Curtin’s Growth Ignition program is an annual five and a half day intensive workshop aimed at providing support and training for innovation development. Those attending receive mentoring and practical industry knowledge to get their ideas much closer to being realised. Among the attendees this year were two scholarship recipients with games on the mind: local developer, Jess Watson and Claude Woodward, who we first met at Play Up Perth. Curtin’s initiative focuses on a variety of concepts and industries, not just video or physical gaming. With so many beginning to make their way in this field, I got the opportunity to interview both Claude and Jess to see what insight they could offer.
As first-time applicants, could you explain the process for others interested in the workshop?
Jess: I heard about the program earlier in the year through FTI, so I went along to an information night they hosted. There, I was able to talk directly with the Ignition staff to find out more about the program, get their feedback on my concept and how suited it is to the program, and get information on the scholarship options. In terms of the process of applying, connecting with the Ignition staff to let them know your idea is the first step. From there, they can help you figure out if you’re eligible for one of the scholarships, and then it just comes down to filling out the appropriate application form.
What did you honestly think of your project’s chances?
Jess: After speaking with the Ignition staff at the FTI information night, I was quite confident in my chances. They give you good feedback on whether your project (whatever it may be) is suited to the program, and on the flip side, whether the program itself is suited to your needs.
Claude: I was quite surprised when I was picked. Universities seem to be a bit impenetrable if you haven’t been ‘in the system.’
In your own words, could you please explain to our readers what each of your projects are?
Jess: I’m combing my background in Health with my interest in Game Design, by creating a game that develops kids’ fine motor skills. These are skills that kids need to practise before they even get to school, with those who fall behind experiencing issues in a huge range of areas (from handwriting to dressing themselves) that then impact on their self-confidence and independence. As an added note, I’m keen to ensure that the game is accessible for kids with disabilities and that kids who need significant assistance with their fine motor skills (for example children with Cerebral Palsy) can use it as part of their physiotherapy.
Claude: Bok is a new sporting concept based around a strung racquet design I came up with. You hold one in each hand, and it turns them into ‘sprung’ fists. You’re punching balls or shuttlecocks using the spring energy of the bats so you can use them to play existing games (Bokminton, Vollybok, and Basketbok etc.) or new games like Astro Bok or Battle Bok or makeup your own. It’s like a cross between racquet sports and martial arts.
How do you feel your projects will be aided by the Growth Ignition Program?
Jess: I am hoping to get a better idea of how I can develop something not just as a project, but as a fully realised product. I feel that there are all these extra layers of business that can have a huge impact on your game (and team) in the future, but often it’s a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” So I want to get my head around these things ahead of time, like business models, IPs, financial plans and so forth.
Claude: There’re a million things you can do using these bats and Ignition should help me to narrow it down and focus the concept to make it marketable. And I also hope to make the contacts and get funding to be able to mass produce them.
What does it mean to have your idea picked up and supported by Curtin?
Jess: It’s validating to know that people outside of the games field can see the value in and potential of my ideas. It’s definitely increased my confidence, helped me to refine my vision, and started me thinking about the next step.
Claude: Curtin is one of the top universities here, and it’s so cool that they run this program. I would love to involve the various departments in the project from design to marketing and also the sports science…maybe a study looking at the benefits of using both hands on brain development? Getting the students there to play Bok would also be a buzz and great for market research and feedback.
With the program’s help, what do you hope to achieve with your project in the next few months?
Jess: By the end of the course I will know whether I’m on the right track or if I need to take some time to re-evaluate aspects before I continue. Either way, over the next year I hope to lay the groundwork for developing this and future games, in terms of managing my time, budget, team and strategies.
Claude: Everyone has things they like doing and are good at so I hope to connect up with people that are good (and passionate) about the things I am not, see the potential of Bok and then work together to turn it into a global phenomenon. Oh yeah, and get massively rich!
What do programs like this mean for you, but also for those in Perth already in or wishing to break into the game industry? (Video or physical.)
Jess: I think this particular program is great because it gives you specific, practical information that you can build a business on. That being said; it is worth noting that Ignition isn’t necessarily suited to all game development ventures: a key part of the program is about supporting the business and marketing sides of new initiatives and innovations.
Claude: When you’re trying to do something creative or new, encouragement is so crucial. So being in an environment that takes you seriously and can help you get there is GREAT! Fostering innovation is good for everyone, the country and the world.
Do you think we need more programs/scholarships/support like this for Perth?
Jess: Definitely. When you don’t have a background in business or marketing, it can be intimidating to think about how you can survive making games. I feel that the nature of the games industry in Perth is such that many people do it as a labour of love, because they don’t know how to create a viable business around it, or don’t believe they can. I’m all for working on games because you enjoy it, but the more programs and services that help people make a living doing what they love – the better!
Claude: I think education is THE most important thing for a society – it leads to better self-esteem, standard of living, economy, less crime and more cultural understanding. And we’re really going to need that in the next 50 years. University should be free and for everyone. Yes – I’m talking to you Tony!
With all the recent negativity surrounding almost every aspect of this industry, it’s refreshing to see two very different developers given encouragement and guidance. Future funding cuts to interactivity ventures may be looming over every developer’s head right now, but Perth can be grateful for programs such as this and the support they offer. The Growth Ignition Program for 2014 wrapped up a few days ago, leaving both Claude and Jess with plenty of new information to wade through and hopefully apply to their ideas. We know that success doesn’t happen overnight, but we wish them both all the best and look forward to seeing their progress!