Vancouver's infamy as a hotbed of the gaming industry is more than deserved, thanks to the triple-A behemoths, the flurry of independent developers, and all of the talent distributed between them. But it's also home to one of Canada's most innovative transmedia companies—though they would not encourage use of that word.
“Story design company and experimental game developers,” is how Lucas J.W. Johnson prefers to describe Silverstring Media's work. “It includes transmedia, but transmedia is only one part of what we do. Over the past year and a half, so much more of our energy has been in the game design industry.”
He wasn't kidding. If you've been to a game jam in the past year, you likely ran into the Silverstring Media team. Johnson and his partner, Andrew Grant Wilson, have been regular sights to be seen at Vancouver tech events. Location is irrelevant; they've created games for the MIT Game Labs QUILTBAG Game Jam, the 2014 Global Game Jam, the 2013 Full Indie Game Jam, and the I Am a Gamer jam. (Full disclosure: I've known Lucas J.W. Johnson had a talent for interactive story telling for 8 years—he ran my college D&D campaign.)
Silverstring Media released its first major original game for free in May 2014, and now are hoping to use Glitchhikers to support more great experimental game-making. As part of IndieGameStand.com's Pay What You Want feature game sale, which runs until August 2, all proceeds made by sales of Glitchhikers will be donated to Toronto-based organization Dames Making Games.
Silverstring Media is wholly dedicated to supporting feminism and diversity in games. It consciously made every character in Glitchhikers a woman, and wants to support more women and minorities in sharing their voices in the medium.
"Any artistic culture, movement, style, or medium worthy of the name must encourage, protect, and heed marginalized voices," says Andrew Grant Wilson. "I'm not sure if videogames as a whole could be described as 'heeding marginalized voices' yet, but I do know that organizations like DMG are the best argument that they are."
Glitchhikers has seen reviews and articles on sites from Kotaku to Indie Statik to Kill Screen, with reviews universally positive. The experimental game is about the experience of driving alone late at night, listening to weird music on the radio, and thinking thoughts you’d never have anywhere else. The titular glitchhikers that you pick up on the road are interesting characters, to say the least, and there's not a normal conversation to be had with any one of them.
IndieGameStand usually gives 10% of PWYW feature sales to a charity of the developer's choice, but Silverstring Media decided to give all proceeds to Dames Making Games instead.
"We're thrilled and very honoured that Silverstring Media has chosen to support the work of DMG with the proceeds from Glitchhikers," says DMG co-founder Cecily Carver. "Their support will help us to continue fostering and supporting the work of dames in our community who make, change, and play games, and we couldn't be happier that they share those goals."
Until Vancouver has its own branch of Dames Making Games, or a comparable organization of its own, Silverstring Media is proud to throw its weight behind DMG. WiG (Women in Games) Vancouver hasn't held an event since April, and the majority of their events are networking mixers or burlesque fetes. Dames Making Games, founded in 2012, runs monthly events, regular workshops, and quarterly game jams to foster the women of Toronto's gaming community. The next event, an introductory panel to the different tools of the game-designing trade, will be held on August 9.