There was never a clear starting point, but my gut tells me that I've had a career now for about 5 years. One of the main things that happened to me in late 2017 was the realization that I needed to take a step back from everything if I wanted to continue this career for another 5 years. Having seen someone struggle through a burnout from up close, and having dragged myself through several motivational slumps in this short time, called for a change. So in late 2017, Mads and Jonas and I decided to go on hiatus as Glitchnap, since actually quitting was scary, and we didn't want to close any doors too early. This did mean, however that at the start of 2018, and for the first time in my career I was unemployed.
Around this same time, the co-working space that I joined (and now co-run), moved to a new location, and attracted some newcomers. Suddenly we were 5 people working in Unity under one roof. One of those people was Marco, who hired me pretty much immediately to do some prototyping for an unannounced project. Working with a new team, even for a few months, broadened my competence greatly.
I also went back to Reykjavik University to teach Advanced Game Design & Development for the second time. And while finishing up my work for Marco's project, and teaching, I also secured funding for a personal project which came to dominate my 2018: Don't Trip!. It's much to early to do a post-mortem on it, as it released less than a month ago, but I'd still like to note a thing or two in this article.
Writing this year in review is a part of my effort to prioritize archiving. My gut tells me this is an issue faced by our young and contemporary scene at large, but I mostly try to speak for myself, that a lot of our perceived achievements are very ephemeral, and that the amount of lasting artifacts we create is disproportionate to the technology we have available to do so. I go to events, and do talks, workshops, installations. The event will have a website, a photographer, a videographer, etc… but about a year later, those artifacts are often difficult to find. String together a bunch of archive.org, flickr, vine, facebook, tumblr, youtube, vimeo links and you might get a glimpse, but what happens when those platforms disappear, get bought and sold and consollidated, change TOS or are unethically policed. It worries me, but I also feel like the work needed to remove that worry isn't insurmountable.
I want to be able to look back at anything I've spent significant amounts of emotional, physical or mental labor on. I want to look back at it at the end of the year, at the traditional yearly article (like this one) I'll definitely keep up and not forget about or grow out of. I want to look back at it in five years, when I might want to or need to re-align my career again. And I want to look back when I'm old and my two dozen grandchildren are visiting my simulated apartment from their VR-cribs. Let's see how long I'll stay motivated to keep doing this, but right now it feels like a seed has been planted, and it'll at least be easier to maintain than to plant a new one.
On a technical note: I've decided to go as automonous as I find reasonable, meaning…
So, whoever is reading this, and whenever it is, Happy New Year! Feel free to unfreeze me from my cryo-sleep to give me a high-five. Now let's look at some things that happened in 2018. I'm going to bullet-point it, as writing it into a cohesive long-read is going to take me more than a year to complete.
My first big solo project, Don't Trip, was released on November 28th 2018. I got to make a game I had been dreaming of for years, and collaborate with amazing people like Dorian, Kristian and Ben. The trailer is something that I have no doubt will make me happy for the rest of my life. Collaborating with Noodlecake continues to be a very positive experience.
It's bumbling along, but has a lot of nice things going for it…
I'll probably continue to support this game throughout 2019, doing some updates here and there. But regardless of it's financial success, I look back at my biggest project in 2018 as a big personal and emotional victory.
Global Game Jam Iceland happened in January, and I had the idea for NUTS, which I worked on for a bit, and am hoping to be able to return to at some point in 2019.
Find out where the squirrel keeps their stash!
You have 3 cameras, wired up to three TVs at your hideout. Each night, the squirrel leaves its home, goes to its stash, and returns home. You can place the cameras during daytime, and at night you can watch it run around. Can you find the tree that has the stash?
NUTS lives on itch.io.
I wrote at length about this in this article. Here's an excerpt:
We invited creatives from across different fields to come together and explore games as a creative medium, with the possibility of creating work for the upcoming Isle of Games event. […] And what if we explicitly invite artists from different fields, alongside game developers, to come and learn about the artistic potential of games as a medium? We’ll show them examples of the works we would like to show and the types of events we would like to organize.
