Introducing Graduate Research Assistant Waylon Wilson!

Waylon Wilson is from the Tuscarora Nation, Deer clan. Raised in the Nyučirhę’e (Tuscarora Nation Territory), Waylon’s culture and nationhood are a critical influence to his research as an experimental game developer, artist, designer, and scholar; to that end, he utilizes his lens as a Tuscarora man to address critical Indigenous and environmental issues.

He is a Master of Design student at Concordia University and recently graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies from University at Buffalo, majoring in production and Game Studies. He is a Co-coordinator and Media Instructor for the Indigenous youth program, Skarùrę’ Awękwehstá:θe:’.

Waylon’s media work centers on encoding critical Indigneous thought and perspectives into interactive forms of media towards education, both on- and off-screen.

You can find more information on Waylon and his portfolio here.

A Chance to Reflect: AbTeC Research Assistants Talk About Their Time in Hawaiʻi

This summer, from July 3 – August 3, a team of instructors made up of AbTeC staff delivered our sixth Skins workshop on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design. Now back at our lab and studio in Montreal, the they are putting the final touches on Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope, the game made by Ka Lei Milikaʻa–the He Au Hou 2 cohort–during our workshop at Hālau ‘Īnana in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

This year’s workshop was the result of our successful partnership with Kanaeokana and Kamehameha Schools. Kanaeokana is a network of Hawaiian organizations that works to strengthen a Native Hawaiian education system, ingrained in ʻōlelo Hawai‘i (the Hawaiian language) and ʻike Hawai‘i (Hawaiian worldviews). Kamehameha Schools directly educates over 6,900 K-12 Native Hawaiian students at multiple campuses and pre-schools throughout the state; they reach an additional 40,000 learners through other collaborations and programming.

The AbTeC staff are comprised mainly of Concordia students. We feel very lucky to have such talented and caring young people that we can bring with us into an experiential learning environment. We believe that while they are helping us deliver the workshop, they learn about teaching and cross-cultural communication, hone their own crafts and, we hope, make lifelong connections.

In this light, we asked the five Research Assistants who joined us to share their experiences and write about what they learned at He Au Hou 2 / Skins 6.0.

In gratitude,

[Jason Edward Lewis and Skawennati, Co-Directors]
Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace

Graduate Research Assistant Maize Longboat (third from right) shares his take on the game. Also pictured, from left to right, are Pono (a participant’s son); Skins staff instructor Victor Ivanov; and A’ali’i Kelling, participant.

Maize Longboat

My name is Maize Longboat and I am Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River. I served as the Assistant Producer of Skins 6.0 in the periods leading up to and immediately following the workshop. Under Nancy’s expert direction, my responsibilities included organizing curriculum documents, managing the packing of vital equipment and materials, conducting communications and liaising with participants and staff.

My Master’s research takes a practice-based approach to the study of Indigenous video games. Because of this, Jason and Skawennati offered me the possibility to attend this year’s workshop as a Participant. Having the opportunity to not only support the organization of the workshop, but to also get hands-on experience was very important for me. I especially valued learning the details of what it takes to actually make a game from beginning to end. From story and art, prototyping to programming, making games requires a lot of varied expertise and interdisciplinary cooperation. Being a part of Skins was vital for my personal growth as a game developer and researcher and I’m so thankful to have been a part of the game’s creation process.

I learned that I really enjoy prototyping game mechanics that align with the broader themes of game narrative. I worked closely on our Loko I’a (fishing) mini-game alongside another participant, Charmaine, to develop game mechanics that reflected managing food supplies. We wanted to teach players how to take only what they need, in order to ensure a bountiful future for their descendants.

Lastly, I learned that my fellow IIF Research Assistant colleagues and workshop instructors are patient and thorough mentors who cared about everyone’s learning experience. I thank them deeply for their generosity, guidance, and friendship during and after the workshop.

My fellow participants brought their good minds and work ethic into the workshop space everyday. Their desire to create a game that everyone could be proud of is clearly visible in the final product; it was because of their dedication and abilities that this game is as awesome as it is. I’m also happy to say that I made great friends along the way and I’m looking forward to witnessing how everyone utilizes the skills learned in this workshop in the future.

Speaking of skills, I learned that programming isn’t as complex as I thought that it might be! Obviously, it takes a lot of time and practice, just like any other language, but I now feel prepared to work with game code in my future projects. What a pleasant surprise!

