To remark that the modern Internet user is overstimulated in 2019, is to call water wet.
Every day entities from advertisers to brands to non-profits engage in a battle our attention spans. Even entertaining activities or products—like games—that are meant to grant us a moment of reprieve often result in sensory overload. That is especially true for children.
That’s why Berlin-based app and games studio Fox & Sheep set out to create SHINE – Journey of Light, a game that relies more on simplicity and joy than information overload. The game, with its 40 hand-built levels, won the People’s Voice Award in Family & Kids for Games.
We spoke with Timo Dries, Executive Director at Fox & Sheep about what inspired this project, the current state of the gaming industry, and what this honor means to his team.
Read our Q&A below, and enter your work before the extended deadline: Friday, Feb. 7th.
SHINE is a beautiful game following a light beam making its way through darkness to find others. How did this game idea come to you?
We set out to create a game that didn’t feed on the players’ dopamine level. The goal was to make a side-scroller (one of our favorite genres) that can be enjoyed by players of all ages. Our first big task then was to reduce the information overload on the screen. That sounds easier than it was. After rewatching the Goonies with my kids, I thought it would be cool to recreate the feeling of discovering a cave labyrinth only with the help of torch and searching beautiful levels to find a way back out. We defined a couple of design principles to help us stay on track of our mission and after a couple of iterations we ended up with the light idea you see in SHINE today.
In many ways, the game is a counter narrative to the busy, highly saturated games that are popular today. What do you want players of all ages to take away from SHINE’s narrative?
Discovery is one of the primal enjoyments we have as humans. More and more we are being shown and told what is going on without having the chance to be curious about it. As a kid, I was so excited for mystery and being able to uncover things on my own that I wanted that feeling for our players when they entered the game. We want our players to feel like there is a whole world of mystery and adventure to be discovered and that it can be relaxing and calm.
Between SHINE’s 40 hand-built levels, and its soundtrack by composer Christian Maier, it stands out as particularly intricate in the game world. Do you see games moving in this uniquely creative direction in the future?
There are already a lot of unique and very beautiful games and we see there is a need for it. But it is extremely hard to position these games on the market since most of these games are coming from indie studios and simply don’t have the big marketing budgets of major studios. All digital game stores are extremely overcrowded and beautiful art games are struggling more and more to be found.
Your 5-Word Speech at The Webby Awards was “growing up is giving up.” Can you expand on that, and what that means to your team?
As adults we tend to forget what’s fun and while we look at numbers and graphs, optimize workflows, etc, we become incapable of creating products that are fun and have a purpose. At Fox & Sheep we always remind ourselves to stay funny and foolish, wild and weird, hungry and humble. And most importantly to stay unreasonable (at least sometimes). Besides that, looking at what is going on in the world right now, it is quite obvious to us that kids are the better humans and grown ups have really gotten the world into a huge mess.
You won the Webby Award for Family & Kids in Games. Congratulations! What does your Webby Award win mean for your team and your work?
Technology is moving faster than anything else right now and digital creators now have an opportunity to be pioneers. We were astounded by the work and bravery of the other award winners who truly are making a difference in this hyper-connected world. We were so honored to be apart of that same community and the award drove home for us the responsibility we have to make the world a better place and try to make something that will make a difference in people’s lives through digital forms.