in a male dominated industry?

KK: Korppoo has been dealing a lot with media. It is interesting that gender is something that media always brings up in their questions. In Colossal Order there are 50/50 males and females, and it became like this naturally, without effort. In the history of game development there has always been women, it is not as uncommon as many think.

SÄ: Ängeslevä hates the question. But there are still problems, in big conferences there needs to be more women in panels for example (even though we have an “all female panel” this time). How can we get more women to apply for jobs in the game industry? Women need to be more pushy to get a foot in.

EK: Korhonen says she never had any problems. She works in Remedy, a company with its roots in the demo scene, which meant that the company used to consist of “40 dudes”. But now they are 140, and about 10 % are women. EK thinks this is a matter of company age and what kind of games the company makes. Often we tend to hire people that look like ourselves. But there are a lot of talented women out there.

AB: Besz says there are clearly more male programmers. On the mobile side women are about 23 % and over all the percentage of women is 33 %.

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Audience question: How has the demo scene demographics affected the situation?

EK: Has not been a part of it.

SÄ: The demo scene is not what it used to be. Now there are game jams, and there are a lot of women there. Jams are a possible way into the industry. Assembly and making demos are no longer the only way to get in.

KK: Women play different games. Based on the player base there should be a lot of women coming into the industry. Colossal Ordes doesn’t have statistics on the gender of the players, but there are no job applications from female modders.

 

Do women work with different types of games? Are women mostly doing art?

SÄ: A hard question. In Finland most studios are tiny, and especially ones founded by women.

EK: Korhonen used to work for Wooga, and they had more women. The internal culture was welcoming, inclusive, which is attractive for women.

AB: In the console area the majority are men, in mobile there are much more women.

 

Audience question: How do we find the best talent? How do we attract the best female students? How do we get them to show more courage?

KK: Colossal Order wants the best people. We hire students too, but we are mostly concentrated on filling senior positions. Something has happened in the game industry, it is no more mostly young males. They are turning 30, getting kids, and then they quit the industry. In CO the rules are that we do no overtime, 7,5 hours a day. We very rarely need to break that rule. We just do what we promise on time. By allowing people to have a life outside of the job, we get more experienced people. Proper rest also makes us more creative. Working in CO is a job, but we also love it.

SÄ: You can bring in young trainees. Talk with teachers, to also encourage girls to come. Internships to get to know the industry. Parties for networking. In Unity we have recruitment parties, without any obligation to apply.

EK: Impostor syndrome is probably very common: do I actually have skills? It holds back young people, students. You don’t even try. Find people in the industry and talk about it. Have someone validate you. Find a mentor. Everyone feels the same.

AB: Be confident and just try. There are graduate programs, for example in Redlynx, these are opportunities to learn. We are all normal people who work in the game industry.

 

Audience question: Is it a recipe for destruction to aim for equality, rather than just letting it happen by itself? Can’t we just aim at being good?

KK: We did that, and got 50/50. But it is important to think of the ideas you have about people, they can affect you when you hire. Preconceived ideas might affect your decision.

SÄ: I was turned down by a company because I was the first woman applying, “You might not like it here”, they said. We need to push and we need networking.

EK: You easily hire people who look like you. Diversity also means we can make games for more people, which means more money. There was an example of a game that was accidentally racist (game mechanics based on skin colour), and it took someone with a darker skin tone to test the game until they noticed the mistake…

AB: I’m against forcing, skills are important, but diversity is also important.

 

Is gaming ruining your (family) life, or is life ruining your game career?

AB: I also do it for myself in my “free time”, it is a passion that affects my whole life.

KK: I haven’t had time to play at home, because of work.

SÄ: Work and life are not separate things. I do a lot of different things, both for my life and for my work.

EK: Gaming ruined my posture.

 

Audience question: Is not being a woman in the game industry also leverage? Is it really a problem to enter the industry? In the mobile side more women play, and a good CEO would hire more women.

EK: I never felt it, I often felt boxed in. In Wooga there was one instance where I was not a fit for the team.

SÄ: Experience is what matters.