I hope to see the partnership between IIF and Kanaeokana flourish as they conduct more collaborative creative projects. The two games produced in the past two years are fantastic examples of what Indigenous peoples can do with new media technologies when encouraged to build their capacity as creators. Nia:wen for the opportunity to contribute as both an IIF staff member and workshop participant!

Undergraduate Research Assistant Ray Tqoqweg Caplin (right) worked closely local instructor with Vance Martin (centre). Concordia Professor Rilla Khaled (left) led the assessment team.

Raymond Tqogweg Caplin

My role in Skins 6.0 was the 2.5D Cinematics Tech Lead and Instructor, which included camera work and the creation of background assets in the game’s cinematics, as well as instructing participants in how to write, design, and construct the artwork. My other responsibilities included teaching Photoshop and After Effects to participants, as well as lending my artistic skills when necessary.

I taught alongside one of the local staff, Vance Martin, who has decades of experience in television and corporate film production. We made a great team; his experience in technical production, coupled with my experience in artistic vision and expression, complimented each other, providing a balanced learning experience for the participants.

I learned several things during the workshop. For instance, being comfortable with speaking in front of others: I’ve always had trouble accurately expressing myself in front of large groups. Two things that really helped me through the course of the workshop were being better prepared before speaking, and, with each day, becoming more familiar with the participants.

The participants who were a part of the Cinematics team were friendly, passionate, and came well equipped: all had a basic knowledge of the software we were to work with, so it was enjoyable to expand on that knowledge since they were so eager to learn and help with the project.

Thanks to Vance, I gained a lot of experience in After Effects and general rules of production workflow. He consistently showed me things I didn’t know about the programs or workflow planning. His many years of experience left a great impact on both the participants and I.

Undergraduate Research Assistant Sam Bourgault gives a lesson. Pictured from left to right are Ikaika Bishop, Pippin Barr, TaraMarie Panoke, Maize Longboat, Leslie “Kehau” Agena, Charmaine Woodward, and Vance Martin.

Sam Bougault

Hello! My name is Sam and I was the Programming Lead for Skins 6.0. This role involved teaching lessons to familiarize the participants with Unity 3D, the game engine. I also taught some programming lessons to introduce the basics of code logic. I worked closely with Skins instructor Victor Ivanov and local instructor Corey Chang, which helped us give coherent lessons.

During these three weeks of fun and hard work, I realized how important it is to create a warm social context to foster learning. We were encouraged to share thoughts, food and free time with the participants, which really strengthened our ties to each other. This group cohesion was visible in the participants’ enthusiasm for the lessons. I also noticed that it is more productive to congratulate learners when they’ve achieved something they hadn’t tried before, rather than getting lost in the details of any given topic. In this way, participants build confidence and aim to tackle new challenges.

The participants of Skins 6.0 were striking in many ways: always motivated to learn new technical skills, emotionally intelligent, and culturally wise. They made me think a lot about my own culture, my relation to the land and my links to colonization. The whole experience deeply inspired others and myself. I believe that, in the end, inspiration is the most valuable thing we have to trigger changes.

Undergraduate Research Assistant Victor Ivanov and Graduate Research Assistant Maize Longboat strike a pose!

Victor Ivanov

My name is Victor Ivanov. For Skins 6.0, I took on the role of Level Design Lead, and I played active roles in the programming and audio units of the workshop.

I taught Level Design Theory, covering topics such as how narrative unfolds through environments, stylistic choices, and mood; through this, participants learned how to achieve these effects on a practical level. I also taught some Engine lessons with Sam Bourgault and Corey Chang, where we focused on familiarizing the participants with Unity, a game engine, and its various components. Finally, I taught the Audio and Atmosphere lessons alongside Kauwila Mahi and Matt Sproat, two very talented artists who, with their expansive approaches to making music, created a very knowledgeable and well-rounded team.

I firmly believe that teaching is one of the best ways to learn, and the workshop only confirmed this theory! On multiple occasions, a participant would notice something I had not, or have an eye for design and make beautiful levels, or come up with an interesting way to solve a programming problem.

I was impressed by how adept participants became after such a short amount of time; that meant that we all were learning. Not to mention, the sheer amount knowledge about the Hawaiian world each of them held was extremely insightful. What was most impressive was how respectful, understanding, and mature everyone was throughout the entirety of the workshop. It allowed a large group of people from different walks of life to come together and make something greater than the sum of its parts, and for that we should all be proud.

