Mårten Brüggemann, Play Designer at Toca Boca
Where do you work and what is your current title?
I work at Toca Boca, kids app studio making digital toys and kids culture. I work as a Play Designer which is equivalent to a lead game designer or game director in more traditional games development.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
My name is Mårten, a game designer from Sweden. During that time I’ve been having different variations of responsibility: sometimes dual wielding a producer and project manager role, sometimes having sub responsibilities such as audio design and scripting duties. I’ve studied game design at university and also some music production and composing. I enjoy music in many different ways and often try to incorporate this interest in the games I make.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
Almost all my life, I’ve been making games at an amateur level and after a short stint at trying to become a rock star after high school, I realized that you could actually make a living making games and started studying games development at University.
What was your first design job? Any interesting stories about how you broke into the field?
I started my own games development company after university with a few class mates. One of our first projects was my thesis project that was a platform game controlled with the Guitar Hero guitar controller. Although that game failed miserably the company is still going strong. I spent my first 5 years in the industry there. Though the initial project tanked, I’m still incredibly proud of where it’s at today. It feels good founding a company that people feel inspired to come to work at.
Please describe a normal day at your current job. What’s the workflow like? What are your primary responsibilities?
As a Play Designer my primary responsibility is coming up with new app ideas, conceptualizing and documenting them and then lead the production of these apps creative-wise. At the beginning of a project I’ll be focusing mostly on higher concept stuff, setting the creative vision and as the project progresses I’ll then go into more detailed design work, working closer with the team in solving the issues from a interaction design perspective. Because we’re a company focusing on kids’ products we also make focus tests with our target group of 3-6 year olds. It’s my responsibility to see that these tests happen and that the findings are implemented into the final product.
Are there any memorable stories, client interactions or close calls that have stuck with you over the years?
Game design for children was a little intimidating at first. Apart from working at Toca Boca for the past 3 years I have no prior experience in working with kids. However, I’ve come to realize though that it’s not that different from working with games for grown ups apart from the kids being more demanding when comes to quality in interaction patterns, which is an area I don’t mind being pushed in. I strongly believe that good interaction design is nice for everyone, regardless of age.
What’s a common mistake you often see entry level designers make? What are some tips to avoid or overcome it?
This is a classic, but the most common mistake is probably overshooting in ambition, taking on something too big too swallow as a first project. The best way to avoid this is, of course, as simple and boring as holding back on your dreams. I know that everyone says to “follow your dreams,” but it’s incredibly important to pace yourself. Almost always, the process of actually finishing a project will give you a whole other perspective and appreciation of so many things about product development that you may not have known when you started out.
There’s something new and amazing coming out every day. What’s something awesome you’ve seen recently that you’re dying to share, or something you’re excited about?
I fell in love with this keyboard demonstration.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
Don’t be afraid to try your wings by yourself. It will give you a whole other confidence and understanding about the field. With game engines being readily available and games taking place in so many different places in everyday life, there are so many opportunities to take on your ideas by yourself.
What do you think is the future of your industry?
I’m hoping we’ll move out of the age of mobile and the cynical monetization schemes it has brought with it so maybe we can find our way back to the core of games as entertainment and a culture. But that doesn’t seem to happen anytime soon; people are making too much money on free to play games with microtransactions, so the future will probably bring more of that :(
Mårten's newest game is soon to be available. Check out the trailer for Toca Blocks.