Posts tagged awards
GDC 2018 wrap-up

By Jon Manning (@desplesda), co-founder of Secret Lab.

Alec Holowka accepting the Seumas McNally Grand Prize for Night in the Woods at the 2018 Independent Games Festival.

So, I’m back from GDC 2018.

We’ve been going to GDC for 9 years now. If we go next year, I’ll have been wandering in and out of the Moscone Centre for a decade.

We started going to GDC because we were living in California, and happened to have the spare resources and time to attend it. We were always attending from the viewpoint that it would be useful to have an idea of what the game dev community is like, and to try to do the thing that business types call “networking” and regular humans call “making friends”. We didn’t realise they were the same thing until our fifth year of going.

Like many attendees at GDC, we were going aspirationally. While we’ve always been game developers—our first ever release was a tiny little competitive puzzler called Culture, in 2008—we never felt like we were part of the larger conversation, and I’m pretty sure that that feeling I shared with most people I see who aren’t frequently seen in groups in the halls.

I don’t have any advice here for people who want to change that for themselves. All I have is that, around the time we started working on Night in the Woods, I had a group of friends who all work in the same field and never see each other except at international gatherings like GDC. While not all of these people are team members on the game we worked on, having a thing that serves as the anchor for a group that we’re part of made my experience significantly less lonely, and a lot more focused.

This is the second GDC that I’ve given a talk at. This year, I talked about Grabthar’s Hammer, the compression technique that we built for the iOS version of Night in the Woods. People liked the talk! I had a number of people with questions afterwards, and I think I answered them pretty well. They’ll have ended up on the recording. I’ll probably end up cringing hugely when I review the video. Worth it.

This is the first GDC in which a game we worked on was up for awards at either the Independent Games Festival or the Game Developers Choice Awards. Night in the Woods was up for three awards in each. People like the game, I think. That’s nice.

Night in the Woods won two awards, both of them in the Independent Games Festival. We won Excellence in Narrative, and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, and it felt weird and good to be at the table and hear it. For each of the awards that we were nominated for, I’d picked out a game that wasn’t ours that we were rooting for, and at the moment of the announcement, I was crossing my fingers for them. For the awards that we didn’t win, my picks won about half the time; for the times we did win, it was a huge surprise. I think I remember loudly shouting “what the fuck” when the announcement for the Grand Prize was made.

We’d already met before the event, and talked about what our plans were if we won. We didn’t want to bore the audience with everyone having a chance to talk, so we decided to limit who was going to talk; Scott, as the primary face of the game, would speak, and if we won the grand prize, we’d take advantage of the fact that it was the end of the event to get others to say a few words.

I don’t remember much about the journey up to the stage. I do remember focusing on the fact that I was potentially on camera, so I had to maintain my stage face. I do remember noticing, for the first time, that you can’t hear what the person at the microphone is saying. I had to wait until I was back home and could watch the recording to hear what Scott, Alec, Bethany and Bekah had said.

After you’re done giving whatever remarks you have, you’re taken off stage, and led into an area with cameras and people who want to take pictures. I don’t remember much about this either, but I do remember being formed into a line and having pictures taken. There are selfies on my phone with Adam and Bekah that I only fuzzily remember.

We ended up leaving the awards shortly after the final award we were nominated for was announced. We walked down to Zero Zero, and ordered pizza. Adam proposed a toast. It was the same toast he’d given last year, less than a week after the game’s launch: “It shouldn’t have worked.”

People usually warn against putting people on pedestals. Having attended GDC and other community events as a face in the crowd, it’s hard to avoid doing that. This is the GDC in which a lot of my heroes came down off the pedestals, and I ended up just hanging out with them and making friends. I left GDC more emotionally fulfilled than when I came in. The indie games scene (which is a very specific thing, and is not the only group of people independently producing games) relies very much on personal networks of friends, and until you have that relationship, it can feel quite isolating.

Team Night in the Woods, on the last day of GDC 2018. From left to right: Jon Manning, Alec Holowka, Em Halberstadt, Adam Saltsman, Rebekah Saltsman, Bethany Hockenberry, Scott Benson. Photo taken by Felix Kramer.

We need to get back to work on Night in the Woods now! More from us soon...


Winners at the 20th AIMIA Awards

As we posted about a few months ago, we were really excited to learn that an app we built was nominated for two AIMIA Awards. We're now thrilled to report that the app, Play School Play Time for iPad, built for the ABC, was the winner of the 20th AIMIA Award "Best of Tablet – Entertainment" category, as well as the overall "Best of Tablet"! You can watch the winners videos on the AIMIA website.

We couldn't be more thrilled! We're incredibly proud of the Play School apps, and enjoyed working with the ABC team. The ABC team included: David Glen, James Welbourn (pictured), Priscilla Davies, Tali Gal-on, Peter Marks, Jake MacMullin, Sam Gain-Emery (Sonar Sound), Luke Mynott (Sonar Sound), and Kate Highfield (Education Advisor). Thank you all!

If you haven't already checked out Play School Play Time for iPad, check it out and let us know what you think!



Go South Awards

Yesterday the Go South Awards were announced in Hobart. The Go South Awards is a competition to design and develop an amazing new app, of any kind, for Tasmania.

The competition has some really solid prize money, and looks like an excellent opportunity for app developers and students hoping to make their mark! Check out the Go South Awards website (built by our friends at Ionata and onetonne) for more information.

We're really thrilled to see an event like this pop up in Tasmania, and commend our friends in the Tasmanian Government, TasICT, and the ACS for collaborating on it. 


Secret Lab are finalists in the 20th AIMIA Awards
Secret Lab built the Play School Play Time app for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Secret Lab built the Play School Play Time app for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

We're really excited that Play School Play Time for iPad, an app we built for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is a finalist in two categories of the 20th AIMIA Awards!

Play School Play Time is a finalist in "Best of Tablet – Entertainment" and "Best of Tablet – Learning and Education". 

If you haven't checked out the app, if you're in Australia you can grab it from the App Store here, for free, or here, if you're elsewhere!

We're thrilled that Secret Lab is in such good company again this year! Previously, in the 19th AIMIA Awards, Play School Art Maker for iPad, also built by Secret Lab for the ABC was a finalists in "Effectiveness", "Best Application for a Tablet", and "Best Children's", and in the 18th AIMIA Awards, Foodi for iPad was a finalist in "Best Cultural or Lifestyle", and Play School Art Maker for iPad was a finalist in "Best Application on a Tablet or Mobile".

Recently, we were also thrilled to win a Tasmanian ICT Industry Award for 2013, for our work on innovative apps for kids! 


Tasmanian ICT Industry Awards 2013

We're absolutely thrilled to have won a TASICT award last night at the Tasmanian ICT Industry Awards for 2013. We won the "Best Software Product" award for our work on innovative apps for kids. Thanks to TASICT, TasmaNet for sponsoring the particular award that we won, and Michael Ferguson for presenting the award to us. Congratulations to all the other amazing nominees and winners: Elan Projects, Jobric, CGI, ISW, Vodafone, Anittel, Kingborough Council, UXC Eclipse, Ionata Web Solutions, Synateq, Acrodata, Aurora Energy, and RBF. Thanks also to the event sponsors: Autech, Fuji Xerox, Insight4, Aurora Energy, HP, Hays, Anittel, and the Tasmanian Government.

Don't forget to check out Malcolm Turnbull's recorded message, regarding the NBN, on YouTube (thanks, Josh Deprez!)