For the first installment of Dark Matters’ Spotlight On POC Nerdy Creators, we talked to indie game developer Ciara Burkett (@pyunpyunchan).
Q: When did you get into games? What were your first great loves?
I’m a second-generation gamer. My mother, aunts, and uncle hung out in arcades when they were kids, so it was only natural that my siblings and I would too! My sister and I played Mortal Kombat, Super Mario, and Sonic at my aunt’s house, and when we were a little older my mother bought us a Sega Genesis. But, for whatever reason, my sister and I really fell for Tekken. We’ve been playing it since the first game and haven’t stopped yet. Also, when my cousin brought over a Playstation with a demo of Metal Gear Solid, we fell for that too!
We couldn’t really afford too many AAA games, so my sister and I played a ton of browser-based indie games as kids, too. Mostly Newgrounds. Unsurprisingly, I’m still a huge fan of browser games.
Q: What was it about games that inspired you to want to make them?
When I first started learning to code six years ago, I figured making games would be a fun side effect of making the career change from sporadic part-timer to programmer. That’s when the seed was planted, anyway. I didn’t actually start making games until last January after a year of unemployment. I figured I didn’t have much to lose.
Q: Do you see games as a science or art or an adorable baby with science and art for parents?
I definitely see games as a mix of science and art. And I don’t really find it necessary to separate the two in terms of game development, or otherwise.
Q: Why a game every month?
When I decided to start making games, I knew I didn’t want to spend too much time on one project, and potentially get frustrated by having a heavy magnum opus hanging over my head. I figured making smaller games and proof-of-concepts would help me learn a greater diversity of skills and help me decide which projects I wanted to expand on into the future.
Q: Are there particular games/game designers whose work sweeps you off your feet?
I’m impressed by Hyper Light Drifter, the work of Sundae Month, Chelsea Saunders, Klondike, Carrill Munnings, Christina Antoinette, Fourbit Friday, and many others.
Q: Do you have involvement with online gamer culture?
Not much. I tend to categorize my work under #altgames, and I get most of my game recommendations from itch, where I also host my work. I try to keep an eye out on Steam and TIGForums, and I plan to use both for my games when I have something more professional to put out there.
Q: Can you rec some games and some online places of interest to game designers?
Definitely check out the game developers I mentioned above for inspiration, if you haven’t already. Also, Streak Club and TIGForums are great places to post progress of your work.
Q: Where would you go with game design ideally?
So far, I’m enjoying working with a mix of 2D pixel art and voxels, but I’d like to start working with alternative 2D shapes like hexels, trixels, and voronoi. Also, I’m in the beginning stages of learning Blender, just because I think 3D would work better with some of my ideas.
Genre-wise, I’d like to put a roguelike in my game development schedule. I’m not sure when. I’m in the brainstorming stages for a thriller-suspense game, which is very different for me since I mostly write science fiction.
Q: Was representation something that impacts you in games? As avatars or actual designers?
For sure. Using Tekken as an example, every time they announced a new character I hoped they’d introduce a black woman. Despite that, they have a really interesting cast of characters for a AAA game, but it would have been cool. If I ever get the chance, I’d like to make my own fighting game! A ridiculously tall order at this point, but I’ll put it in the queue anyway.
I try to keep up with people of color involved in game development, play their games, and promote when I can. It’s the least I can do. We have interesting stories to tell. I just hope people care enough to listen.
Q: Where can folks get a look at or try your stuff?
The best place to find out about my work and game development schedule is on Patreon and CIARA.. Any and all support/feedback is welcome! I recently took the plunge into full-time game development, and I can use all the help I can get!