Today, media professionals can find their audience all over the world. Stories are no longer told in just one language, games are distributed around the globe, and more and more international streaming services present an unprecedented diversity in the entertainment landscape. It is common practice for productions themselves to be realized as large global collaborations involving multiple studios from different countries.
To ensure that students of Animationsinstitut are equipped for global competition after graduation, international collaboration plays a major role already during their studies. Worldwide partnerships and collaborations with other universities enable students to spend time abroad and also bring guest students from all around the world to Ludwigsburg. Interactive Media student Nina Weilbächer just completed such a stay abroad: Together with her fellow student Jannik Jochim, she spent a semester in Copenhagen and studied at the National Academy of Digital, Interactive Entertainment (DADIU).
Read on to learn more about Nina's time in Denmark.
The National Academy of Digital, Interactive Entertainment (DADIU) trains talents in the field of game development. Each year, around 100 students are selected to attend lectures and workshops from August to December and develop their own games in small teams. Learn more about the program here.
The preparations for my participation in the DADIU program and the stay in Copenhagen started in April 2021. The head of my Interactive Media course, Anna Brinkschulte, arranged an online meeting with Simon Jon Andreasen, the head of the DADIU program. My fellow student Jannik Jochim and I were to meet Simon in advance and could ask questions about the program. The same week we accepted and at the end of August we both left for Copenhagen.
After a ten-hour train ride, I arrived at the CPH Studio Hotel - my home for the next three and a half months. The hotel is located right by the sea, in the trendy Amager neighborhood. I shared the small double room with Simone Dalager, a Danish game designer who also participated in the program. We became the best friends! The hotel was not far from the center, which meant I could get to my university quickly and also explore the city extensively.
The DADIU semester was divided into several workshops and sections. In the first two days, Jannik and I got to know our respective producers in our roles as directors. The producer/director workshop prepared us for our roles and set the foundation for good teamwork. My producer Marie Falk Vinther and I got along well from the beginning and became a great team over the entire period. We were the only female double lead and also had the team with the largest percentage of women.
After the workshop, all students were invited to Askov for a get-to-know-you workshop. The small town was just under four hours away from Copenhagen by bus and already there the first lasting contacts and friendships were made. Overall, it was three days full of teambuilding exercises and various game workshops. Already in this early phase of teambuilding, Marie and I had to set rules for our teamwork - and that with 16 students from at least six different universities and disciplines. So it started out with a lot of overwhelm, which was very slow to subside over the next few weeks.
Back in Copenhagen, we started working on our first Mini Game. We had seven days to do this. It was very difficult in the beginning to find a common idea, to set up the whole pipeline and to get into one's respective role. Therefore, our first Mini Game was very raw and buggy when it was finished. However, we had gathered many insights for the second run. For Mini Game 2, our challenge was to develop the same game again in ten days, only better. We actually succeeded pretty well, so we got very positive feedback at the second presentation.
For the Graduation Game, we now had six weeks and all the creative freedom we needed. Together with the lead team we developed a crazy idea: In Carnivalien you play an alien that crashes in an amusement park in the 50s and is now being hunted by the CIA. The goal of the rogue-lite pinball game is to collect all the spaceship parts and fly back to the home planet. We started the new production with great motivation, but also with some legacy issues. Conflicts between the different departments of our team had been smoldering since the first Mini Game and could never really be resolved. Marie and I were more busy putting out fires than actually doing our work during the first two weeks of pre-production. It all culminated in a day-long crisis meeting where our team talked it out and cleared up any misunderstandings. Up to this point, the conclusion of our game was hanging by a thread. Marie and I were even more relieved when the rest of the production went very smoothly and quietly.
We were even able to deliver Carnivalien earlier than planned. Despite the lost weeks, we were able to deliver a good product that we are proud of. At the end of the six-week production phase, we presented our games in a livestream together with the other five teams and uploaded them to itch.io. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight what a great job our team did. In the end, we were able to present not only a finished game, but also a united and harmonious team.
Here you can find the presentations of each team and all games for download. By the way, the game that Jannik developed as director with his team is called Windfall – make sure to try it out!
Over the course of my time at DADIU, I have met many great people. Our mentors, Simon Jon Andreasen and Thomas Howalt, have been with us from the beginning, guiding us through every question. The special focus on directing and the individual attention regarding my development as a director I feel is unique to this program. My producer Marie and I were carefully selected and brought together as a team - a match made in heaven! I am very grateful to have met so many talented students from game design, art, programming, sound and music composition and to have mastered this project with them.
All in all, I spent wonderful, exciting and challenging months in Copenhagen. I developed personally, learned a lot about communication and games, and was able to further define myself as a director. I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone and everyone to participate in the DADIU program, especially if you are interested in directing. And remember, as Thomas Howalt always says: Making Games is Fun!