If you are a person who frequents the internet during the holidays, there is a good chance that you heard of, or might even have been part of, a JibJab elf dance. If you’re unfamiliar with the idea, people can use pictures of themselves and friends to put their faces on elf bodies that do a silly dance. It makes for funny videos. Only problem is, after the video is over, it is done. Gamester looks to change that.
I recently met Jaime Fraina of Giant Fox Studios at IndieCade East and was able to play Gamester, his new web and mobile game that takes this concept much further than a minute long video. With the app, you are able to take pictures of yourself and other friends and place them inside a fully fleshed out game. There are then plenty of things to customize after that point, allowing YOUR game to be perfectly made just for you and whoever else you want. Within a very short time, I was sold. So, after a short hiatus, we return to Indie Watch with Jaime Fraina and his title, Gamester, which you can currently help support on Kickstarter.
First off, thank you Jaime for talking with us today about Gamester. For those who haven’t seen it before, can you talk a bit about the main idea behind Gamester?
Of course, so Gamester is a mobile and web app that allows anyone to build a custom, personalized game about themselves or someone they know, as a gift. You can change everything from genre, enemies, collectibles, environment, art style, write your own story and even add your voice acting.
It takes about 5 minutes to make a fully custom game and is so easy that your mom can do it. Which is great because most of our orders have been parents getting their kids gifts for birthdays/graduations. One awesome part about it is that for $29 you can get a custom character, hand drawn by our artist, to look just like the person the game is about.
Sounds like something anyone could have a fun time with. What gave you the idea of having people drawn into the game, on top of the picture taking feature?
Well the originally idea came when my friend asked me to make a game about her and her boyfriend for her anniversary. I thought the idea was so cute, but her budget was very low for a game. We decided to do it anyways because we had some free time, and on their anniversary he LOVED it. A game all about him saving her. Once we started to promote it a bit, everyone wanted a game about their significant other, child, cat, even one request for a game about someone’s bunny. [Laughs]
Obviously we couldn’t make all these games for basically free for everyone so we started to design out Gamester so anyone can be a game designer and create this awesome gift for someone they know. I wanted to make the app accessible to everyone and make sure there was a way for it to be free/totally automated.
We thought about it a bit and got the idea of using photos as the character’s faces from JibJab. We messed around with adding some photo editing scripts in too, for the different art styles, to make the photos look drawn. But, long story short, it didn’t really look that great unless it was actually hand drawn so we put that in as a paid option at a super reasonable price for custom art to be created.
I think the majority of backers and others are happy for that decision. Each character drawn by your talented artists is fantastic. You mentioned the fact that a lot of parents are ordering Gamester for their kids. The Kickstarter page also shows some young children playing the game at PAX and other expos. What has the reaction been like from this group and how has that affected you and your team?
It’s so amazing to see the kids playing with the app! They’re so creative and always come up with the best stories and voice acting. [Laughs] It has definitely impacted our development as we are now adding in some more kid-oriented options in the app, like some educational games as genres parents can pick from, and also an age option which will change what some of the settings are. For example, if the age is 8 they’re not going to have beer as a collectible option. [Laughs]
Yeah, that might not be the best option for them. What are some of the craziest games you have seen kids or anyone else make so far?
Hmm. We’ve been making a few games with people you may know in them (I should be posting up a video of gameplay from them later today). One is about Bernie Sanders living in a world where the top 1% has all the high res graphics and he’s in pixel art, so he has to fight through them and bring high resolution graphics to everyone. [Laughs] As for user created ones, they’re all so unique it’s hard to pick one. One kid really like artichokes. He wanted a game where he ran around a forest collecting artichokes so he can make the best guac ever.
Those both sound like games I would play. People really find ways to make great games with the tools you have given them. If you are funded, what other genres, characters, or other features would you think about adding to Gamester?
The most requested genres have been side-scroller beat-em-up, educational, whack-a-mole, tower defense, racing, and dress up. For characters, we have a long list of them including hipsters, business men, hippies, animals, and a ton more. We also are going to be doing sponsored ones as a way to monetize from the app. For example, maybe Pepsi might be something you can chose to collect, or a character from Game of Thrones. We’ll see how it all plays out and what seems to work best for us.
I think the world needs a game of Tyrion Lannister chasing after Pepsi cans. Let’s hope that can all come to fruition. Is there anything else about Gamester that you would like to share with the world?
[Laughs] #Goals. It’s on Kickstarter for the next 10 days and has some awesome perks. You can get your own personalized game and face drawn by our artist obviously, but we also have posters and T-Shirts available so you can get merch to go with the game you’ve created. We’re about half way funded at the moment so if you like the idea please help support us!
Excellent. Yes, please support Jaime, his team, and the development of Gamester so more outrageous games can be made with you and your friends. Finally Jaime, what is your favorite game of all time?
Oh man. I haven’t been asked that in a while hmm. I have a tattoo from Shadow of the Colossus, which is such a unique console game. I love how detailed and stylized it is and how epic the battles in it are, so I usually say that. But now Undertale is definitely competing with it for first place as my favorite game. Love the story, gameplay, and overall feel of that game.
I think Undertale is competing for 1st place in the hearts of many gamers these days. Thanks again Jaime for talking with us about Gamester.
No problem thanks for interviewing me about it! I want to get the word out to as many people as we can so we can make great personalized games for everyone!
You heard it here, folks. Personalized games for everyone. What’s not to like? If you’re interested, go to Gamester’s Kickstarter page and help make it a reality. Who knows, you could be using it as an anniversary gift yourself one day.