“Ashta”

It is a great joy for me to announce today that after the success of Professor S. and with the kind support of the Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg and the German Computer Game Award LudInc is now developing a new game for kids between the ages of 6 and 12 called:

The story follows the adventures of a little octopus girl called Ashta. She was born in a river at the northernmost tip of Indonesia on a little island called Pulo Aceh together with 51 little brothers and sisters. Ashta likes to swim close to the beach and listen and dance to the music the humans are playing. She loves to sit in the coral trees and watch the world go by. Unlike her fellow octopi, she is very sociable and she has a lot of friends in the lagoon. She loves to scare her friends by hiding and imitating different animals. Her father Bob is Ashta’s favourite relative and mentor. Bob enjoys the little pleasures in life. Ashta’s mum calls him lazy but Ashta loves his easy going attitude. Bob often takes Ashta to the beach to collect shells and candy the humans leave behind.

First character design draft of “Ashta”, the little octopus by Agnieszka Michalska.

One day, a group of sharks are feeding in the bay. Ashta barely manages to escape and gets separated from her family. Followed by the sharks she swims into the open sea. Having lost her way and with the sharks still in pursuit she swims farther into the ocean until she reaches the east coast of India. There, she makes friends with a young bull from Mexico and together they embark on an adventurous journey to reunite “Ashta” with her family.

The idea came to me last summer after I had spent almost every day over a six months period practising the physical exercises of the Ashtanga Yoga primary series. The practise continues to improve my life in many ways and I wish I would have discovered it sooner. Yoga not only promotes physical health and fitness but also emotional well-being, concentration and learning abilities. I believe I would have greatly benefited from being introduced to Yoga while I was still at school. However, when I was a kid, Yoga was virtually unheard of. That is why I am grateful for the opportunity to now introduce a younger audience to the practice using the tools I am most familiar with: storytelling, gaming and music.    

A big thank you goes out to the Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg who continue to believe in us. A special thank you also goes to the German Computer Game Award (DCP) and the Goethe Institute who invited me to Sao Paulo last year for a wonderful opportunity to meet with and learn more about the Brazilian games industry. During my stay in Sao Paulo I also met our Brazilian co-producer Paula Cosenza. Paula’s company, Bossanova Films has recently opened an animation department which produces high quality children’s content and I am very much looking forward to working with her. “Ashta” will be our first international co-production and I am very excited about that.

The people that make “Ashta” possible from left to right: Paula Cosenza (Bossanova Films), Roshanak Behesht Nedjad (LudInc), Jan von Meppen, Ina Göring (Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg), Anja Riedeberger (Goethe Institut Sao Paulo). During the Berlin Film Festival in February we all met at the Brazilian embassy.

Our gratitude also goes to the Arnold Zweig School in Berlin, where we already had an opportunity to try the story and exercise sequence with a third grade class. There will be other opportunities to test the game mechanics later this month but even at this early stage of development, “Ashta” is a big hit with the students and teachers.  

We still have a lot of work ahead of us and you can also help by sharing your thoughts: Do you practise Yoga? Do you think Yoga would be beneficial for your kids? Would you spend money on an app that teaches your kids yoga? Do you think an animated story is a useful teaching tool?

Professor S. is going nationwide

Today we are celebrating a milestone at LudInc and I am very happy to share fantastic news with you: Thanks to our partner Westermann, Professor S. now has a full page feature in the brand new Westermann print catalogue, which is distributed to over 13,000 primary schools in all of Germany.

Every federal region has its own catalogue and Professor S. is featured in every one of them. But this marks only the start of a much larger distribution effort which will continue with the didacta trade fair for education. Professor S. is already played in 70 schools all over Germany and we are set to grow in 2017.

If you are at the didacta please join me on the 17th of February at 10 am for my talk “The Mobile Natives – How Children Learn in the World of New Media”. I will share my experience from developing Professor S. inside primary schools in Berlin. Professor S. is recognised as one of the most innovative and exciting teaching games available today and I can’t wait to show it to you. If you don’t know Professor S. here is a video that explains how it works:

 

Professor S.: Your time travel adventure begins here! from LudInc on Vimeo.

