Game designer Sophia George is living proof that art and technology can flock together like birds of a feather!
BY FRANCESCA MOLLSophia George is a 23 year-old Bafta Award-winning computer games designer. After studying Games Art and Design at Norwich University of the Arts, she now runs her own company – Swallowtail Games. Tick Tock Toys, her first commercial venture into the world of gaming, won her the ‘Ones to Watch’ Bafta Award and received over 100,000 downloads within the first week of its release. She is currently Designer in Residence at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She is using their resources to research and create a brand new computer game based on a print called ‘The Strawberry Thief’ by the famous Victorian textiles artist, William Morris. Once she has completed her residency she will take her sketches and drawings to the technicians at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland where they will collaborate on producing Sophia’s new game.
Moving On reporter, Francesca Moll went to interview Sophia in her studio at the V&A to find out how she got where she is today and where she plans to go with her career in the future…
What inspired you to start designing?
I’ve been interested in games as long as I can remember. I got serious about games and wanting to design them when I got a Pokemon Red for Christmas in 1999.
How did you get into games design? Were your parents supportive?
After doing my A-levels, I decided to study Games Art and Design at Norwich University of the Arts. My parents have always been extremely supportive of whatever I want to achieve.
Was there anything you’d do differently now?
I think if I could go back in time, I would start programming at a younger age.
Do you think it’s difficult for people without proper connections to succeed in the industry?
Knowing the right people is important in any industry, but I don’t think it should be a barrier. Networking and making good connections are vital skills.
The stereotype of a games designer is a geeky male. Do you think women are under-represented in the industry?
There are definitely a lot of issues with women in games – from poor representation of female characters to lack of women developers. Luckily, there are organisations dedicated to increasing the visibility of women in games and other tech areas, such as Women in Games Jobs and Lady Geek.
What advice would you give to people about breaking into the industry, particularly girls or those who don’t have the right connections?
My advice would be to start games as soon as possible. There are some excellent game-making tools out there for free such as Game Maker and Unity, so it’s never been easier to get some experience. I would also advise researching online and try to attend some games events – the perfect way to make more connections.
What is your ultimate favourite game?
I don’t have an ultimate favourite game, as I’ve played so many games over the course of my life. At the moment, I am really enjoying Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for 3DS and Wii U. I am a really big fan of games where you can play with friends co-operatively.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I am working on a game for the Victoria and Albert Museum. My brief was to make a game inspired by the British Galleries so I‘m making a mobile game based on William Morris’ ‘Strawberry Thief’ furnishing fabric. I usually start coming up with ideas by thinking of gameplay mechanics first, but this time the starting point has been a piece of design work, so it has been challenging!
What are your plans for the future?
I want to keep making my own games, as I’ve had a lot of ideas for concepts over the past few years that I want to explore. I’m also very curious about collaborating with other people on games as well.
As you’ve come into the industry from a design point of view, what do you think of the stereotype that design and engineering is technical, boring and mathematical?
I suppose a lot of people see design and engineering as boring because when it is taught in school, we are often just told the basics and how it all works. However when it is applied to real life, it can be very creative and exciting!