Daniel Wiedemann was working as an art director in Hamburg, Germany, before moving to London to follow his dream of becoming a game creator. While studying for a master’s degree at Middlesex he set up the independent game development studio FIERY THINGS. He is now undertaking a PhD, researching new generation interface technologies and user experience in digital games.
I studied communication design in Germany and after that I worked as an art director at an ad agency in Hamburg, but I felt art direction alone wasn’t fulfilling enough so I looked for master’s degrees that would fill a gap in the technological side of my skills.
I’d been programming for several years but I wanted to do a master’s degree and the MSc Creative Technology degree was broad enough in its content base – you can do things as varied as develop games, record movies and create interactive installations – so it was really attractive and why I ended up at Middlesex.
Although I had coding experience before I came to Middlesex, the game that I developed, LizzE – And the Light of Dreams, was my first complete game development. I had never used Unity before and the master’s degree provided the opportunity to apply these new skills and gave me the space to develop the game that I wanted to do personally with basically no restrictions.
During the master’s I learned how to plan a project from idea and concept, through to concept art, software development and basically every aspect intrinsic to a game, then implement everything myself.
I actually had the idea of doing a PhD before I applied for the master’s, but one of the good things about Middlesex was that I was in discussion with the MSc programme leader Dr Magnus Moar about doing a PhD before I even did the master’s. He is now my supervisor alongside Dr Peter Passmore, so talking in advance to the people who would be my supervisors was a huge advantage.
My PhD is about new generation interface technologies connected to digital games and their consequences for user experience. As part of this I have developed a Virtual Reality game called Gooze – a survival horror where you’re trapped in a room and have to escape. I’m using head-mounted display technology like Oculus Rift and infra-red cameras mounted to the front which allow the user to interact with the pretty gruesome scenery.
The ideal scenario is that after my PhD I will have created two or three different applications that I can then monetise through FIERY THINGS, the game studio I founded. If that doesn’t work then I will at least have experience of game development and will be able to apply for jobs at games studios.
The master’s was important to my professional development. I had been working in art direction but I wanted to work in game development and the MSc gave me the space and time to fulfil that dream.
It is important to create a network if you don’t already have one, so talk to as many people as you can and try to connect with them. Through Middlesex I gained a lot of contacts with academic staff and the industry professionals in their networks, so if I had looked for a job after the degree it would have been easy just through networking.