I wrote at even more length about this in this article. Here's another excerpt:
Last week, the first Isle of Games event took place. In this article, I would like to show you what we built, the works we exhibited and the performances that took place.
Returning to teach the 12-week (January until April) course Advanced Game Design & Development* was really rewarding. Assistant Professor David Thue and I put in a lot of work to make a decent cirriculum, and were able to iterate on it in 2018. It's somehow comforting to know that I have about 10 ready-to-go lectures on various beginner-to-intermediate topics. I also really like how doing this every year forces me to re-examine myself as a developer, designer and frequent team-member, as these are all topics that we discuss. Iterations in my lectures often come from challenged assumptions, new learnings or shifts in focus.
*a play on Advanced Dungeond & Dragons that few people think is funny or understand
a few of the games from the past year
I'm still a member of the GDC advisory board for the Independent Games Summit, which means I help a team of reviewers to look at ~150 talk submissions and try to find the most fitting ones. After this, I mentor 5 or 6 of them into a suitable GDC talk. Besides that, I also organize the Tech Toolbox since a few years now, with the amazing Kate Compton.
Marín and I did a little game jam in Akureyri and started working on a game inspired by Matisse's La Danse and Bennett Foddy's Getting Over it with Bennett Foddy. Hopefully we can finish it in 2019, and maybe even exhibit it somewhere!
At A.MAZE Berlin I was involved with a few things. I had the privilige to host a masterclass with Sarah and Colin Northway, who I had not had a chance to meet prior to this. We had a really nice day walking around Berlin, preparing some questions and topics, and I'm very happy to have met them and I doubt it was the last time :).
I also produced (I guess?) another edition of Live Games Live Music: Mount Venus plays No Man's Sky and Shape of the World. I haven't had a chance to make it into a video yet, but these pictures give some idea. My good friend Boris was an excellent part of the performance, having rehearsed the performance with the band multiple times in preparation.
My game NUTS was part of the main exhibition, which was also a huge privilege and it's very entertaining to see it in action, and strum a chord with various people.
During the Reykjavik Fringe Festival, Íris and I did another iteration of the ABZÛ performance from Isle of Games. This time I was better prepared, and got some recordings, which we edited together, with the help of Owen.
Another video I finally got around to making is the Restless Spirit Projector which was a collaboration with Viviane Schwarz, commissioned by Now Play This in 2017.
The Playtopia festival in Cape Town, South Africa invited me as a travelling artist and speaker on a grant from the Flemish Government. An enormous privilige, which I hope to have delivered on with my talk about "Game Performances and alternatives to traditional success". I got to hang out with Anita a bunch, and after the festival I moved into the Free Lives mansion in Constantia where I stayed for another week or so to hang out with Robbie. I hope to do a proper write-up of my talk at some point, but it was an iteration of what I talked about in the Art + Games workshop. While at the Free Lives house, Don't Trip launched, and Robbie got me a cake!
Don't Trip cake and Grace Bruxner's Frog Detective cave
I couldn't find any videos or pictures of the talk, but I did find this …
In late 2017, the Reykjavik Co-Working Unit, which I co-run, moved into a new location: IÐNÓ. We've been slowly transitioning it into a creative space, and I've been very happy here. It has been a great source for social, cultural and creative fulfillment. IÐNÓ has given birth to the Art + Games workshop, Isle of Games 001, VR party, regular meetups and organization meetings, game nights … I'm also very lucky to be joined by Torfi, Sig and Owen who are all working in Unity so there is a lot of knowledge sharing happening daily. I'm excited to see what else we will come up with here this year.
For the first time in a couple of years, I was able to motivate myself to work on some web stuff. I set up joon.be and donttrip.cool, and created a nice pipeline which auto-uploads changes to GIT and FTP.
Together with Torfi, I made a submission for the second Zium, the Zium Garden.
The Zium Garden is a Museum Exploration Game filled with artwork and installations from artists around the world, working in various mediums and styles.
What a great year, let's do another one.
See you some time in 2019, I hope!