Undergraduate Research Assistant Kahentawaks Tiewishaw holds Bijou the Bunny, Honorary Production Assistant.

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw

My name is Kahentawaks Tiewishaw and I’m Mohawk from Kanehsatà:ke. My role in Skins 6.0 was the 3D Lead. Along with my local counterpart, John Mervin, I taught participants 3D modeling, UV mapping, texturing, rigging, and animation.

Working with the participants was an absolute dream because everyone was as kind and welcoming, as they were talented and perseverant. Learning these skills in a very short time, and then jumping right into production is no easy feat! I’m extremely impressed with the work they all did.

Even though I was an instructor in this workshop, I ended up learning a few things myself. It provided me the opportunity to improve on my technical abilities and teaching skills. When Skins 6.0 began, I naturally had a few doubts about how good of an instructor I would be. Being able to do something yourself and being able to teach others how to do it are two entirely separate things! However, I guess you could say this experience was a bit of a trial by fire, as it forced me to look at things as if I was approaching the software for the first time. This granted me a deeper understanding of my craft.

After all, I’ve heard it said that the best way to see if you really know something is to try to explain it to someone else!

‘AbTeC Electronica’

 

AbTeC invades the continent with a strong showing at the Ars Electronica Festival!

You’ll have a number of opportunities to see the work of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) affiliates and to learn more about the community we are proud to foster.

First, we are delighted to have received an Honourable Mention in the Digital Communities category of the Prix Ars Electronica 2018! By creating links between Indigenous people, communities and organizations; bringing together Indigenous storytelling and cultural knowledge with new media; and supporting dialogues on Indigeneity, technology, and the future, we will help to build creative and caring communities. We thank the Prix Ars Electronica for this recognition.

On this note, we give our happiest congratulations to Undergraduate Research Assistant Lucas LaRochelle, whose community-generated counter-mapping project, Queering the Map, also received an Honourable Mention in the Digital Communities category. Queering The Map creates a map-based archive in which users can bear witness to “queer moments, memories and histories in relation to physical space”.

KITE (aka Suzanne Kite) is a Graduate Research Assistant, who is pursuing an Individualized PhD at Concordia. As part of the Hexagram Network’s Campus Ars Electronica group show, “Taking Care”, Suzanne will give three performances of her iterative, multimedia art work, Listener.  Developed from our Skins Seventh Generation Character Design Workshops, KITE thinks through embodied connection to technology and the land and Lakota ways of knowing.

Finally, Undergraduate Research Assistant Sam Bourgault collaborated with artist and Design and Computation Arts Masters student Augustina Isidori to create SOLA, which explores the tensions in walking at night in the context gender-based violence.  Sam collaborated as the project’s Unity Developer.

 

 

 

 

Click on the above links to find our more about AbTeC’s presence
at Ars Electronica 2018!

Post-production: playtesting and iteration

Here are some pictures from the post-production phase of He Au Hou 2 / Skins 6.0.

Right now, workshop participants and our team of Research Assistants are playtesting and iterating ‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope’, the game made by Ka Lei Milikaʻa, during our workshop at Hālau ‘Īnana in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

This means we are looking for and correcting glitches and bugs; fine-tuning animations and transitions; putting the final touches on visual and written content; and ensuring that the final game meets up with the vision of Ka Lei Milikaʻa, this year’s He Au Hou 2 cohort.

Check back for more news on the final version of the game in a few weeks!

Much love!

The Skins Crew

The menu page of ‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope’. The game’s audio is in ʻOlelo Hawaiʻi, but you can choose to view the subtitles in English as well!
‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope’ teaches players about the land, the future, and culture.
Your Tūtū (grandmother) explains the stakes.
The game is centred on moʻolelo, or chanting, and pays respect to Kānaka maoli writing and literature.
Through three levels and mini-games, the player uses cultural knowledge to heal the land.
We’ll be back soon with a completed version of ‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā mamua, i ka wā mahope’!

 

 

Introducing Our Skins 6.0 Team, Part 2: The Old Guns

You’ve met the spring chickens, now face the old guns! You’ll recognize these seven faces from last year’s He Au Hou / Skins 5.0; they’re all returning as members of our Skins 6.0 team and we are ecstatic. See you soon!!! ♡

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2017.

