Electing the Freshman Class to the UN of Gaming

This post is part of a content series presented in partnership with smartwater. smartwater, simplicity is delicious. 

Technology may be making the world smaller, but as the computer scientist Vannevar Bush pointed out in his watershed 1945 essay As We May Think, it is also making the world infinitely vast. Here are five developers from around the globe whose games take us to their parts of the world, opening up new spaces to experience and play.

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Ivan Buchta (ArmA II), Czech Republic

DayZ, a popular mod for ultra-realistic military sim ArmA II, is a hostile PC shooter with zombies in it, and judging from the zillions of first-person accounts of death and despair found on the internet, you couldn’t pay me enough to visit its blood-soaked countryside. In real-life, it turns out that couldn’t be further from the truth. The game’s artists used satellite photography to capture a frankly gorgeous region of rolling hills and deep valleys in the Czech Republic. According to Ivan Buchta, the lead designer of ArmA II, “there is something almost magical about exploring a real-life copy of terrain.” As a kid, Ivan visited the region often, and he never saw a single zombie.

Vander Caballero (Papo & Yo), Colombia

What you might not know about the heart-wrenching Papo & Yo for Playstation 3 is that it is set in the impoverished streets of Bogota, where the creator Vander Caballero grew up. When I asked Vander what he missed about living in South America, he told me, “My family. That’s one of the hardest things about being a game designer. I couldn’t have done it if I stayed in Colombia. I wish I could have stayed and made games in Colombia, but I cannot. I got a lot of opportunities, but they kept taking me further and further away. As much as I love Colombia, I cannot match them together.” I’m welling up already and I haven’t even played it yet!

Ahmed Majdoubi (Freedom), Morocco

It’s true there haven’t been too many videogames coming out of the Arabic world, but that’s changing thanks to the communal spirit of game jams. This past July, Grassroots developers from places like Palestine and Egypt spent a weekend manically constructing games inspired by the Arab Spring for the Game Zanga jam. First place went to Freedom by Ahmed Majdoubi, an aspiring young game designer who studies in Paris. Majdoubi comes from the ancient city of Meknès, which was founded in the 9th century by Berbers, is famous for olives, and has some of the most beautiful Islamic architecture you will ever set your eyes upon.

Tabo Goudswaard (Outdoor Virtual Sculpture Garden), The Netherlands

Something about building pixel-art sculptures at the park with virtual Lego blocks on your Android phone strikes me as very Dutch. Outdoor Virtual Sculpture Garden is an application by three augmented reality artists from the Netherlands. Tabo Goudswaard, who lives in Amsterdam, said Holland (like the rest of the world), “is in a transition stage. People are looking for new ways to organize society.” He is trying to solve the modern problem of social isolation. “My personal hang up with these phones is that it’s such an individual thing. It’s often just people looking at their screens. I’m curious how people will interact if they have to deal with each other,” he said.

Eddy Boxerman (Osmos), British Columbia

Eddy Boxerman resides in the remote Northwestern town of Nelson, population 10,230, nestled in the snowy mountains of British Columbia, which he describes as “a winter wonderland” where he enjoys spending time outdoors. Eddy told me there is an environmental message at the heart of Osmos. “It seems so obvious that everything we do should strive for sustainability, [but] we consume all the resources in an area and move on,” he said. “We need to make sure we are spending less than we are able to gather.” Inspirational stuff.