Havana Hotel, a personal project depicting a commune for people who have fled from human trafficking situations, produced by Derk Over
Havana Hotel, a personal project depicting a commune for people who have fled from human trafficking situations, produced by Derk Over


18 June 2016

In the run-up to our special games edition of Progress Bar in Brighton on 16 & 17 June, we’ve asked our line-up of talented industry insiders to give us a little insight into what they do and what we can expect from them at the event.

Derk Over, keeping up with the research.
Derk Over, keeping up with the research.

Here, Derk Over, tells us about how he became a video game artist, how the practice differs from other media types and how games can be used to represent social and political struggles. Derk will host a workshop on Video Game Production on Friday 17.

Eventbrite - Progress Bar: 16-17 June 2016

How does being a video game artist differ from other media types?
A (good) video game lets the player, not the creator, shape the game experience. The game is there to set boundaries and objectives, but the player has control over how the situation plays out, not the creator.

Your personal project, Havana Hotel, depicts a commune of people who have fled from human trafficking situations. Does being a video game artist give you the freedom to communicate difficult subject matter in an accessible way?
Haha. The Havanna Hotel is one of my earlier projects (before art school). I think that it might feel strange for some people that games are becoming more political and opinionated on current matters, because the history of games comes from dedicated programmers working literally from basements. Games started very small before the 70s, but the medium grew to become a major influence on pop culture.

Like any medium that becomes more mainstream, games will have to answer to the demand of representing current social and political struggles in the world around us. Nobody and nothing can claim to be “neutral” anymore. The beauty of the popularity of games is that they reach an extremely broad audience. Games can give a lot of context to a personal story.

As an extreme example, you can distance yourself from the child poverty commercials on TV, but walking through a realistic village figuring out how to act in a hopeless situation generates so much more discussion and reflection than passively observing footage of poverty, for instance.

How did you get started?
I got started by drawing a lot in high school. After I graduated high school, I attended IGAD (International Game Architecture and Design) in Breda, the Netherlands. There are a lot of formal Game Academies in Europe and most of the jobs in the game industry require you to have at least a bachelor degree in
Game Engineering/Game Art/Computer Sciences. It’s quite a well-paved path already!

What people or projects are inspiring you at the moment?
Personally, I am trying to learn more about other industries, like fashion and architecture. I only recently discovered Leigh Bowery [London-based performance artist, club promoter and designer] – yes, I’m that young, haha – and I love the work of Ryan Burke [a New York-based photographer, videographer and make up artist]. The time I spent working on Horizon: Zero Dawn for
Guerrilla Games’ inspired me greatly on the matter of game visualisation.

What can we expect from your workshop?
My workshop will first focus on the basics of making a video game. I’ll recommend software packages and workflows. I will compare the way of creating small games vs big industry games. I will also cover some basic environmental psychology to explain how creators think about video game environments. Together with the group, we will do some fun pen and paper design exercises to show the process of planning an environment for a videogame.

This two-day special edition, co-produced with University of Brighton, presents a mix of talks and workshops that focus on game design, storytelling, visuals and sound. Plus, you can try out some experimental and visually stunning video games in the pop up arcade and watch a demo of Google’s incredible new VR kit for artists Tilt Brush.

The event is for anyone with an interest in games development, from industry professionals to students and creatives – including filmmakers, sound recordists and designers, scriptwriters, musicians, theatre makers and visual artists – wanting to find out more.

Find out more about the event and book tickets here: Progress Bar: Games Edition.
Join the conversation at our Facebook event.



Sign up to our mailing list to receive regular email updates on exhibitions, events and other news.