Jason Edward Lewis

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

Co-director.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

Storytelling. I love hearing the stories that the storytellers and participants bring into the room, the discussions about different variations in thestories and what they might mean, the thinking about what teachings the stories are trying to convey, and figuring out how to pull ingredients from them to work in the game.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

I am looking forward to working with a new crew of participants. The Skins 5.0 participants were amazing, and this incoming class looks also amazing—but in different ways. I am looking forward to collaborating again with the Kamehameha Schools/Kanaeokana crew again, as we’re getting to know each other well and working more smoothly together because of it. I’m really looking forward to the game that they will make.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Explore the beaches with our boys. Give a couple of talks at local events. Catch up with the Skins 5.0 participants.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Feeling blessed!

Credit: Zoe Tennant. 2018.

Skawennati

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I am Co-Director of the Skins Workshops and am also one of the instructors. My area of expertise is transmediating Indigenous storytelling; basically, I translate oral tradition into movies and games.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

I love it when the story emerges! We start the workshop with a community story-telling event, where invited storytellers share with us traditional and/or contemporary histories, legends and tales. Then we decide together on a story we want to tell through the game we’ll be making. Sometimes it is very challenging for the group to come to a consensus, but it always works out it the end.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

We have refined our curriculum further, so this year I expect to have a smoother time in three most challenging segments of the workshop: deciding on a story, technical instruction and even production. Of course, work always expands to fill the time you have, so we shall see!

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Jason and I will be giving a talk at Art in Hawai‘i’s conference at Boxjelly on Digital Futures. I also hope to hike Diamond Head with Nancy and to worship the ocean as much as possible. Hawai‘i is a beautiful, powerful place!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

A very exciting element about this year’s workshop is that there will be “alumni” from last year who will now be instructors-in-training. The Skins workshops need more instructors so that they can be delivered in more places, more often!

Nancy-Elizabeth Townsend

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I am proud to be reprising my role as Coordinator / Producer for Skins 6.0. I have been part of the Skins Workshop Series since its beginnings ten years back when I was a “mere” undergrad 3D-art instructor. It is an honor to be invited back and to witness firsthand how this unique workshop has grown and improved with every iteration.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

In what I assume is a state unique to Producers, I personally flourish within the excitement-laced-stress of the final 3-day crunch. Game features are cut, added, and re-arranged to ensure a playable, beautiful monster of a project that we all birthed together. It is invigorating to witness and coach such a “miracle of life”!

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

At this point in my career, I have coordinated a dozen+ workshops and many game projects. If there is anything I have come to expect, it is not to be surprised by anything. Group projects are unavoidably messy and depend so strongly on individuals, team dynamics, the computer-crashing-Gods, even the weather can throw a development timeline off its rails. A successful workshop/production plan is a flexible one. I can only hope to expect that all participants glean some new cultural insights, technical skills and everyone leaves the workshop feeling empowered.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

As anyone can tell you, being away from home for a whole month can be difficult, especially as a parent. I am fortunate enough to have both my mother and 3-year-old daughter join me in Honolulu this year, mid-way through the workshop. I look forward to them experiencing the island in a context beyond mere tourism – meeting the brilliant team from Kanaeokana I have had the honour of working alongside and witnessing the importance and significance of such projects.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I apologize in advance for the too-many Final Fantasy references.

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2017.

Owisokon Lahache

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I will be writing a daily blog highlighting the amazing events of the Skins Workshops as the days unfold as well as working alongside Noelani Arista as a cultural consultant / elder.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

I love it when the participants arrive and the magic begins. My favourite part of the workshop is having the opportunity to share the experience writing about the development of their team, the experience, the passion for their learning all centred around Aloha culture is definitely a high point. It is truly  amazing to be a part of their camaraderie and honouring their ancestral knowledge with todays tools.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

I expect to see a whirlwind flurry of activity from both the presenters and the participants. I believe the mentors and participants will reach the tipping point that will enable them to continue to create unique cultural pieces long after the session ends.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

My husband will be joining me the first half of the workshop and I would like to spend some time with Tewenhni’tó:ken enjoying the land, ocean, and company of the Native Hawaiians. I would enjoy exploring, visiting the  Kanaka Maoli crafters and maybe do a little fishing too.

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2017.

Pippin Barr

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I’m at Skins 6.0 as an instructor for game design and prototyping, so I’ll be giving a few sessions about how to do practical game design. I’m also around as a game development generalist – I’ve made a lot of small videogames over the years and have picked up a bunch of different skills, including experience working with Unity, the game engine we’ll be using, programming in C#, and more!

