A Young Game Studio’s Journey for Identity and to Medium
We’re a game design studio. We’re based in South Dakota. We love designing educational games for kids, developing those games, talking with others who are developing games, and playing games — as many games, as frequently as possible. We’ve designed games for Panasonic, South Dakota State University, and the National Science Foundation. We’ve developed high school video game and mobile app design courses for STEM Fuse and we’ve run summer camps on game design for elementary school kids. For a two-year old company, I consider this to be successful; however, until recently, we did not yet know who we were as a company or on what we wanted to focus.
Buzz Whizz Bees
The entire first year of our lives as a company was spent designing and developing a prototype of a game that allowed kids to play as different types of bees while exploring the world. The game was called Buzz Whizz Bees. You can see our cancelled Kickstarter campaign and check out some game play footage below.
With Buzz Whizz Bees, we had focus. We were passionate about teaching kids the importance of bees, we wanted them to leave the game understanding more about how bees function, and we wanted them to teach others. We spent 8 months building a functioning prototype. We spent 3 months preparing for a Kickstarter campaign. We launched our Kickstarter campaign in October of 2014 and we cancelled it two weeks after it began. We knew that it wasn’t going to be successful. We also had a new adventure come our way.
Our First Client — Panasonic
Panasonic approached us in August of 2014 with a request to learn about what we do and to find out if we would be interested in joining a project with them. After a month long series of conversations and getting to know each other, we signed a contract in September of 2014 to build games for what is now known as HomeTeam. Their HomeTeam platform allows remote family members to be closer together through playing games, reading books, and having meaningful conversations through video chat. It was in-line with our focus as a company — providing meaningful ways for kids to relate to the adults surrounding them.
To this day, we are continuing our work with Panasonic. They’ve been a wonderful partner and have provided us with opportunities that we would not have had otherwise. We believe in their platform and look forward to many more years of developing engaging, educational, multi-player games with them.
With our success on the HomeTeam project, we jumped into finding more clients that were interested in having games developed for their projects. Initially, this was a good move. It allowed us to learn new skills, develop some interesting educational games, and bring more recognition to our team. After a little over a year of building games for others, I realized that we had lost our focus of developing engaging games for kids that taught them topics related to science, mathematics, and history. This lack of focus not only led us to no longer developing our own games, but bled into the new ideas that we had for games we wanted to develop when we had time. We were no longer focused on building games that allowed kids to teach others. We had lost our way.
Finding our Center
Over the past month, we’ve been focused on re-learning who we are as a company and what we want to achieve. We are no longer working on games for others — with the exception of partnering with Panasonic. We are focused on the release of four new projects this year: Captain Fluffy’s Fixit Fever, Imaginauts: Discover Egypt, Naomi’s Neighborhood, and an insect simulator. These new projects are focused on allowing kids to explore topics related to science, history, and emotional development. We’re also working on launching a series of courses in our home town focused on teaching kids game development, animation, robotics, and programming.
We are now re-focused on our original goal of being a game development company that provides engaging digital and physical ways for kids to experience learning and the world around them. We want kids to leave our games and our courses feeling empowered to teach others what they’ve learned.