KK: When doing interviews in the US, I had a guy with me, and all the media people talked to the man. In Finland I can sometimes be seen as just a companion to someone, that I’m not someone who “works here”. When it comes to mobile games, the diversity still needs to be there. What is a benefit to me is that people remember me, because I look different. But sometimes I need to explain that I’m not “a lady who only plays causal games” (although I like them too). I often need to explain my game preferences.

EK: All people get boxed in, for example there are dress codes: T-shirt and hoodie. If you put on something “girly” it stands out in a NOT positive way. You have a feeling you should not draw attention to yourself.

 

Audience question: Will women steal our jobs? Is there such a fear? In some industries there is much resistance to let women in (tech, sports etc). What annoys you the most about this? How could men help?

EK: Just treat us like professionals. I’m just a human.

KK: We’re all human. Ask questions, get to know us. We all have prejudices, then we get past them.

AB: We are not that scary.

EK: And don’t get drunk and tell us we are cute!

 

Audience question: I work in the car industry, which is also very male dominated. You know the idea of ladies posing next to cars, have you encountered uncomfortable sexualized stuff in games?

KK:  In games conferences there have been incidents with ladies in bikinis. In some countries this is more common, but in for example Sweden they are much more sensitive, never anything offensive.

SÄ: 15 years ago it was much worse. Boobs. Now not so much. The world is changing. There are many genres now, and also “boob games” for those who want that.

EK: All of the Internet… The most annoying thing is that the sexualized stuff excludes people who don’t enjoy that.

AB: A beautiful picture sells better, gender is not always the thing.

 

Audience question: People are often surprised at female members in E-sports teams. How will women be part of the game industry in the future?

EK: It is unstoppable progress. One day women, and all sexes, will be a normal thing in the industry. It is only a matter of time, but it is good that there are people who criticize the situation now. This normalizes the idea of women in the game industry.

KK: It is a matter of the amount of players growing. The industry needs to make more diverse games, for different players. In 10-20 years the problem will be over. There will be more people with skills that can enter the E-sport scene, they will have more training. There’s a lot of stuff around games, streaming and so on.

EK: This notion of the “gamer”, there is no such stereotype anymore. In the future games are no longer some precious guarded playhouses.

 

Audience question: A producer asks: do you always have to be either an artist or a programmer? What other jobs are there?

SÄ: There are many more roles now: monetization, analytical skills, producers don’t need to know programming. You don’t even need a certain kind of background, I know one designer who used to be a librarian. Get experience in order to grow into the role you wish to land.

EK: Data is huge. Communication – engaging the community, being a buffer between audience and developers. Producing videos…

AB: Games have become bigger and more interdisciplinary. Only a programmer cannot make games for a bigger audience. There is also a need for team managers, because teams are bigger.

 

Audience question: About genres, there are untouched markets in PC. A lot of the games are still marketed for a certain kind of male. So many genres are not explored at all! What genres could be more explored, are there some that are more easily targeted to women?

SÄ: As an investor, and knowing investors: they invest in less risky genres. It is hard to get funding for new stuff. New genres need entrepreneurs pushing new ideas. It takes a lot of time.

KK: Yes, it is difficult to get investments for totally new ideas. Some genres are insanely expensive. With a shoe string budget you make something small, and see if it sells. Simulations you can make with a small team, but they appeal to a wide audience. What do the players actually want? Money and hours go into investigating what appears to be “untapped areas”. Cities: Skylines filled such a segment.

AB: You need money to support the team, and you need to compromise – make small changes to existing genres. New genres are too risky.

EK: indies and hobbyists can push the envelope. There are new areas to explore in art installations using game mechanics for example. New tech, VR, big IP’s like Pokemon GO can bring in new things.

 

Audience question: about stories, and the cliché “the scruffy white guy”. Are you accused of pandering when you don’t use that cliché?

EK: Well, look at the Remedy office and the huge posters… We have had a discussion in the company, that maybe we are finished with telling the story of the “anguished white man”. I’d love to do something different…

KK: In teaching, when students use this cliché, I ask: is this the most interesting character? Would you get new players with another kind of character? Would something else be valuable? You get a tiny extra bit of attention with other characters…

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Walid O. El Cheikh from Aalto University presenting Game Executive Program.