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

It’s hard to pick out a single aspect of the workshop, because so much of it was so wonderful last year. Right at this moment I’d say it’s a tie between being immersed in Hawaiian culture, mo‘olelo, and aloha, and the production of the game itself in the final week, where we all get to work hard together and create something great!

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

If it’s anything like last year’s I’ll be really happy. Mostly I’m expecting to meet a new group of people with new ideas and relationships to the culture and the technology. As for what comes out of that… we’ll find out!

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

I’ll be going to Wailana Cofee House as soon as possible for the French toast with guava and the coconut syrup. Definitely want to get back to Bailey’s Antiques to check out the shirts there. Most of all I want to catch up with all the people from last year! I’ve missed seeing Nate, Rian, Vance, Maki‘ilei, Gonzo, Kēhau, and everyone else!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just can’t wait to be there!

Credit: Pippin Barr. 2018.

Rilla Khaled

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I’m the “assessment lead”. Basically, this means I am eyes and ears on how learning is taking place during the workshop.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

Based on my experience last year, it was doing the wrap up interviews with the participants and seeing how far everyone had come individually in terms of confidence, knowledge, motivation, and having formed a community with each other. It was very moving.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

From the Hawai‘i side, they will be as awesome as ever. I like to think that the Canadian team is coming back smarter, wiser, and with some tweaks to make the experience flow even better.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Many noodles will be eaten. Much sitting in the sun shall be done.

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2018.

Prem Sooriyakumar

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I was the documentarian (photo and video) on a daily basis I would document ever aspect of the workshop using photography and videography!

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

My favourite part was getting to know the participants on their journey to making the first Hawaiian video game!

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

I expect to continue to expand my knowledge about Hawai‘i and the wonderful community that surrounds the workshop!

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Yes, besides the wonderful people.. it is a unique place for food, i will be on a quest to try as many different places as possible.  And I will be going to all the various botanical gardens in O‘ahu.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Privileged and humbled to be part of the workshop again!!

Seven Generations Assemble! Skins Future Character Design Workshop with KSS

  • Location: Kahnawake Survival School, Kahnawake, QC
  • Date: April – May 2018
  • Duration: 5 sessions of 2 hours
  • Facilitators: Skawennati, Jason Edward Lewis, Nancy Elizabeth Townsend, Dominick Meissner (Behaviour Interactive), Vivian Herzog (Behaviour Interactive), Kahentawaks Tiewishaw, Raymond Caplin, Maize Longboat

Overview: In five lessons over two months, nine students from the Kahnawake Survival School were asked to imagine their future descendants and design a character with paper and pencil to be printed as a 3D model. They were taught the basics of 3D modelling, UV maps and texturing 3D objects, and how to rig and pose their 3D characters. The workshop concluded with a showcase of their printed characters.

View More on Flickr


The Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) and Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) just wrapped up a two-month long Skins Seventh Generation Character Design workshop with nine highschool youth from Kahnawake. This edition of the workshop was particularly special, as participants were not only able to conceptualize their seventh generation descendant using paper and pencil, but they also produced a digital model of their characters that was 3D printed into figurines that they could take home.

The workshops were organized by Owisokon Lahache, a teacher at KSS as well a long-time AbTeC collaborator and IIF partner. The workshop itself took place over three months (March-May 2018) at KSS with lessons held semi-weekly. Many IIF staff and research assistants were involved in organizing and instructing the workshop, including newcomers Kahentawaks Tiewishaw (3D Modelling/Posing) and Raymond Caplin (Texture/UV Maps). Ray and Kahentawaks were instrumental in writing and teaching the technical software to the participants.

Day 1 – Character Design for Videogames

The workshop kicked off in late March with presentations from Lead Creative Director Dominick Meissner and Lead Character Artist Vivian Herzog of the Montreal-based videogame company (and IIF partner) Behaviour Interactive. Dominick spoke about the iteration process that videogame characters regularly go through and showed character prototype designs for an upcoming Assassins Creed mobile game. Vivian showed her artist portfolio that contained gorgeous character portraits and spoke about her role as a character artist working at a videogame company. The workshop participants asked questions about what skills were needed to be a game developer and left the first day with an idea of what it would take for their character to transform from an idea to a printed figurine.

