A V&A designer in residence: Where games meet art

A V&A designer in residence: Where games meet art
Sophia George

By Sophia George

August 22nd 2013 at 2:00PM

Swallowtail's Sophia George discusses what she hopes to achieve with the V&A museum

[Sophia George is chair and creative director of Swallowtail Games, based in Dundee, Scotland, and winner of the 2012 BAFTA Ones to Watch Award.]

A few months ago, it was announced that I would be the V&A’s first game designer in residence, starting October. The announcement caught a lot of attention in the media, so I wanted to write a blog post for Develop to express my thoughts and feelings about my upcoming project.

My main task for this residency will be to design a game based on the V&A’s 1500-1900 British galleries, followed by a production period at Abertay University to make the game prototype.

I have an extremely broad selection of objects to be inspired by, as the British Galleries are home to many different artistic styles, as well as artefacts from across the world.

Due to the diversity of these galleries, I hope to work on lots of little design experiments before I commit to a big idea! During this time, I will also be working on my company’s new games, which are still in planning stages.

This residency has also given me the opportunity to find out more about the V&A at Dundee, due to be opened before 2016. I’ve already seen fabulous sculptures and artwork of the Kengo Kuma designed architecture. Dundee has a very fascinating games history, so I hope this will be reflected in the new museum.

A very large part of my new role will be to hold workshops, talks and events for the V&A’s various audiences. Game design workshops with children is something I’m very much looking forward to, as I am hoping to inspire them to get into making games at an early age. With easy to learn programs like Scratch and GameSalad available to download for free, it has never been easier for young people to start creating.

I am also very keen to encourage creative people with non-game industry backgrounds to get into making games, as I think this would result in some very unique and interesting experiences.

I will have my studio open very frequently throughout my residency at the V&A, allowing for visitors to come and talk to me and see my practice. I’m thrilled to do my game design work in a museum, as I will be almost like a living exhibit! It will be very interesting to talk to visitors about my project and about games in general. I hope to discuss my ideas with the public, so that they can help shape the project, as the finished product will ultimately be played by the museum’s audience.

I think the V&A’s interest in game design marks an important step for games being seen as a cultural art form. Since the announcement, I’ve had contact with various museum enthusiasts, artists, gallery workers, PhD students and many others who are interested in my residency. I have always thought that games have been seen as low culture, with many critics refusing to accept them as an art form.??

However, I've found that there are actually many art enthusiasts interested in games, and they are keen to learn more! Many see it as an exciting medium with lots of potential. Personally, I feel that games are now more culturally relevant than ever before, due to being far more accessible (No longer do you have to buy an expensive computer or console to enjoy digital games).

I think that game development is one of the most exciting creative industries to be involved in, as it marries lots of different art forms together (such as music, animation, sculpture, acting, architecture scriptwriting etcetera).

I am currently in the early stages of my career - I only graduated last year (followed swiftly by forming my own studio Swallowtail Games), so I am very thankful for such an incredible opportunity.

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