Competition by Google’s Change the Game and Girls Make Games has Columbia River High School finalist
VANCOUVER — Bridgette Bromell saw a world.
It was a world on the moon. It intrigued her, so she brought it to life.
She envisioned its inhabitants. She traversed it. Now, she’s inviting the world to traverse it too, with her mentors and the media-might of Google to help her.
The 16-year-old junior at Columbia River High School in Vancouver says she had been thinking about her world for a while. When Google’s Change the Game partnered with Girls Make Games (GMG) to host The Design Challenge, it was the perfect opportunity.
“I think for me, I do want to continue the storytelling,” Bridgette said. “This contest gave me something that I always want to hold with me.”
Bridgette and her classic role playing-style game mixed a visual novel, Lune, earned her a spot in the top five finalists from across the nation. Out of more than 1,500 games, hers was one of the best.
With the help of the team at Girls Make Games and the app designers at Google, Bridgette brought her artwork and story to life in a game that is now live on the Google Play store.
“It’s honestly kind of incredible and really surreal. Like, when I first saw the game in the app store, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s out! This is crazy,’” she said. “When I saw the game and the finished product, it was just like, amazing because I got to see something that I had been working towards, come to life fully. And it was something that like, ‘Whoa, other people can play this.’”
Lune tells the story of sentient artificial intelligence, Turin, and her journey through the mysterious world on the lunar surface. Set in the distant future, the game unfolds against a backdrop of deep space travel, robots and thought-provoking intellectual questions of humanity-versus-machine. Turin must find who she is and how she fits into the grander story of Lune.
As a player moves through the narrative arc of the game, they will discover Bridgette and the designers have built in various endings dependent upon their choices to the questions presented them; some more human, and some more machine.
“If you watch Bridgette or other students who are at her level work you think, ‘Oh it’s painless, it’s flawless,’ or you know, ‘They don’t struggle at all,’ but you have to understand, the years and the hours of practicing even at their age,” said Jason Phelps, Bridgette’s art teacher at Columbia River High School. “The technical aspects are only a small portion of it. It is the discipline, the work ethic and the storytelling, especially in a game like this.”
Two years ago, Bridgette looked at the pamphlet for the competition after Phelps brought them into the International Baccalaureate art class. Back then, she said she didn’t feel quite ready to submit her idea. She waited one year, learning many new things along the way. When the pamphlet surfaced again, she knew she was ready.
For months she compiled her sketches, drawings, ideas, and story notes to send them off to Google. When the submission date arrived she sent in her world; Lune. A few months later, she got the news, “You’re a finalist. You won.”
“It was honestly really rewarding, this story, like from the original concept, it was the first time that I had taken one of my ideas and really flushed it out and laid it out,” she said. “Throughout the contest entry, I started to develop these ideas and further work them and I got some feedback from people who are close to me and I was able to build a cohesive story.”
Bridgette had the opportunity to travel to California and the Google campus to meet and celebrate with industry leaders and make connections. While networking, she also had a chance to meet the other four girls from across the country whose games had been selected.
Then the real heavy lifting began. It was design time. The app designers used Brigette’s original drawings to create the animated characters within Lune. Bridgette worked with the Change the Game team to write much of the script for the characters’ dialogue through the game. Countless conference calls and meetings later, a playable version was finished.
Bridgette was, naturally, one of the first to test it out. It was surreal. It was a success.
“You never know until you take that first jump and just give it a shot and just get your idea out there,” she said. “When it’s seen by people, even if they reject it, it’s still the first step and you know that you took it.”
The origin story of the competition has its roots in a statistic that, according to Google, was increasingly alarming.
Of the some 1.2 billion gamers worldwide about half are women, but only 23 percent think there is equal treatment and opportunity within the gaming industry. Girls Make Games was founded to change this statistic and inspire young women like Bridgette, to chase their passions and use their talents.
GMG was founded in 2014 by Laila Shabir and Ish Syed in tandem with LearnDistrict, the educational company behind making the girl’s games. Today, they host summer camps for girls to learn about game design in nearly 40 cities around the world. They have also produced an award-winning documentary about the program.
Change the Game from Google is an equally critical initiative in the collaborative efforts of GMG and LearnDistrict to bring more women into the industry. The initiative is put out through Google Play, and any girl can enter a competition.
“I want them to learn that by staying with something, you know, hour after hour, day after day, like Bridgette did, like what it takes sometimes to make a work of art or a collection of art, that it’s worth it at the end,” Phelps said. “I think it’s such great practice for somebody to have an idea and run with it. You know, the act of creating is a very important act for all of us. It can bring us together and create beautiful discussions. It can enlighten us, and it can make us learn more about ourselves.”
For more information on Lune, you can find it on the Google Play store and on the Change the Game winners page. For more info on Girls Make Games and LearnDistrict, visit their websites linked in the names.