Day 2 – Seventh Generation Character Design

Our second meeting was when the work of imagining began! IIF Partnership Coordinator Skawennati and research assistant Maize Longboat lead a presentation about what the Seventh Generation Character Design workshop aims to achieve: to envision our descendants seven generations into the future and to make space for Indigenous presence in sci-fi. Participants were shown past character designs from the first edition of the workshop at Dechinta Bush University, as well as IIF research assistant Suzanne Kite’s sketches that informed the conceptualization of her multimedia performance art piece Listener. After the presentation participants got to work on their own characters and discussions of the future ensued. By the end of the drawing and sharing session everyone had an idea of who their character was, how they lived, what languages they spoke, and what their worlds looked like.

Day 3 – Intro to 3D Modelling and Blender

On the third day of the workshop participants finally got to work on their characters using Blender, a free open-source 3D modelling software. Kahentawaks spent the week in-between workshops creating a generic character model as a template for everyone to work from. First they learned the basics of how to manipulate vertices, edges, and faces to make unique shapes in Blender. They then practiced their skills by editing the proportions of the template character model and add one-of-a-kind features that they wanted their future characters to have.

Day 4 – Intro to UV Maps, Textures, and Photoshop

Ray took the unique character models that were created during the 3D modelling lesson from the previous lesson and layed their surfaces out flat to create UV maps for each character in the time leading up to day four of the workshop. UV maps are used during the texturing phase of character creation to turn a colourless character into one with detail and personality. The lesson began with an introduction to Photoshop and how its tools can be used to add surface detail to character models by painting and blending colours. Participants were given their character’s unique UV maps and began the work of colouring them in. As the day came to a close, Ray and Kahentawaks demonstrated how to take the UV map file and lay it over the model in Blender. Only one more step to go: posing!

Day 5 – Pose for Printing

Up until this point everyone’s characters were standing in a t-pose with their arms outstretched to the side and legs straight. Kahentawaks and Ray’s final lesson was dedicated to changing this by having the participants manipulate the virtual bones of the 3D character models in Blender. Posing can be particularly tricky to do when the characters’ limbs need to be in realistic positions while also being unique enough to show their personality. They also needed to fit on a circular figurine base to make sure that they would be able to stand without falling over.

And with that the working part of the workshop was over! The participants parted ways with digital versions of their characters and would see them again in their physical, 3D-printed forms very soon.

Showcase!

Two weeks later the characters born and nine perfectly shaped, coloured, and posed character figurines from seven generations in the future arrived in the mail from the 3D printing company! KSS organized a public showcase of the characters to celebrate the hard work of the participants and instructors. After folks mingled and viewed the characters, Owisokon welcomed everyone to the event and explained her motivation for initiating this workshop. Skawennati and IIF Primary Investigator Jason Edward Lewis then introduced themselves and the team involved in making sure the workshop was delivered successfully. The participants then introduced themselves and offered reflections on their creation process from start to finish, noting the value of doing the work of imagining their future Indigenous descendants.

It is important to note that Kahentawaks was a student in the very first Skins Workshop, which ran from September 2008 – to May 2009 at KSS. We are very excited that, ten years later, she has become an instructor for the newest generation of Indigenous artists and designers.

A big niawen:kowa to Owisokon Lahache and Kahnawake Survival School for your work in organizing and hosting this edition of the Skins Seventh Generation Character Design workshop.

Seven Generations assemble!

Introducing Our Skins 6.0 Team, Part 1: The Spring Chickens

With Skins 6.0 / He Au Hou 2 just around the corner, we wanted to introduce new members of our Skins family 🙂 These five, wily Research Assistants are coming to Hawaiʻi as instructors and as students. We’re so excited for you all to meet!

You can check out some of their work on our previous post, where they talk about “Call of Duty Free,” the Skins 6.0 test game!


Sam Bourgault

Hi, I am Sam. I will take care of the programming section of Skins 6.0 workshop, which includes lessons on Unity Game Engine and on coding using C# within that engine. I have taught Math and Physics classes before, but I always wanted to teach programming because you can do so much with it! I am looking forward to meeting the participants and learning about them and Hawaiian culture. I am also excited to spend more time with the great team AbTeC put together. Having visited Hawaiʻi for vacation two years ago, I will definitely go back to some unforgettable spots (the waves of Sandy Beach and Marukame Udon, a Japanese eatery on Kuhio avenue, are not to be missed!!) but I will also work on personal projects. I am sure the experience will be intense and challenging but also fun and mind-blowing. See you there soon (:

