V&A Dundee’s first videogame commission



February 8, 2019

Introducing the winner of our digital commission, Plaything.

To complement our next exhibition Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt (20 April to 8 September 2019), we have commissioned an online game that explores character development and the idea of self in videogames.

The winning commission came from filmmaker Will Anderson and game maker Niall Tessier-Lavigne. Having initially met online through a mutual admiration for one another’s work, the two recently started working together. Though they’ve historically worked in separate media, they share a common set of experiences through growing up in the Highlands and approach many creative problems with a similar vision. The pair will also collaborate with Kirsty Keatch and Keith Duncan on the sound design for the game.

Game maker Niall Tessier-Lavigne (left) and game maker Will Anderson (right), creators of Plaything.

Our digital commission is their first project together. Plaything will be a joyous and intimate web-based game, with a blend of hand-crafted animation and interactive generative art, allowing you to create a small animated character in your browser. You’ll spend as much time with it as you want to give in a playful back and forth, with longer engagement deepening your relationship. Think of a beautifully hand-crafted creature that grows with you, an ever-curious companion you can hold in your hands and close to your heart.

An early test, beginning to breathe life into a Plaything.

You’ll notice small changes in its behaviour and environment over time as it learns from your experiences together. When time with your Plaything inevitably ends, it will fade away from the world you built together, leaving behind a small memory, a looping film. This snapshot of your fleeting friend acts as a kind of digital eulogy, which can be shared with the world (or kept personal and private).

Will you be able to just start again? You might need some time before you do.

Initial sketches and ideas.

As part of this digital commission, we hope to unpack the process of game design. In the run-up to and during the exhibition, we’ll share behind the scenes glimpses, inviting you to come on the journey with us. We want you to be part of the project too and will have some exciting opportunities where the public can playtest the game at the museum, letting their experience shape the game itself.

Will and Niall at work in the studio.

Plaything’s development will be supported by InGAME: Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise, the newly-opened gaming research and innovation centre based in Dundee. InGAME is part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, via the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, and the Scottish Funding Council.

Niall and Will have also secured funding from Creative Scotland, to create a mobile version of Plaything after the online game is complete.

Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt focuses on videogames designed and developed since the mid-2000s when major technological advancements transformed the way games are designed, discussed and played. From multi-million-dollar blockbuster titles to smaller independent games and the work of DIY artists from a hacker/maker culture, the exhibition explores current international debates as well as the creative contributions made to game culture by the players themselves.

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