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Game Design students pitch their ideas to Wits VC

The 3rd year Wits Game Design students got the opportunity to pitch their ideas for a “Wits University game”  to the Vice Chancellor, Prof Adam Habib. The class was offered the opportunity to develop browser-based games that would market and publicise the University.  They jumped at the opportunity and have been working since the beginning of the semester to develop their initial game ideas.  On Tuesday 18th August, they presented their ideas to the VC and the Head of Wits Marketing, Ferna Clarkson, in the Council Chambers on the 11th Floor of Senate House. The three teams of students each presented their ideas for games, using MS PowerPoint to sketch out their visual concepts and game play ideas. The VC was delighted by the variety in the three games and the way that the games would appeal to different audiences.  All three teams were given the go-ahead to develop their games with the VC urging them to be subversive and to stress the fun of being a student at Wits....

Using the Ponte to create Sound Art

Since graduating with an MA in Interactive Media from Wits Digital Arts in 2012,  Pauline Theart has  continued to explore the possibilities of Sound Art in a South African context.  Theart uses uses her voice and traditional Afrikaans song structures to explore and redefine culturally significant architectural spaces within the South African urban environment.  In this piece, performed inside Ponte City, a dystopian Johannesburg Brutalist landmark built in the 1970s, Theart sang a traditional Afrikaans lullaby over a one hour period on Friday 20 June 2014. The German writer  Norman Ohler wrote “Ponte sums up all the hope, all the wrong ideas of modernism, all the decay, all the craziness of the city. It is a symbolic building, a sort of white whale, it is concrete fear, the tower of Babel, and yet it is strangely beautiful” Situating herself on the Witwatersrand rock at the base of the building, and using her voice as an instrument to articulate spacial dynamics,  Theart used the resonances offered by the vast architectural forms of the the 54-story Ponte City tower and its raw concrete foundations to sound out the intimidating beauty of  the tallest residential structure in Africa. [photos by Christo...

Digital Soiree: Warren Louw

On 28 May 2014 the Digital Arts faculty was graced by the presence of Illustrator Warren Louw. Louw was welcomed by a packed seminar room full of students and lecturers, both eager to learn from his experience as a local as well as international Digital illustrator. Having worked as an Illustrator for some of the biggest gaming and comic franchises worldwide, Louw did not disappoint in sharing his experiences with the crowd for the benefit of budding illustrators within the digital art faculty. Speaking respectively of his roles as both artist and professional freelancer, Louw spoke about the challenges he’s faced in refining his art, as well as those faced in a professional capacity, advising aspiring illustrators on the ins and outs of the job. Louw was a great sport in answering the many questions fired at him by the crowd, and encouraged young artists to keep working towards their dream, focusing on the fundamentals of drawing and always remaining modest enough to be able to grow and...

Mid Year Interactive Installation Exam Exhibition

All are welcome to attend the mid year interactive media installation exam exhibition. The exhibition features installation work by the MA in interactive digital media practice course. These are first time installations developed by individual students and driven by their particular research or artistic interests in interactive...

Andrew S. Walsh – Games Writing Workshop at Digital Arts

Wits Digital Arts, in association with The Writers Guild of South Africa, recently hosted the award winning games writer Andrew S. Walsh. Andrew’s background is in theatre and film but he has moved his focus to games and has worked on over 60 games, including Prince of Persia (2008) and the upcoming Fable Legends. The two-day workshop that Andrew presented was superb. Detailing the experiences he has had in writing for games, Andrew presented those in attendance with means for writing scripts and a clear indication of the difficulties of writing for games. His infectious enthusiasm for games and for telling stories in whatever way possible was inspiring. But he made it abundantly clear that writing for games in not an easy game to play. The role that Andrew fills (and all games writers) is an often constricted and bleak one. Games are inherently interactive experiences that are built on the mechanics and gameplay. When we play a game, even if it is a narrative driven game, we are most aware or at least mostly engaged with what can and can’t be done in game. We don’t care what the justification is for the protagonist’s ability to ‘double jump’ is, we just want to make it across some chasm or gaping hole. The writer must fill in the gaps, they must make the system seem like it is responding directly to what the player is doing. Andrew explained that the writer always serves the game designer, the game mechanics and the possibilities of graphics.  The writer is always telling a story, but games are not made to tell a...