Ray Caplin

Greetings! My name is Ray Caplin, I am an independent animator and filmmaker, also an illustrator.  I am Mi’gmaq from Listuguj, located in Gaspésie and northern New Brunswick. My role in Skins 6.0 will be teaching the animated cinematic portions of the workshop, as well as anything having to do with 2D or 2.5D animation. Alongside that, I’ll support general illustration with Photoshop. I am excited to spark enthusiasm for the consumption and love for animation, to show how such a powerful storytelling tool can implemented into nearly any form of digital media. I hope to learn to become a better teacher, but alongside the students, learn about the many aspects of game development. Outside of the workshop, I look forward submerging myself in the rich culture, sample many foods and sights!

Victor Ivanov

Hello! My name’s Victor, and I’m a multidisciplinary designer and developer. My role during Skins 6.0 is focused around game design, level design, and audio production, with some involvement in the programming side of things.

This workshop has attracted me for a long time because games——especially games that tell stories–—have been at the forefront of my studies. I’m very excited about projects like this because they offer awesome opportunities for everyone, both participants and instructors, to learn and master technical skills.

And it goes without saying that the diverse set of perspectives we share will make for an incredibly enriching experience, both technically and culturally!

When it comes to matters outside the workshop, I’m super eager to try out the food. You haven’t really travelled if you haven’t tasted the food. Oh, and snorkelling! Not one after the other, though.

Maize Longboat

My name is Maize Longboat! I’m Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario. I’m an Assistant Producer and also a participant in Skins 6.0. Over the course of the workshop, I’m excited to learn about how narratives can be translated into game mechanics and I hope to learn about how Indigenous peoples express their Indigeneity through the creation of a videogame. When not in the workshop, I’m going to learn how to surf! Finally, I’d like to give my thanks for having the opportunity to participate in this workshop; it will be a great way to develop my Master’s research project.

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw

Hi! I’m Kahentawaks, a Mohawk and member of Kanehsatà:ke, and my role in Skins 6.0 will be teaching participants all things to do with 3D! I’ve had the opportunity to be an instructor in one other Skins workshop prior to this, and I am eager to build upon that experience. I was also a participant in the very first videogame workshop, Skins 1.0. The thing I am most looking forward to is meeting people from a culture that seems both similar and strikingly different to that of my own. I grew up in a very Mohawk traditionalist context, so I have heard MANY retellings of our culture’s stories. That being said, I am excited to hear some new ones, and to discover what we might learn from one another. Additionally, I plan to spend as much time as humanly possible outdoors, while also trying some local foods.


 

Call of Duty Free: The Skins 6.0 Test Game!

Skins 6.0 – He Au Hou 2 is almost here! Our Skins Video Game Workshop is returning to Hawaiʻi through our continued collaboration with Kanaeokana and Kamehameha Schools. Anticipation and excitement abound!

One way we prepare for the workshop is through the creation of a test game. This allows our team of technical instructors to acclimatize to one another and develop a group bond and to provide participants with a working Unity template to use as a learning tool. This year, our four Technical Instructors–Undergraduate Research Assistants Sam Bourgault, Ray Caplin, Victor Ivanov and Kahentawaks Tiewishaw–created a charming, foxy test game about an IIF RA’s journey to catch their plane, entitled “Call of Duty Free”!

Below you will find the RAs describing their role in developing the test game. 


Victor Ivanov:

The test game was, as the name suggests, a way for us to get acquainted with both one another and the tools we’d use during the workshop. My fellow Instructors and I had two weeks, part-time, to make it. From concept to production, I’d say we did a great job, given the time frame!

The game is about a Research Assistant rushing to catch their plane at the airport. It’s obvious that this game externalized some of our anxieties, and we’ll hopefully master the suitcase-jumping techniques by July, just in (suit)case.

I designed elements of the levels such as progression, narrative and scenes, along with the sidescroller mechanics. I conceptualized and designed the environments, composition and lighting, and produced some of the accompanying audio. I helped out with some of the programming by making the User Interface, tweaking movement mechanics, and creating level objects, like conveyor belts, suitcases—all the dynamic elements of each level.

What was cool about this game was that it uses two very different playstyles: point-and-click and side-scroller. We wanted to see which style we use in the workshop, and ended up with a sort of experimental game that taught us a lot about each playstyle’s strengths and weaknesses. Combining different forms of gameplay has inspired me in my own work to apply a variety of gameplay styles, in one single game, for narrative purposes.

