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Game Design students inspired by art pieces

play testing student games

Game Design and Development students from City College Norwich (@norwichcollege) have provided a playful interpretation of visual art by creating computer games inspired by pieces from the Sainsbury Centre’s collection.

The Pixel Project saw visitors to the art museum invited to try out demo versions of the games on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th April, which the students have been working on over the past 8 weeks.

The idea behind the collaboration with the City College Norwich students was to re-imagine how visitors can interact with the art pieces in the Sainsbury Centre’s collection.

Whilst gaming and galleries might seem worlds apart, Dorian Cozens, Game Design and Development lecturer at City College Norwich, says the collaboration was more natural than it might at first appear.

“To be a games designer you need to have strong visual design skills”, says Dorian. “Our Game Design and Development students are art students, but they are applying those skills in a modern, digital context.”    

The project kicked off with the students spending a whole day at the Sainsbury Centre, looking at art pieces that inspired them, learning about their history, and coming up with ideas for how these could be incorporated into games.

“It was a great opportunity for the students to look beyond influences within gaming and to take inspiration from the ancient, modern and ethnographic pieces on display in the Sainsbury Centre”, continues Dorian.

Among the games that were play tested with visitors was Hayden Mullinger’s puzzle-based platform game ‘Abstract Artefact’, which was inspired by the designs on a piece called Zeihartu I.

“When I first looked at it, it gave me very abstract vibes”, says Hayden. “So my game is very abstract. The background is very colourful and then it’s got these cut outs. I took it as a virus, or something like that, trying to push into a different world. There’s a mute, colourless world, and a very bright world, and each side is trying to push through into the other.”

Samara Goss explains how a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti became an enemy to be avoided within her game, ‘Within The Dream’:

“The Standing Woman is a figure that is made from bronze. To me it felt like a mother figure, but it’s dark, it’s horrifying, so I made that into an enemy. In my game you play as a child in a dream and the entire game you are running away from that.”

In Samara’s game you play as a child stuck within their own dream exploring memories, sneaking past enemies who plan to hunt you down and keep you trapped within the dream forever.

Leo Walsh’s ‘Space Shift’ game, meanwhile, was inspired by a Chief’s hunting hat. In the game, you are a janitor on a spaceship which is being invaded by aliens. In desperation to make it to an escape pod, you utilise a platform shifting mechanic using a Chief’s hat found in the cargo bay. Leo says: 

“We are encouraged to take inspiration from different forms of media, we’re encouraged to take photos, look for inspiration in nature and other things around us, rather than just from games. So to go into a place like the Sainsbury Centre where there’s lots of ancient artefacts which we can bring into a modern setting was really good.”

Having play tested their games with members of the public, the students now have a further 3 weeks in which to turn their demo versions into finished games. These will then be uploaded onto the Sainsbury Centre website for people to play online.   

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