Tayside and Central Scotland

New approach to games at Abertay digital graduate show

Turing house Image copyright Abertay University
Image caption One student created a game where the player explores Alan Turing's house the day after his death

New approaches to video games and digital art are on show at a Dundee university.

A video game where the player explores a digital replica of the home of Alan Turing the day after the computing pioneer's death is among the exhibits at the Abertay digital graduate show.

Other exhibits created by final-year students explore the use of graphics and education in digital media.

The Abertay University show is open through the weekend.

One of the most in-depth and emotional games at the show focuses on the death of Alan Turing, a leading mind in the development of computer science who is thought to have committed suicide after being persecuted for his homosexuality.

Game design and production management student Luke Powney believes Turing remains an unsung hero, and created a game which is set hours after his death.

Players explore a replica of Turing's house, discovering his diary notes and personal belongings - including Snow White memorabilia in a nod to the mathematician's love of Disney - and through them his feelings of isolation.

Image copyright Abertay University
Image caption Turing was a huge fan of Disney animation, which is alluded to in the game
Image copyright Abertay University
Image caption Diary notes and personal belongings help the player understand Turing's feelings of isolation

"Game design is an incredibly creative medium, and I wanted to explore how interacting with an ordinary-looking house and personal items could draw a player into the emotions and pressures Alan Turing faced," said Mr Powney.

"People can have a very limited view of what games are, assuming that they're all about violence, but there's a real movement towards independent, creative, artistic games taking on major social problems."

Despite formalising the concepts of computation and the algorithm, and breaking German ciphers at Bletchley Park during World War Two, Turing was arrested and tried for homosexuality in 1952.

He died two years later of cyanide poisoning, which an inquest ruled to be suicide despite the protests of his mother.

'Unbelievable treatment'

Mr Powney said: "There is still a great deal of homophobia around the world.

"There could be another Alan Turing out there, with the intelligence and commitment to make huge advances in science and mathematics, but who commits suicide because of the persecution they face.

"The way Turing was treated is unbelievable, regardless of his huge contributions to military code-breaking and to the eventual end of World War Two.

"I just hope that projects like this, and the publicity this year around the 60th anniversary of his tragic suicide, helps more people learn about this story."

The game is one of dozens of projects on show as part of Abertay University's digital graduate show, where final-year students show off their work.

Image copyright Abertay University
Image caption Liene Birka's project, Dawn, is a digital simulation of a hand-crafted paper woodland

For her project, Liene Birka created a digital woodland which looks as if its been hand-crafted from paper.

She said she wanted her project, Dawn, to challenge ideas of what video game graphics could be.

"Craftsmanship is not a word commonly associated with video games, but I believe it should be. A lot of people with unique talents apply their imagination and work tirelessly to create new and innovative games.

"However, I think that the perfect shapes and gradients, the smooth animation of digital media takes away the small imperfections normally left by the human hand.

"I wanted to see if I could evoke that appreciation for the hand-crafted in a purely digital medium."

And fellow computer arts student Laurel Gattenby also approached games from a different angle while creating an educational game starring otters.

Image copyright Abertay University
Image caption Laurel Gattenby's educational design stars otters in a colourful forest
Image copyright Abertay University
Image caption The game replaces the unpopular paid-for mechanics of 'freemium' titles with learning opportunities

She created a game in the style of "freemium" games, which offer addictive free content before charging players for progression or features - except with quizzes and learning opportunities in the place of high prices unlocking extras.

She said: "I kept seeing articles and hearing fellow developers complain about freemium design. I noticed that especially in the articles, the problem wasn't the game - it was the money-leeching aspect of the design.

"People don't like to feel like they're being taken advantage of, but they usually genuinely seemed to like and want to play the game. The frustration comes from being blocked from progression within a game by expensive premium purchases.

"Educational game design has been an interest of mine for a while, so I decided to replace the aspect of freemium games that people hate with something more positive - learning."

The digital graduate show is open from 12:00 to 16:00 on Saturday and Sunday, and from 09:00 to 12:00 on Monday.

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