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Sleepy Sentry showing their game at demo-corner.


IGDA Finland Turku Hub Gathering in January with RETRO GAMES

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The January gathering in Saariston baari was all about retro games, and invited speakers were Antti Koski from Retromagia and Miikka Mannerlehto and Eero Pihkala from the Academic Nintendo Club in Turun Yliopisto.

Retrogames extravaganza

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Antti has started two retrogames shops in Hämeenlinna, and later joined Poromagia and expanded his business to Turku. The hobby of collecting older games has become popular in Finland during the recent years. Antti started by selling his own collection and later games and consoles he hunted down through fairs and other contacts. Some stuff he has even found in the garbage.

Antti explains this trend with the fact that people who played these games as kids are now getting older and can afford to start collecting games for nostalgic reasons. It is a bit insane, Antti says: Posters can be sold for over a thousand Euros in some cases. People even ask for Super Mario bed sheets.

Games that are unopened are of course the most valuable. If there is some game that is in demand, they will go looking for it. Currently their stock is quite full. Often they even have to through stuff away. For example, it could be difficult to sell Arcade game machines, because of the space that they would require. But perhaps the next step is to open an Arcade hall?

So what is a retro game? Antti draws the limit at PS2, or games and consoles that are no longer in production. No one is looking for a retro Xbox 360 (yet).

Nintendo nostalgia

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The rest of the evening it was possible to try Nintendo games supplied by the Academic Nintento Club in Turun Yliopisto. This club was described as a “hörhöseura” (flake club) by Miikka and Eero. But anyone is welcome to come and try games every second Wednesday, and sometimes at special game events. Once a month all the Nintendo stuff is brought out and can be tried and played.

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Why so serious? – Report from November gathering with topic of serious games

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Why So Serious? – The IGDA Turku Hub November theme was serious games. A panel of three experts discussed this slightly controversial topic. These were: Jouni Smed (University of Turku), Mika Luimula (GoodLife Technology; TUAS) and Werner Ravyse (Serious games in South Africa).

Fun first

The idea that games are not just for entertainment is not new, but it is only in the recent years that the idea has been hyped on a much larger scale than before, and raised hopes for new business opportunities – especially in Finland, where we are good at both game technology and education.

Games can be used for learning, improving life and health, or create awareness. But all our guests were in agreement about one thing: so called serious games have to be fun, otherwise there is no point to them. Games or game mechanics could be used to make for example learning or exercising more fun.

Jouni Smed tells us that it was back in 2010 that he was being approached by different people and organizations about making games with a purpose. Suddenly everyone wanted to do games. What could they for example do for nursing sciences or history? It is all about how to motivate people. This is a serious task, but the result must not be serious.

Does it really work?

The million-dollar question is: how do you make games that are fun and motivating? Smed thinks the serious game developers have to start with creating a good game mechanic and game play, and add the “information” later. Mika Luimula wants to emphasize user-centric design. Game developers need to bring the actual end users into testing as soon as possible.

Werner Ravyse wants to point out that some stigma needs to be broken. In the 1990s and early 2000s serious games were very pour, and people have bad experiences of them. Serious games are competing with AAA titles. Usually serious games are developed by 5-6 people, and then it is simply not possible to make something as fetching as an AAA title. Although budget does not always have to do with how fun a game actually is. Small teams can also create fun hits.

But is there any evidence that serious games improve learning or health? Luimula says there are some research results that confirm good results, but not many. And for example with “brain games” the research has not been convincing.

Smed points out one example that is currently being tested, and results look good: Fume. It is a game that is co-designed with children, and aims to prevent that children age 10-12 start smoking.

But in conclusion to this question: the jury is still out, and we need more research.

Serious business                             

But what about sales? We know that entertainment sells, but does serious content sell?

