Ask An Indie: Kirk Hughes, GREEN’S DREAM

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Welcome to Ask An Indie where we interview local independent game developers to learn how they make, do and create.

The Indie: Kirk Hughes, Freelance Indie Game Designer, GREEN’S DREAM.

What inspired you to start making games?

Growing up in a tiny Oklahoma town as a queer artsy kid was tough. I felt alienated from my peers and my family. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt like an alien. So I escaped into the alien lands of video games where I felt the freedom to empower myself to save worlds in peril. The games I kept my mind on as a kid taught my imagination to know no bounds, and I owe so much of my artistic success to the confidence those games built in me. I’m inspired to make games so that I can in turn inspire others in similar ways… And the interactive nature of games succeeds where other art forms fail.

At what age did you create your first game?

When I was 8, my family couldn’t afford to buy a Game Boy for me… So I made the shell of a Game Boy out of a tissue box, cut out the screen area, and fed receipt paper through the contraption. I drew hundreds of “side-scrolling” levels with obstacles, power-ups, and even checkpoints and goals.

I had stacks and stacks of receipt paper rolls that comprised my “Game Boy” game library. I moved on to create these bizarre interactive visual novels in PowerPoint, but my habit of first iterating on paper before implementing changes digitally began with my tissue box Game Boy.

What formal training do you have that has helped you?

My BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University is in Scenic Design for live theatre, so my background in painting and rendering, digital modeling, drafting, playwriting, as well as projection, sound, and lighting design all culminate in a rich pool of skills to draw from. I also studied at Ringling College of Art & Design which led me to formal training in the fields of interior design, installation art, and performance art… Having such a diverse wellspring of abilities leads me to discover more interesting solutions to the same problems, and this is why I’m such an advocate of being open-minded to continual development in unexpected areas.

What are some of your favorite tools or resources?

There are the the tools I can’t live without like PhotoShop, AutoCAD, SketchUp, and 3DS Max. I’ve also got a soft spot in my heart for easily accessible game engines like RPG Maker and GameMaker which help programming and coding seem less daunting.

How many people does your studio employ and in what capacity?

I feel about as “indie” as it gets. I’ve been a one-man-band game developer for almost three years now.

What game(s) have you published and on what platforms are they available?

My first commercial release, “GREEN’S DREAM,” will be available on Steam in 2018. Currently the demo is out for free and is available on GameJolt.

What is the most challenging thing about being a game developer in the Twin Cities?

Since I’ve not lived here a full year yet, I still feel like I’m in an exploratory phase. It’s all been pretty great so far… But I have yet to face a true Minnesota winter!

What is the most rewarding?

As an interdisciplinary artist who is new to the Twin Cities, I thought the process of finding the communities that exist in game development would be a challenge. Not so! Organizations like IGDA Twin Cities and GLITCH are excellent starting points for anyone wanting to find outlets to plug into. I’ve even found groups of LGBTQ gamers and gaming professionals right here in Minneapolis!

What advice would you give someone trying to break into the industry?

Be brave! I’ve always been fascinated by the endless nature of what video games seem capable of. Whatever it is you’re thinking a video game “is,” know that it doesn’t have to be “that” at all. My work explores themes and motifs that are in sharp juxtaposition with the way they are presented and experienced. I believe it would be truly radical to see more game designers with wholly unfettered vision and a braver, bolder perspective.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

For the past two years I’ve been developing my first commercial release, “GREEN’S DREAM.” Based on my dream diary and inspired by interviews about dreams, “GREEN’S DREAM” is equal parts old-school retro-style pixel game and interactive art piece. You can follow the development at greensdream.tumblr.com and you can download the demo here.

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