This Girl Codes Curiosity Academy

Recently, I was really excited to be asked to participate in the Curiosity Academy project run as part of Junction Arts This Girl Codes project.

This Girl Codes is based around a “series of taster sessions, pop-up heritage STEAM labs in historic houses, castles and caves as well as festivals, trips and events during school holidays.

Bad plants!

I was asked to run a Bitsy game session around the theme of Creswell Crags, and the witch marks they’d found there a few years ago. Since submitting a Bitsy game to Creswell Crags Winter Folklore Festival in 2020, I’d wanted to follow up and do something more with them. So, it was great to be asked to participate in this programme of events. Similar to a session I ran at Feral Vector, I thought it would be a nice idea to get everyone to collaborate on a game, and it worked so well. I really wanted to see what story and characters they would come up with themselves, and the end result was a lot of fun. The participants created their own characters, game narrative and settings based on the folklore and history of Creswell Crags. And after that (proving that Bitsy is really easy to get to grips with), one of the participants was inspired to make her own game, and I helped finish it off. I wasn’t able to travel to Creswell Crags, so I did this all virtually with the support of the project co-ordinator and artist, Amy and Cora.

You can play the game, Mother Grundy’s Protection, on the This Girl Codes site. It’s “based around the myth of Mother Grundy, rescuing a local boy from poisoning, with the help of herbs, animal guardians and tree spirits.”

You can also read more about how the game was created in this blog post.

Looking at the rest of the activities during the Curiosity Academy, I was very inspired by the focus on the overlap between physical and digital art made by local communities, and also the making process itself. Also tied in with the strong folklore and nature theme, it was a project that was right up my street and I loved being involved in it.

Off the back of this, projects created as part of this programme of events are on display in the interactive exhibition, Sweep Away The Silence, at Creswell Crags until 5th October (closed Monday 19th September). It includes “light paintings, spell poems, audio recordings, incredible artefacts found within the caves and much more.

Get down there if you can. 🙂

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New game: a 3D interactive folktale

Every year, when winter is almost at its peak, a house grows in a clearing in the old wood. Fuelled by the frost and sun, the tangle of branches sprouting from its roof glisten in the cold air. And every year, a spirit of the wood grows within it too. A creature whose responsibility it is to ensure that the guardian of winter is able to rest well for the following seasons, and that his sister has all she needs for her period of guardianship over the coming spring.

I’ve released another free to play browser game on itch.io, called Sister Spring, Brother Winter. It’s a 3D interactive winter folktale about the changing of the seasons – collect pieces of the fallen sun to help Sister Spring wake the world.

It features a 3D style that gives a nod to the ZX-Spectrum of the early 1980s, including games such as Jepac and Atic Atac.

I used 3D Bitsy to create it – I just find it so fun and easy to create little narrative games using this game making tool. 3D Bitsy is made by aloelazoe, which is built on Adam Le Doux’s Bitsy.

You can play it at https://ashg.itch.io/sister-spring-brother-winter

It’s Alive! LGBTQ+ Positive Voices Has Launched

Today’s the day. The LGBTQ+ Positive Voices online exhibition has launched in time for Pride Month. I’m so pleased to be able to open it up and share all the inspiring and wonderful contributions from the 26 artists and creators from around the world who chose to get involved. đź’–

The following pages feature on the site:

  • About – list of creators, thanks, background to the exhibition.
  • Exhibition Entrance – go here to explore all the artworks and details about them.
  • Comments Book – leave your positive comments here.
  • Support Page – I realise some of the pieces in the exhibition may generate difficult feelings for some people. So, it was important for me to direct them to professional organisations who can give them support and advice if they need it.
  • Artists pages – an individual page for each of the wonderful contributions from each of the artists and creators.

You can also find out more about the artists and creators pieces via Twitter.

Here’s a teaser trailer for the exhibition.

All shares of the exhibition site are greatly appreciated: https://www.lgbtqpositivevoices.org/

LGBTQ+ Positive Voices Exhibition Launch (19th June)

Earlier this year, I put out a call for LGBTQ+ artists and creatives, inviting them to contribute to an online exhibition, which would be a celebration of their positive experiences, lives and perspectives. Thanks to everyone who shared this open call, the response was inspirational, and as a result the LGBTQ+ Positive Voices online exhibition has been created.

The creators included in this exhibition are Ana Iribas RudĂ­n; AnimaeNoctis (Silvia Marcantoni Taddei & Massimo Sannelli); April Winter; ​Bryony Mair; ​Caren Jo Shapiro; ​Charmaine Chapman; ​Ethan Moss; ​Frankie; ​Geoffrey Doig-Marx (GDM); ​Giridhar Raghunathan; ​Guillermo “Wildo” Zayas IV; ​Jeremy Martin; Anonymous; Konrad Natthagel; Kryštof NovotnĂ˝; Leon Clowes; Linhtropy; Naomi; Paty RodrĂ­guez; Poppy Ash; Rik Versteeg; Robin Swift; Rufus Isabel Elliot; Salome Zhvania; Stefani J Alvarez; Terry Gregoraschuk.