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw:

I contributed to the design and 3D modelling of the main player character, as well as the non-player characters to the test game. I had never before created anything that was going to be implemented in a game, so for me this was really an opportunity to bring a few characters to life.

 

Ray Caplin: 

I contributed all the short 2D cinematics found between each level in the game. All of the animations were created in After Effects, using its basic puppet animation tools, which I feel added some charm to the game, and provided lively transitions between levels. Aside from this, I designed several characters, such as the Clerk, and illustrated the User Interface icons found in the the mini games.

Sam Bourgault:

I focused on creating the game managers—systems that coordinate the inner workings of the game—so that the scenes would follow each other in a smooth, persistent way. I also developed the code that controls player behaviors in both the side-scroller and the point-and-click mechanics. The most complex part was synchronizing the specific animations with the player’s corresponding motion state. I did some basic modelling in Unity for the point-and-click scenes, and programmed the behavior of the line when the player reached the security. Lastly, I helped with composition and level design.

We worked very well together, which allowed us to make the game in two weeks, part time. We agreed on a similar aesthetic and we trusted each other during the whole process! This is really promising for Hawaiʻi!


Finally, we invite you to watch through the playtest video at the top of the page. You can download “Call of Duty Free” for Mac and Windows!

Much love,

Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures

Introducing Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush, AbTeC/IIF Undergraduate Research Assistant!

Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush is a Kanien’kehá/French-Canadian illustrator and visual artist from Montreal, Quebec. Currently, she is completing her BFA in Indigenous Visual Culture at OCAD University and has previously obtained DECs in Fine Arts and Illustration & Design at Dawson College. Her personal artwork deals with sexuality, violence, identity, and politics. While professionally, she loves collaborating with clients who seek to enrich Indigenous communities and empower Indigenous youth. Since 2012, Kaia’tanó:ron has worked with the Encore! Sistema after school and summer camp programs based out of Karonhianonhnha School in Kahnawake, QC. as a music and visual arts educator teaching students from grades two to six. Her freelance work has allowed her to work with a variation of organizations from Montreal, to Toronto, and in-between such as Jumblies Theatre Company, Onsite Gallery, and The Red Dress Project. In 2017, she participated in Toronto’s Nuit Blanche in collaboration with Deanna Bowen and Syrus Marcus Ware of Black Lives Matter, in Won’t Back Down – one of NOW Toronto’s top 10 must-see shows at Nuit Blanche 2017. This summer, she celebrates the publication of her first graphic novel and trilingual (Kanien’kehá, French, and English) picture dictionary – Hé:, Ahsennénhkha! (Bravo, le Milieu! -Yay, Middle!) published by Kawennakátste’ Mohawk Language Arts.

Her artistic practice is diverse, including but not limited to illustration, graphic design, painting, sculpture, and curation. As the co-president of the Indigenous Student Association at OCAD University, she has also undertaken multiple curatorial projects in order to provide Indigenous students with the opportunity to experience exhibiting their work in a gallery setting. Since 2015, she has co-curated five exhibitions, Inheritance (Dawson College), Primitive, Tewá:ko-Dagoshin-Otiacicoh-Takoshin-Bagamaawaniidiwag (Arrive), Terra Incognita (Daniels Spectrum), and most recently, Flux Refusal.

You can look through Kaia’tanó:ron’s work here. Her Instagram handle is @owlerfish and you can send her an email at kaiatanorondumoulin@gmail.com.

Introducing Ray Caplin, AbTeC/IIF Undergraduate Research Assistant

Hello! My name is Ray Caplin and I’m an independent animator and filmmaker based in Montreal. Currently majoring in Film and Animation at Concordia, I have made several animated short films that have been screened at various film festivals, such as the Musée du Quai Branly, REDCAT International Children’s Film Festival, and Ciné Tapis Rouge à la Cinémathèque de Helsinki. I’ve received several awards, including the 2012 Award for Best Animation at the Arlington Film Festival and the First Prize for the 2013 “T’as juste une vie” contest.

I specialize in digital 2D animation, After Effects motion graphics, and puppet animation. On the side, I tinker with game development tools such as Unity and GameMaker Studio 2, in hopes of someday entering the Indie game scene and producing my own game. I am Mi’gmaq from Listuguj, located in Gaspésie and northern New Brunswick.

Here are some links to my portfolio, Vimeo, and Wapikoni profile.