Paloma Dawkins:
"I want my players to learn patience, relaxation, meditation"

ALMAMAT. IT Faces asks questions to representatives of the global IT community working in different directions. This time we talked to the indie video games creator Paloma Dawkins. Paloma told us that now she has a few big projects coming up in VR, film and theater, and also want to make more time for comic arts, her original love. She releases new independent video games and collaborates with festivals and museums such as the renowned V&A. If you have a dream to create your own video game, Paloma's inspiring experience will guide you.
Paloma Dawkins

Independent Video Games developer: Gardenarium, OCEANARIUM, Palmystery, Museum of SymmeTRy, ALEA, etc. Comic Arts Creator.

Montreal, Canada

PHoto: Courtesy oF Paloma Dawkins
Illustrations Credits: COURTESY of Paloma Dawkins.

Paloma, please tell us about yourself for our audience? How did you become an independent video game developer?

Paloma Dawkins: I started off by drawing comics and animating on the computer, but I get bored with things quickly. I remember the exact day I decided to start making video games; I was sitting in my living room, looking at my sketchbook, and I decided to design the most impossible art project I could think of doing at the time. And it was a video game! I decided it wasn't actually so impossible, and I started teaching myself Unity the same day. I don't know why I thought it was impossible; I guess it was because I didn't know how to code. I still don't really know how to code! I only know as much as I need to make the projects I want. The hardest part is knowing what the functions are called, but there is an entire community of game developers out there on forums that can help you.

May I ask you to describe your games – Gardenarium and others, the stories they tell, and maybe some interesting details?

Paloma Dawkins: My games are almost like anti-games because they aren't a place where you master any kind of skill. They use basic game mechanics like walk around and jump, but you never collect things or get points or save your progress. They are a place you visit, and when the cycle is done, the game restarts. I want my players to learn patience, relaxation, meditation. I hate how some games reinforce this notion that NPC's only exist in order to serve you on your mission in some way, in Gardenarium my NPC's only care about themselves! They tell you stories about their lives, and they try to guess who you are, sometimes they say how much they like you and then you part ways.

Which technical and artistic instruments and skills do you have to be able to create the indie games – and how long does it take to learn these competencies?

Paloma Dawkins: It could take an afternoon! I could show you now; my games aren't very complicated. Now that I know the workflow, I can teach people, and they'll be able to do twice as much as I could ever do. Throughout the years, I've commissioned programmers to write very specific tools for my particular workflow. I don't actually do any 3D modeling, all my art is in 2D, and I have used this as a constraint to create a unique look. One of my favorite tools actually spreads a 2D animation in 3D space, and I am working with a programmer to have that spreader animate color and frequency in real-time, and we want to release the tool as an opensource GitHub project.
Illustrations Credits: COURTESY of Paloma Dawkins.

Paloma Dawkins: "My favorite team flow so far has been composed of 7 people – project manager, creative director, animator/creator (me), writer, game designer, technical artist, musician."

May I ask you to describe your process of video game creation and give some advice for the readers who want to become indie game developers? How many collaborators do you have, and how did you find them?

Paloma Dawkins: I have a few collaborators I adore. It's best to stick with the people you love working with. My writer Ashley Obscura is amazing, we've done two games together so far. I also look for collaborators that aren't always agreeing with everything I say; I want to work with people that have great ideas and will call me out if my idea won't work. I think it's important to be able to communicate freely and without judgment. My favorite team flow so far has been composed of 7 people – project manager, creative director, animator/creator (me), writer, game designer, technical artist, musician.

Please tell us about your collaborations with museums and festivals?

Paloma Dawkins: I am currently in Moscow for a hackathon with Garage Gallery. I've recently completed a game commission Songs of the Lost for Manchester International Festival with acclaimed techno musician Jlin. I will soon be completing a game called Oceanarium which I've been developing with help from the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Canada Council for the Arts. In the future, my games will be a part of an exhibit at MassArt in Boston on February 22nd!

There is an impression, that women in games tend to make more experimental games than mainstream: peaceful or phantasmagoric, constructive, artistic, healing, ecological, educative&entertaining, or else. How do you think, what kind of fresh ideas and trends women in games bring into the gamedev industry?

Honestly... "peaceful or phantasmagoric, constructive, artistic, healing, ecological, educative&entertaining" sounds way better to me than whatever the hell mainstream media has been producing. I think we are at the start of a massive shift towards a more feminine view of the world, a more nurturing and sustainable future that values community and family over personal gain and greed... and If we aren't at the start of this massive shift, then we are in a lot of trouble. ALMAMAT. IT Faces
Illustrations Credits: COURTESY of Paloma Dawkins.