Entertainment games are aimed at individual users, while serious games are often aimed at specific groups: schools, organizations etc. But where do you draw the line for entertainment and “serious”. Pokemon GO or Just Dance are games that may bring health benefits to players, but they are still not seen as serious games. If the intention is to change something, then you are making a serious game. Ravyse says that serious game makers can be defined as “change agents”.


 

IGDA Finland Turku Hub Gathering in September

The IGDA Turku Hub September theme was game audio, and we heard two presentations: Ilmari Hakkola from Rovio and Jussi Elsilä working for FakeFish. For anyone even remotely interested in sound and music this was a real treat.

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Crazy, bouncy, epic birds and pigs

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Ilmari Hakkola has spent the last six years in “Angry Birds Land” and is now head of audio design at Rovio. His presentation was full of fun sounds and samples and gave the audience at Saariston baari a very good understanding of the processes behind the audio design of the successful brand that is Angry Birds. This brand would certainly not have been such a success if it were not for the talent and effort that is behind the sound design. The audio has evolved along side the visuals and for every new game in the Angry Birds universe, the recognizable theme has been renewed.

To achieve this consistent and immersive brand, the audio design cannot be an afterthought – it must be an integrated part of the whole game design process. To achieve this high level of sound design, the audio team created a set of music guidelines. These guidelines meant focusing on style, themes, instrumentalism and adaptations. The original theme is fun, weird, quirky, crazy and bouncy. How could it be developed further?

The original style was influenced by Finnish humppa, and by merging this with eastern European folk music, Klezmer and Balkan sounds; a slightly new sound was born. These styles where combined with orchestral sounds.

The structure of the original theme is 1) Intro 2) A part, or the birds’ theme, 3) B part, or the pigs’ theme. The birds’ theme used plucking instruments and flutes, and the pigs got a lot of brass. In the Angry Birds Seasons games there are influences from other parts of the world, collaboration with a symphony orchestra, and the Christmas song was made into a peace song and featured jazz singer Osmo Ikonen (with a slightly hung over voice, due to recordings being made the day after the President’s independence ball).

The Star Wars Angry Birds games melded Balkan sounds and accordion with John Williams’ famous themes. The result actually gave this blogger satisfied chills. The Angry Birds GO games got an electronic treatment by Pepe Deluxé, resulting in very fun and original game sounds.

Birds and brands with personality

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Game audio is of course not only music, but also voices and sound effects that accompany play and actions. For the animated series the designers grappled with the problem that the birds and pigs had too similar voices, and needed more personality. After a long process with actors and improvisation the voices were refined and new pig and bird personalities emerged.

Personality, an integrated process and lots of creative craziness (and what became clear in Ilmari’s presentation: not being afraid of trying almost anything to find the right sound) is the secret sauce of audio branding. An audio design document should include: audio identity, theme song, audio logo (usually has elements from the theme song in it), voiceovers and artist collaborations. Artist collaborations are a good way to involve other creative people in the process, and both parts can gain advantages.

When going from premium to F2P there are new challenges, and audio gets a new purpose: boosting monetization. The main question when doing A/B-testing in this format is if the audio has an effect to player behaviour and game performance, and on retention and monetization.

All in all the Turku Hub audience got a fun and very useful presentation on how to see the full potential of good audio design in games.

Indie sounds

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Jussi Elsilä is currently working with FakeFish in Turku, but he also has his own company Audire Sound. FakeFish is developing the Kalevala inspired game Northbound.

Jussi is mostly inspired by 90s sounds; games like Grim Fandango or Discworld. These influences he is combining with traditional Finnish music in the audio for Northbound.

Working with indie games means that the audio designer has to wear many hats, and understanding that game development is a non-linear process. Still the designer’s imagination is his best friend. Creating sounds for games also requires good team working skills.

Jussi recommends networking with other audio designers online, for example in Facebooks groups like “Game Audio Denizens”, “Game Video – Composers & Soun Designers” or “Business Skills for Composers”. On Twitter popular hashtags are #gameaudio and #sounddesign.

You can find Jussi on Twitter at @AudireSound and on Soundcloud at: https://soundcloud.com/audiresound

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