This celebratory exhibition includes videos, dance performance pieces, paintings, digital artworks, audio pieces and games. They represent a broad spectrum of sexual and gender identities from 26 fantastic artists and creative contributors from around the world. I am very proud to be able to share these unique personal perspectives. The range of creative pieces and art in the exhibition is wonderful. And each share a short unique thought-provoking and often emotional personal story alongside them that is a positive reflection of being an LGBTQ+ person.

The exhibition site will launch on 19th June (12 noon, BST) at: www.lgbtqpositivevoices.org.

You can follow the launch on Twitter and other social media, and help spread the word by using the hashtag combination #pridemonth #positivevoices .

You can also find out more about the exhibition at the online launch event on 23rd June (6.30 pm BST). This will be held as part of the Festival of Pride and Knowledge 2021, and will feature content from the exhibition. Free tickets can be booked via: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/festival-of-pride-and-knowledge-2021-tickets-155920447255 

See you there.

Games in the Woods Gam Jam (15-23 May)

I’ve blogged over on the British Library Digital Scholarship blog about the Games in the Woods game jam I’m involved in from 15th – 23rd May. It’s a woodland, tree, forest themed game jam being run as part of the Urban Tree Festival. The blog post specifically highlights one of my favourite narrative game making tools, Bitsy, as I’ll be running a free online session featuring it for the launch of the jam on Saturday 15th May. I especially enjoy using Bitsy as it allows people who aren’t programmers to make little retro style games. So, why not get involved in the jam and make your first game with Bitsy?

New Workshop – Creative Digital Experiments with Collections

On 21st April I’m running a new online session as part of the Beginning Cataloguing seminar programme, which will be focussed on how libraries and heritage organisations make use of technology to share and re-work their collections and resources in creative and engaging new ways. I’ll be sharing a variety of inspirational examples from organisations, along with how online mapping and narrative tools can provide visitors with a new digital discovery route into your collections.

You can book now via the Beginning Cataloguing Teachable site.

While you’re there, take a look at the range of other interesting cataloguing, bibliography and book history seminars and workshops that Beginning Cataloguing is running.

Photo by David Bartus from Pexels

CRESSWELL CRAGS WINTER FOLKLORE FESTIVAL

One of the themes that regularly appears in my digital stories and games is folklore and myths. In Midwinter Spirits, I created a little retro-style digital story with a focus on winter folklore. I’m really pleased that it’s featured as part of Creswell Crags Winter Folklore Festival, which is a free online festival running 18th – 21st December 2020. As part of my involvement in the festival, I also wrote a piece on winter folklore representation in this digital tale, and other games, including Never Alone (Native Alaskan), Roki (Scandinavian), and Yukie (Japanese).

You can read the piece here.

You can play Midwinter Spirits here.

You can find out more about Creswell Crags free Winter Folklore Festival here.

The Midnight Detective Club New Music Releases

The Midnight Detective Club, What Destiny Has Planned cover art

Next week (11th August) sees the release of two more demo synth pop songs from The Midnight Detective Club on Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, Tidal, Soundcloud, and other music streaming and download sites.  This time, Ellen Louise, singer on the tracks, penned the lyrics for Where’s the Magic Gone? They fit the idea behind the song perfectly.

The intention of the songs included in the game is to develop the story of the band and also the game. They give players hints of the supernatural mystery back in the 1980’s, but they also look to the present setting of the game, and are comments on the characters within it. What Destiny Has Planned focuses on the question of  whether the future is already laid out for us, whether it can be changed and what it has in store for us. Where’s the Magic Gone?  is nostalgic, and draws upon the idea of childhood being full of wonder, fearlessness and imagination, and how that can disappear once you grow up. But it also suggests that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Teen gang themselves are somehow (as a friend put it) “frozen in Aspic”. Teenagers in the 1980’s, but also teenagers now. Or are they adults with a teen mentality? It’s part of the mystery. And if I told you the truth, I’m not sure you would believe me. That would be an understandable reaction, because sometimes I’m not even sure I believe myself. But we will all find out once the mystery of The Midnight Detective Club is solved.

In the mean time, enjoy Where’s the Magic Gone? and What Destiny Has Planned on music streaming and download services, and ponder your past and future selves.

Song links live from 11th August.

The Midnight Detective Club, Where's the Magic Gone? cover art

The Midnight Detective Club

I’ve been mulling over the idea for this creative project for a few years now, but The Midnight Detective Club is one of those grand ideas that I’ve had to take time over to work out what I want to do with it, and how I piece it together. The concept is focused on a number of things:

  • A Nancy Drew / Scooby Doo type mystery
  • A nod to early 1980s pop groups and culture surrounding them
  • An art/fashion exhibition
  • Personal experiences

My biggest dilemma was trying to decide on which is the best way to frame it as a digital project, and the best tools to use. I’ve now decided that it will take the form of a chapter based digital narrative with varying elements of gameplay and puzzle solving, and I’ll be using a variety of digital tools to represent each chapter. At present these tools include:

  • Twine – text based interactive fiction
  • Artsteps – 3D virtual online exhibition
  • Pico-8 – a game engine with an early 1980s aesthetic
  • Canva – design software

I have the broad ideas mapped out and roughly know where it all joins up and how the chapters cross paths, and I’m now working on the basics of a few chapters. The most progress I’ve made so far is researching the 1980s pop group/fashion, band based game, and the teen mystery elements, and turning some of that into cover artwork, which you can see below.