Profile – Marcus Ingvarsson

Marcus Ingvarsson_640

Charismatic, driven and a will to convey the merits of gaming as a medium – Marcus Ingvarsson is a whirlwind of zest and well informed industry insight. Working as a teacher of game design and production methodology at Uppsala University Campus Gotland, he is also a pivotal presence at conferences, fairs and can also be found project managing conferences such as the his university’s own Gotland Game Conference. This is his profile!

What would you say are the challenges faced by game education today as an academic and from the student perspective?
Every institution faces different challenges, but one common challenge is the same as for academia as for the game industry at large. And that is to hire people with the right competence, which the industry is struggling with as well.

For students I would say that the biggest challenge is probably themselves. What I mean by that is that there is an intake for about 900 students combined at the different gaming educations in Sweden each year. That means that the competition for the jobs in Sweden is highly competitive. On the bright side, Swedish students are highly attractive abroad, especially Germany. So there are jobs, but unless you start your own company it’s probably more likely to find job abroad than in Sweden.

Apart from the academic focus what sort of tips and advice do you try to impart to your students?
Wow, there is so much. Maybe that’s the most important part, that there’s always something to learn. So stay open to new ideas and stop talking about games and start making them. It’s easier to make games today than ever. There are a bunch of tools and engines that are available, so there is no excuse for not turning your ideas into a reality today.

How important is a willingness to embrace innovation and experimentation in game design to what you do?
I would say it’s highly important. But I’m biased, since I’m running a course where the students have to build arcade-like games with their own input or use a novel input device. It’s a great exercise in what games can be and to think about games in terms of actual interactions and not just keyboard/mouse/gamepad.

But embracing innovation is a double-edged sword. Take Kinect for example. I think that the Kinect is a brilliant piece of hardware with a lot of potential. And when I travel abroad and visit other university labs, there are some amazing games and applications being built for it. But unfortunately the Kinect is very much a dead platform commercially now, much thanks to the way it was supported and presented.

What titles do you hold up as references with outstanding and in some cases innovative game design?
There are so many… I could just mention the usual suspects. But rather then that I would mention one game that had a huge impact on me. It might not be outstanding or innovative, but it affected and changed my view on games. And that is The End of Us, by Michael Molinari and Chelsea Howe.

This was the first game that moved me to tears (second one was To The Moon). I still show this to my students as an example of simplicity and elegance. I think it’s a testament to excellent design when you with a few clever systems and design choices can make somebody cry over two rocks that meet up in space. It’s not without flaws, but I can overlook that. And it’s only a minute or two long and free, so I recommend you to try it out.

Locally, gaming education has had a hard time reaching minority groups, why do you think that is and what would you suggest could be done to reverse that trend?
That’s a problem in general for universities. And I don’t have any concrete data, nor am I an expert in the area, so I’d rather not speculate what the cause might be.

But I think games as such are in a better position than other subjects in order to reverse that trend. Because games are a universal medium, it’s universal design and communication and games are a cross-disciplinary subject. And the other thing is that we all know that the game industry and game academia is a proper career choice that you can pursue. But that’s not common knowledge, so if anything I think we need to be more vocal and spreading that message. Especially to study and careers advisers.

You are fairly active within the local indie scene, how would you describe it in Sweden and the Nordic region? Is there a collaborative spirit?

Hahaha, I don’t know if I’m even fairly active. But active enough to keep an eye on what’s going on in order to help prepare my students for when they leave the education. But I would say that there’s a collaborative spirit to some degree. Most developers are very accessible and networking is easy, because everybody knows we are in this together. I think comradery is the best way to describe it.

What areas of the scene could be further developed?
I’m not sure what that would be. Maybe a big open platform for everybody to meet. Because there are a bunch of local meetups and national and international conferences. But I would like there to be a big unreserved free (or low fee) platform or meetup.

Who are the developers you look to for inspiration in Sweden and the Nordic region?
Usually I don’t. When I need to find inspiration I usually don’t look for what other developers are doing. I watch movies or animations. Or read a book or listen to music or go somewhere I haven’t been before. Basically do anything that isn’t directly game-related. Lately I found Anders Sunna’s work very thought-provoking.

With that said, the successes of the Nordic regions game industry is very inspiring in the sense of “if they can make it, so could I”.

Any game design essentials you’d like to pass on to an aspiring game designer?
You can portray anything as a game. Start by trying to break it down into a system. Because when you can present it as a system you can turn it into a game.

Think about what is the aesthetic of your game, what is the feeling that you want to convey? The theoretical framework MDA (Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics) is a good starting point.

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