2014-08-30

LVA game launch

(version française ici)


How does a video game launch work? I'm not too sure. I've never done one before. All I can do is try my best and hope everything worked out.

With this in mind I travelled to Pohénégamook, Quebec, on August 12th to launch my Acadian video game La vie d'Arcade (LVA) at the Grand rassemblement jeunesse (GRJ). The game is available as a free download: I have no physical product to launch, nothing to distribute other than a card containing the link to my website.

The Launch

The organizing committee of the GRJ gave me five minutes during the opening ceremonies to officially launch my game. What do I do? What should I say? The word ‘video game' comes with certain expectations, so I decided to show what kind of game La vie d'Arcade is (and what kind of game it isn't) by presenting this video:


Although the concept of artistic expression in video games is gaining acceptance, many people still see games as nothing more than commercial entertainment products. Since LVA isn't your typical video game, I figured I should steer people's expectations. The launch event went well: the crowd laughed at the jokes as I read the video's dialogue in my native Acadian accent.

The Workshops

The next day, I gave workshops on artistic expression in video games. This was the first time I spoke about video games in a professional context, so I was a little nervous. For the first forty minutes or so, I gave a PowerPoint presentation. I worked hard to make the presentation interesting, and the participants seemed to be into it.

Photo by Jean-Baptiste Prevel
An activity I had planned for midway through the presentation went better than anticipated. Participants paired up and found a game they both liked. They then had to share what aspects they liked and disliked. We had a couple good discussions on authorship and creativity thanks to Minecraft.

For the last 30 minutes or so, I let the participants try La vie d'Arcade for themselves. It was rewarding to see the kids focused on the game and discussing it with their neighbours. I was also secretly glad that the chaperones had a hard time getting some of the kids to stop playing when my workshop was finished.

Some of the participants who wanted
to play LVA during their free time
Insecurity

The main complaints I received were that the PPT presentation was too long and the participants didn't have enough time to actually play the game. I guess I didn't plan for more play time because I was insecure about my game.

I'm just a hobbyist making games in my spare time. I don't have any formal education in the field, and I've only ever spoken to one professional game designer (after LVA was finished). I feel like a self-taught musician releasing an album, only I haven't spoken to other musicians. I'm also not sure if I'm playing the right instruments or if I'm playing them the right way. How could I know whether I was on the right or wrong track?

Once the game was playable, it quickly became hard to distance myself when determining what worked and what needed fixing. I went from thinking the idea was genius to thinking it was a useless pile of crap a few times during the development.

My main worry was that the game would be unpleasant to play. Since the early stages of the project, I've known that academics were interested in the concept of an Acadian video game, but because the game involves so much reading and contains so little action, I thought kids would find it really boring and stop playing. I know it's not a game for everyone, but I've seen kids and adults alike enjoying the game. What a relief to know that some people really liked the game!

Main menu of LVA
Other launch week details

Ask anyone who was at the GRJ: I had a fan club on the go. It was a little overwhelming, but I was flattered that some of the kids really liked my game. Twin brothers said LVA was better than Pokémon because of the many paths you can take in the story. One kid said I inspired him to start making games. I signed a few autographs. Three people even chose to make a documentary about my game during their film workshop! I got to feel like a pro game developer for a week, which was pretty cool.

Interview with Radio jeunesse des Amériques
Given the nature of the game, the target audience is fairly restricted. But since it's so specific, the content can be special for those who are represented in the game. Players have told me it's great to see their Acadian realities reflected in a video game.

For me, playing Atlantic Canada: The RPG earlier this year was something special because it was the first time I had played a game set in familiar territory. I'm proud that LVA has given others their first experience of playing a game set close to home.

Video games can be about us too
A few friends closer to my age have talked to me about their play experience. The game sparked a debate on cross-cultural relationships between some friends. Another friend seemed genuinely moved by the experience (''j'ai vécu des choses dans ce jeu-là''). My primary goal was to make the player reflect upon Acadian culture, but I also hope to convince people of the power of video games as an expressive medium.

At the end of the day, I'm glad I followed through and finished the game. It feels good to have one semi-major video game project under my belt. Expect more games in the near future!

(Pictures from the GRJ by Jean-Baptiste Prevel!)

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