Thoughts on inclusivity in games from the youngest member of the Game Maker Fund — Creators Interview #9: Erica
Welcome to our Game Creators interview series, where we feature creators and members of The Sandbox community, giving them a platform to share their stories.
In this edition of Game Creators, we speak with Erica, the talented youngest member of the Game Maker Fund. The experience she is building is one of inclusion, everyday life and fun. Read on to learn about her creative process and why diversity is so important in her experience.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello, I’m Erica but you can call me Vel! I’m a Steam nerd who loves to be creative and learn how things work. If I’m not playing games with challenging puzzles and engaging stories or making art of my latest fascination with a creature or plant life, you’ll probably find me tinkering with DIY projects and science experiments.
What initially attracted you to The Sandbox?
If I remember correctly, someone posted about the creator fund in a voxel art discord server I’m in. That, or someone from the server I follow on Twitter posted about it. I wanted to get into game dev and I thought making assets for people to use in games would be a good way to get partially started, at least on the art side. I had actually been asking a few devs I know how to get into selling asset packs when I found out about the creator fund. A place to play games and also get assets on to make other projects seemed cool to me, so I thought I’d give it a try.
How were your first experiences with VoxEdit and the Game Maker?
The biggest thing to get more comfortable with was rigging models in VoxEdit as I’ve never rigged anything before, and when I finished all the assets I ended up rig around 52 of them. I rigged most of those 52 assets multiple times too because of things I had to change or fix. Rigging feels very natural to me now.
Now with the Game Maker, there wasn’t much that took long for me to get used to. The only thing to make sure I paid attention to was setting up the logic for NPCs, 3D Printers, etc, because if something has a typo or I added the wrong value then things didn’t work. And I had a lot of objectives with similar names such as OrderA and OrderF, then Delivery C and Delivery L, etc so making sure 1 order was working from start to finish took some time to do. Placing blocks was second nature pretty much at the start because I used to build in a different game a lot, and the building in the Game maker is very similar but easier because you place blocks as a movable camera and not a small character.
You are currently working on 3D Print Your Life, could you tell us what the experience will be about? What was the idea behind 3D printers?
3D Print Your Life is a game where you work at a 3D printing shop, meeting all kinds of people who use 3D printing to fulfil their different needs. I remember how mind-blowing it was to actually see a 3D printer working for the first time and just wondering about all the possibilities. I thought I wouldn’t be able to experience 3D printers until I was in my mid to late 20s, so it was really cool to be able to get a cheap one a few years ago to play around with and learn about this tool and hobby. I wanted to create a game that could introduce and inspire people to play with this technology they maybe haven’t heard of or gotten a chance to test. You can’t really play around with 3D printing itself in the game at the moment sadly, but I hope I will be able to deliver this kind of experience in the future.
What motivated you to create such an inclusive experience with a diverse cast of characters?
I just wanted to include people I don’t see represented in games enough as I should. While I’m not part of a lot of demographics my characters are in, the one thing I could relate to with all of them was being left out as a character in media for being a minority in various ways.
I made sure to include 16 different skin tones because I wanted to see more characters like me and my family, I wanted to bring other kinds of people along with me in being represented by including mobility aids, head coverings, and eye and skin condition. There are so many kinds of people, visually and personality wise, so I left each of these different aspects to be generic so there would be at least one part of a character someone could relate to. Plus, I don’t want to make super specific characters for things I haven’t and may not experience. I would rather let someone with that experience tell their story and uplift and promote them.
What drove you to apply this young?
Initially, I just wanted to sell my assets to make some extra money. Sure, there was the whole thing of partially getting into game dev this way but there are more direct ways to learn and practice this skill, so it could wait if it had to. I was already making voxel art for fun whether it was just artwork or a few mods for a game, so making assets for a platform within my interest and making money from it was appealing to me.
How did The Sandbox help you achieve your goals?
When The Sandbox Team offered me the chance to be in the Game Maker Fund instead, I was surprised but excited to start working on different parts of game dev earlier than I planned to. The Sandbox Team helped me by having calls about game progress and next steps, making sure I had the info I needed to make changes to certain aspects, helping with marketing, and just being supportive of the many asset and game revisions. This may be simple, but they also just provided me with what I feel is a very good introduction to parts of the game dev process. I’ve never made a Game Design Document or even used Google Docs. I’ve never made a single spreadsheet before and I’ve made lots now. I have experience in making marketing material such as taking WIP (work in progress) pictures and videos. I start thinking about game flow and the player experience, and several other things.
How do you balance personal life, school and your world building?
Balancing life and work is something I’m still learning how to do properly. I graduated Homeschool Highschool in May of last year and because of the pandemic, college CLEPs were put on hold. Aside from school, anything else I was doing on the side had to be put on hiatus, so I could put all my focus on making what I needed for the game. I like working on different “types” of work in chunks at a time, so when it comes to world-building I’ll have a plan of what I want to do beforehand and then spend a whole day or two making, reviewing, and tweaking sections of the world for hours until it is done. Once that “type” of work is finished, I don’t touch it again unless I need to fix something, make room for something, or change my mind about some detail.
Players will be able to experience 3D Print your Life soon, how does it feel?
It feels surreal! Between all the assets I had to make and fix several times, playtesting and fixing the land multiple times, basic gameplay, and deadline after deadline; I wasn’t sure if I’d make it in time. I’ve been working on this for over 15 months so it feels nice to let other people see what I’ve been working on all this time. For the first players, I know there isn’t much gameplay right now but I hope you enjoy interacting with the characters and exploring the world.
What would you say to young aspiring artists and creators?
That’s tough to say since I’m still learning so much myself haha. I guess, keep practicing your craft and making self-indulgent art. Even if it feels not many people care or it’s niche, you have to make that art for you because that’s what matters and that’s enough.
We thank Erica for sharing her experience with us and wish her all the best in the future. 3D Print Your Life is coming to the metaverse soon for us all to experience. Until then, let’s be patient, we will be back soon with more Game Creators so stay tuned!
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