Video games often fall into one of two categories: AAA, an informal classification for games produced by a major industry publisher, or independent/indie, games typically created by small groups of developers without significant financial support.
“Everything in between is typically overlooked,” said Ashley Guchhait ’17 (Interactive Arts and Humanistic Studies B.F.A.). “Despite market research that shows gamers are looking for more, AAA firms and indie developers alike continually try to recreate past successes,” she said.
As a result, players are feeling “franchise fatigue,” she said.
To reinvigorate the market and include gamers overlooked by the mainstream industry, Guchhait, Don Boose ’17 (Interactive Arts B.F.A.), Kyrstin Cooksey ’18 (Animation B.F.A.) and TJ Martin, a composition student at the Peabody Institute, created Boba Studios, a 2018 UP/Start Venture competition finalist that combines the concepts, production and high replay value of major studio titles with the handcrafted feel and price point of indie games. The team won $20k in funding during the April 4 UP/Start finals.
“Our mission is to bring to life games that combine what players love the most about both indie games and major titles,” Guchhait said. “Innovative and unbounded concepts, yet familiar and fully-realized production.”
“Squirrely Roo Rabbit” is Boba Studios’ debut game. With character names like “Chameleon Grunts” and “Big Oink,” the game requires users to mix colors to solve environmental challenges.
Boba Studios’ founders met through MICA collaboration classes with Johns Hopkins University and the Peabody Institute. Realizing they worked well together and had complementary skills, the students founded the company in April 2016. They are especially proud that their first game was designed by women and people of color, Guchhait said.
“Fifty percent of gamers are female, but women make up less than 20 percent of the industry,” she said. “Even less than 20 percent of games are geared toward them, meaning the games do not reflect the gamers.”
Guchhait said she hopes Boba Studios will be one of many new companies working to make field more inclusive.
So far, Boba Studios has funded development for two levels of Squirrely Roo Rabbit. They plan to use their Up/Start Venture competition prize to buy more software and hardware and boost development and marketing.