A day at the children’s media conference

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Last week I was in Sheffield for the Children’s Media Conference. I was invited to talk about Professor S. as part of a panel called “Innovation in Education”, of which there is a very nice summary report here.

The event was very well organised and it had a cosy and welcoming feel to it. It was encouraging to see how many great projects were presented there. I only stayed for a day but I saw plenty of interesting talks and also made some great contacts.

The keynote speech that evening by cartoonist Chris Riddell was very entertaining. He took us on a journey through his career, working method and his opinions about the recent referendum, which unsurprisingly also featured prominently in the talk about European financing the following morning.

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Although Creative Europe says in a recent statement that there will be no substantial changes until 2017, the mood among UK producers was sombre. After all, it will be hard to finance future british stories without EU support.

As a UK citizen living in Germany, I am personally affected by the changes that may come out of the referendum. Moreover, I am sad to see the country I call my home now ever more distant.

In recent years my world has shrunk through affordable air travel, free video calls and freedom of movement. Communication is easier than ever in part because English has become a common global language. As a result, I have friends from all over the world who also socialise and do business globally.

In my mind, physical borders have already lost in importance and I doubt I would miss them if they disappeared tomorrow.  After all, we all share one planet and would therefore benefit from sharing resources and growing understanding and tolerance more than we would stand to loose from distancing ourselves from our fellow human beings.

The film industry in particular benefits from the free movement of people and ideas and many projects would be difficult to realise without drawing on talent from other countries.

Time will tell how this decision will affect us in the long run but I have no doubt that interesting times lie ahead.

Professor S. is nominated for the German Computer Game Award!

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I’m very happy because today, Professor S. was nominated for the German Computer Game Award! I was at the Arnold Zweig School when the news flickered by and took a moment to celebrate with our friends there; sadly my lovely business partner Roshi flew to Luxemburg for the EAVE workshop this morning so she couldn’t be there. However, here’s a toast to her and everyone who supported us over the years especially our lovely friends and funders at KUBI, Medienboard, IBB and all the schools playing Professor S. today … thank you all!

If you like, you can vote for Professor S. receiving the audience award by clicking this link and entering your name and email address.

Mind the Bridge

Last summer, “Professor S.” was nominated for the European Innovative Games Award. Because of that, we received a lot of attention most notably from ACE Creative, who invited me to present “Professor S.” to a group of investors and game developers at Gamelab in Barcelona. As a result, we were selected to come to San Francisco and present the project to an audience of high profile investors and industry experts in the bay area.

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When I got there, I joined a group of of entrepreneurs from all over Europe who had come to San Francisco to hone their pitching skills and explore opportunities in the Silicon Valley. I can tell you that there are many opportunities and the weather is also pretty good. On top of that, I managed to catch up with old friends in the area and met many new interesting people.

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Most days were taken up with talks and workshops to help us get our projects ready to pitch to US investors. One day, we were all taken on a tour of different companies around the bay area which was absolutely fascinating. Our visit at Google HQ in Mountain View was definitely a highlight and a great opportunity to have our picture taken with the old logo.

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The week passed very quickly and on the final day, I had a chance to present “Professor S.” at the European Innovation Day in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. There were many people there and I had my hands full speaking to everyone that was interested in the project. Luckily, my friend Leonard Cetrangolo was also there. Leonard has been helping with “Professor S.” from the very start and I was especially grateful that he was around that day.

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I also managed to catch up with my friend Grant Hosfort, who was in San Francisco working on his very fine Codespark project at the time at Zynga HQ. In the picture, you can see Grant and me in the famous Zynga tunnel.

“Professor S.” captured imaginations in the short time I was there and I know it will not be my last visit to the beautiful Bay Area. The first steps toward the US have been taken and I look forward to my return.

If you would like to check out the other companies in my cohort, you can have a look at this short video:

 

Mind the Bridge Startup School 2015 – September Session from Jan von Meppen on Vimeo.