Rick Treweek at the Digital Soiree – The Mind of Machines

Rick Treweek is an artist, game developer and all round tinkerer who has been making a living making games in Singapore for the past few years. He’s recently made a return to South Africa, and Wits Digital Arts was lucky enough to have him come talk to us. To start off his lecture, Rick took us through his background of the past few years. He moved to Singapore to pursue his company’s interests and ending up focusing on making games for mobile. During this period he began playing around with clay, making characters in his spare time. Soon these characters were transformed into characters for the games they were making and this resulted in an avid following that was around simply for the iconic characters that Rick created. For Rick, this was a dream, he says that “seeing your characters in a game is the closest you can come to seeing them come to life.” That was until he discovered 3D printing.   Since then he’s been taking his character creations one step further, now printing out his characters into beautifully printed toy versions of the characters his mind summons. As if that wasn’t enough, Rick began to experiment with how he could turn his printed characters into all manner of gadgets. One he showed us at the soiree was a little character that had housed within it a Rasberry PI, a mini computer. He also had plans to use his characters to cover security cameras so that they might appear a little more lively when they gaze over you. Following his general introduction, Rick took an extended Q&A...

Tegan Bristow: Visiting Artist at VCU Qatar

In April I (Tegan Bristow – Interactive Digital Arts) had the great opportunity to be visiting artist to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Qatar in the Middle East. This was a short week and a half in which I presented artworks developed between 2008 to present, focusing on community orientated artist practice and collaborative engagements in the arts and technology from performance through to installation practice. In addition to presenting my work as an artist I ran a two day workshop with Faculty and Postgraduate students at VCU on using the XBox Kinect Sensor for video and sound control. In this workshop I covered a quick version of topics taught in the Interactive Media course at Wits. In this particular workshop the focus was on the workings of the XBox Kinect sensor and the techniques used in accessing Kinect data in Max/ MSP and Jitter patches and working this data from there to adjust particle systems, video and sound. Artist Talk to VCU Art and Design Faculty. Tegan Bristow demo’ing (using Synapse) of OpenNI points in Kinect Workshop Part of being a visiting artist was to also see how VCU operates and also the opportunity to critique and address the work of VCU’s MFA students. Next to Wits, VCU is very incredibly  well equipped, I was literally drooling over the Maker Lab  – which had no less that 3 3D printers and every other imaginable machine for material production. The school has a very strong design and art production aspect to it’s curriculum. Diane Derr who was running Arduino and Physical Computing courses with the students and building the...

Hello Computer Hack-a-thon

  Hello Computer is a Johannesburg based digital ad agency, committed to innovation on the traditional model of digital marketing. Speaking yesterday at the Digital Soiree held at the Wits Digital Art seminar room, Keri Friend and Nathan Gates explained Hello Computer’s unconventional methods of mobilizing creative minds to produce original ideas , and making the digital sphere an active part of the creative campaign process (instead of a detached afterthought). The primary method was the idea of “Hackathons”.  These are project based hack events, involving teams of creative technologists working toward marvellously outlandish creative projects, self-designed to get creative minds ticking and actively creating. The seminar room, packed with students of the digital arts and gaming faculties, watched enthralled  as the pair showcased their past projects as devised in previous hackathons. An invitation was then extended to students of digital arts  to apply to join the Wits team in competing in the next hackathon event for XooXity. The twelve hour event is set to be held on 15 March, and will see digital creatives from various institutions go head to head for top...

Digital Soiree: Bozza.mobi

To be presented by Bozza’s Head of Content Nicole Klassen: Nicole Klassen has worked in television, film and animation, but her passion is a technology start-up, Bozza, a content-on-demand app that at one point was downloaded 40 000 times in three days. In her industry the demand for African content is growing; her job is to turn that into economic opportunity. It’s work that requires tenacity for unearthing talent and drive to find innovative ways to unlock revenue opportunities for that talent. But she is not a bleeding-heart creative. Klassen makes use of a very strong network, cultivated during her time at the Cape Film Commission, as a board member of Animation SA, and in her travels as speaker. In 2013 she was recognized by the Mail & Guardian as one of South Africa’s 200 young...

Daniel Matros

    Daniel Matros drew in the crowds to the Digital Art’s Seminar room last night and by no means were they disappointed with his talk on producing one of the biggest AAA games to be launched this year: Battlefield 4.  Aspiring students, game designers and producers listened intently to what it is like to work for a major games company such as Dice and producing blockbuster games that are expected to sell more than twenty million copies and have budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars. Matros also expressed his experiences of   living in the first-World country of Sweden and all the benefits that come with working there, contrasting it to his many experiences of a faulty Garmin in South Africa and Johannesburg with his local fiancé, which he describes as a ‘great place, dangerous, but great!’ Matros, a self-confessed non-PowerPoint designer, who works  for Dice, has produced titles such as Bad Company 2: Vietnam, Battlefield:3 (Strike at Karkand; Close Quarters and Armoured Kill) and Battlefield: 4. I can definitely identify him as the Swede that he described: relaxed, calm and methodical.  This made the talk relaxed and enjoyable, with a welcoming feeling when someone wanted to ask challenging questions or just wanted a chat afterwards. Matros even gave the second-year games a look at and a crit, inspiring the students to work for the opportunity to work for a big company such as Dice. Although explaining the joys of working at a company that makes AAA games, Matros puts a major emphasis on the fact the indie market is opening up and that students should feel excited...

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