BAFTA Young Game Designers 2016: Vaida's Story
On Saturday 23rd July 2016 BAFTA hosted a special awards ceremony to celebrate the winners of the annual BAFTA Young Game Designers (YGD) competition, in association with Nominet Trust, at their London HQ.
We caught up with Vaida Plankyte, one of the 10 finalists in the Game Making 15-18 years category, to find out more about the initiative.
I learnt about YGD through Twitter, as people were recommending the competition. I started reading about it and thought it was a really great way to encourage young people to make games. I looked through the past entries and was really impressed that ten-year-olds were making fully-fledged games with smart mechanics and levels!
Now came the hard part - picking the game to send in.
I have been participating in ‘One Game A Month’ (an online initiative that challenges developers around the world to make a new game every month) for a couple of years, so I had a bunch of small games that I would be able to pick from. I decided to pick ‘Ow’ (which I have since renamed ‘Competitive Cuddling Simulator’) as it was not what you’d expect out of a game and threw you directly into the action. I polished it a bit for the submission, and completed the game design application form.
The form required me to reflect on the design choices I had made, which allowed me to realise that the game could be expanded and improved in quite a few ways. At the beginning of the game’s development, I had started making something that would have been very different to what it is now. I was planning on making a game that was more focused on story and less silly, when I told a friend I was going to make a game about cuddling, she thought I was making a competitive two-player speed-based game, something like the Wii family games. What I had in mind was something serious and introspective, but she thought it would be an action game. The confusion made me laugh and I ended up adapting that idea instead!
When I got the nomination, I was invited to the awards ceremony in London. The event was very fancy and impressive - I didn’t expect less from BAFTA! All the game making finalists’ games were available to play, while the game concepts were propped on easels. The room was very nicely presented, and everyone was excited and happy to have a chat about what they had made.
During the presentation of the nominees, I heard a few giggles when my game was being shown, which was exactly the reaction I was hoping for! Thanks to the event, I was able to meet a large group of people making fascinating games, including the Media Molecule team, who won the Hero Award for supporting young game creators. Having a BAFTA YGD nomination made me feel recognised, and this is incredibly important to me as I am making non-traditional games. Seeing interactive fiction games made in Twine get recognition was also great to see.
Since the event, I have continued making experimental narrative-based games that explore mental health and relationships. I plan to pursue my technical degree at Edinburgh University while making small games and attending events. Hopefully I’ll get to the point where I’ll be able to finish Uni and go directly into a studio that I love the work of.
For young designers who are planning on entering next year's competition, I'd recommend letting go of preconceptions of what a "game" is. Your game will stand out more if you make something that is good, rather than focusing on adding features that make it more "gamey". A game doesn't have to be fun, but it has to be engaging. Finally: don't feel shy about submitting. The judges’ job is to decide whether your game goes through to the next stage - your job is to make the best game you can, not to be a harsh judge of your own game! I wish you all the best in your game making adventures.
For more information about BAFTA Young Game Designers, visit www.bafta.org/ygd.