Cortexarts: The beginning!

All right, let me explain a bit of my history to you.

When I was 13, I got my first laptop for school assignments. Of course, I didn’t use it for just that. Back then I played a game called Minecraft, which by now everyone knows about. I started playing more and more but eventually gaming got boring, so I started exploring computer science. Within a few weeks I learned a bit of JavaScript and started reading about servers and hosting websites and game services. I also found software to create games with, called Unity.

 

The start of my careerĀ  as a gamedesigner

At this time I was 14 years old, struggling with high school. My grades were lower than before because of my decreasing motivation and I was spending less time on homework. When I spoke to a friend of mine about gaming, he told me he just started a project with 5 other students and a math teacher to create games to improve homework. He asked me to come to the next meeting and I joined the group!

First CortexArts meeting in October 2014

Our goal

The math teacher, called Marc, had an idea to improve education with gamification. Gamification is the process of implementing game techniques and mechanics in non-gaming environments. An example of this would be the treatment of a medical condition lazy eye. With lazy eye, the brain does not fully acknowledge the images from the lazy eye. This condition is said to be able to be treated with specially designed games where both eyes have to work cooperatively. This treatment is said to ‘reprogram’ the brain so images are processed correctly.

An important part of games is called the ‘flow of engagement’. The flow of engagement is a state of mind where the game’s difficulty perfectly matches the player’s skills. This ‘flow’ can be really addictive. How great would it be if learning would be so easy it could be addictive? What if students would rather make homework instead of watching television? This is what inspired Marc and the other students.

Our goal is to improve education with the use of gamification. If we take a look at Civilization by Sid Meier, you can see that there is a lot of history explained in a very simple and interesting way. Civilization is an entertainment game, so it isn’t focussed on education but players are still able to learn from playing the game. I guess what we want to achieve is that the player is learning while not being fully focussed on the matter, but rather enjoying the experience.

Our idea is to build a game where students can learn physics, chemistry and mathematics by building a rocket to space. Also, if students get stuck they are able to help each other to earn more points!

The story

After a few meetings we decided that Daan should write the story. He wrote an amazingly weird story, which is probably because of his unmatched creativity. Here is the intro:

A man and a woman are happily living on a nearly deserted island. On his way to work, the man gets kidnapped by scorpion-man, a half scorpion half man creature. Scorpion-man takes him to his base on the moon. Luckily he married the best rocket scientist on the planet. His wife asks an old german scientist for help. Together with this scientist she is able to build a rocket, develop different fuels and save her husband!

The students play the game in the perspective of the rocket scientist. Together with the german professor the player has to gather materials, design a rocket and test the best fuels. If the student has built a poor rocket, a tapir cannon wil shoot it out of the sky!

You can probably see why we chose Daan to write the story.

My year of graduation

A few years later in 2016, I graduated from high school. Without any idea what I wanted to do I applied for a bachelor Communications & Multimedia design to improve my design skills and apply them to cortexarts. This went really well as we made a new website, posted more flyers and information online and released our first game!

The main menu of Otterspace

From here on out things started to get more and more interesting. We got invited to join the Dutch Game Garden’s incubation program for free workshops and courses on gamedesign and business management and I started to learn a lot more about gamedesign.

 

What now?

We’re still in the middle of these amazing times, but I’m starting to doubt my decision to study Game Design at the NHTV. Why wouldn’t I go for a study abroad? Is game design really my dream? That’s why I made this blog. I am doing a lot of different projects in my spare time but always forget about them or drop them. With this blog I want to show the world my path to finding out my true passion!