Critical Hit Parallax is hosted by TAG in collaboration with Indienova – China’s largest indie game portal. In previous years, TAG’s 10-week summer game incubator program, Critical Hit, attracted international attention with its focus on producing innovative experimental games through fast-paced iterative prototyping approaches. Many games from Critical Hit and Critical Hit alumni have gone on to do very well in international festivals such as Indiecade, IGF, Japan Media Arts Festival. As such, Critical Hit is now synonymous with innovative and experimental game creation, and both past and future participants benefit from this reputation as game makers, artists, students, and researchers.
Critical Hit Parallax borrows from the previous model but in a condensed 2 week form, foregrounding the same spirit of exploration with regards to alt/indie/experimental making. Teachers and mentors will be recruited from the game industry in Montreal and TAG/Milieux Research Centre graduate students. The participating international students will be introduced to research-creation culture in Canada, potential graduate studies at Concordia University, and the rich game development ecosystem of Montreal.
Critical Hit Parallax runs from July 30 to August 12, 2018.
Hello, Enric here. I have written a short summary/recap of what we did during the first few days of Critical Hit Parallax. Before going into the day by day breakdown of the program, I want to contextualize some things first. This first past week of the program focused more on building skills and a shared repertoire between the participants. After that, they took part in two game jams, with one lasting a single day on Friday of week one, and the other lasting five days total during week two (the latter which is currently ongoing!).
DAY 1: LET THE GAMES BEGIN (IN THE PARK)!
The first week of CH Parallax was intense from the start. On the first day, all the participants were introduced to each other and the CH team from TAG. Everyone got together for a welcome talk and icebreakers led by Gina Hara, where we each shared a bit about ourselves. In the afternoon, Tony Higuchi led a workshop about play and playfulness in the gardens of the Grey Nuns Residence. The participants played folk and physical games and then designed their own games, in order to explore the possibilities of different forms of play.
We also had our first show and tell session on day 1. Throughout the first week, all participants got to show and talk about their previous experiences, what goals they had for the event, and inspirations that guided their game design process. Each day, a few students would do a short presentation and answer questions from their peers. For myself, it was inspiring to see the different backgrounds and goals of the participants.
DAY 2: GAME DESIGN, PERSONAL GAMES AND GAMEPLAY SPACE VISIT
On the second day we began with a talk on game design. I talked about games as experiences: how we can consider them as a kind of conversation between players, designers and their context. Different helpful concepts for creating games were also presented and used in brainstorming exercises. After this talk, Dietrich Squinkifierconducted a play session in which they demonstrated autobiographical games. They played together with the participants, showing different examples of games for personal and political expression.
In the afternoon, we visited the GamePlay Space co-working space, where the participants met with local game development teams. The visit started with a short talk by Jason Della Rocca, presenting the space and giving an overview of Montreal’s game development scene. Afterwards, three indie studios presented their latest projects: Ultimate Chicken Horse, King of the Hat, and Children of Zodiarcs.
DAY 3: BUILDING A PLAYFUL TOOLBOX
Pippin Barr started the day with a workshop on the use of the Unity game engine. Participants experimented creating scenes in the engine and coupling them with different packages and pre-built materials. They continued their exploration of game making tools with an afternoon session on alternative game making tools led by Tony Higuchi and myself. From quick interactive story editors to the creation of custom physical controllers, different approaches to game creation were presented and played with.
Continuing the focus on coupling workshops with play sessions, the participants also played a selection of games created with the Unity engine. Building a critical repertoire of games that explore different design directions is crucial, especially before the challenge of creating original games in a short period of time.
DAY 4: THE HARD WORK OF GAMES
By day 4, participants were eager to start making games together. To help with this process, Rebecca Goodine presented a discussion about managing game design projects with an emphasis on game jams and smaller scope projects. She discussed work balance, teamwork, playtesting, and game jam tips in detail, which included practical exercises for participants to try out more structured playtesting methods. After this session, we all played a selection of game jam games. The curation focused on showing the diverse possibilities and experiments that can happen in this kind of making context.
In the afternoon and after our final show and tell session, the participants started the first Mini Jam of the program. This began with a team-forming and brainstorming activity led by Gina. We will post more about the Mini Jam on a dedicated post here on the blog soon!