The independent video game community in Halifax is up and coming due, in no small part to Dalarna, a small county in the middle of Sweden.
That is where Andrew Shouldice, a Halifax independent video game developer, spent two months of his summer participating in the accelerator program Stugan.
While living in a remote cabin in the Swedish countryside, Shouldice got to work on his game surrounded by like-minded people while rediscovering the importance of having the support of a community.
Being part of a strong community isn’t anything new to Shouldice.
Around 2014, with the help of his friend Ben Swinden, he helped create the Halifax Game Collective.
“I got the idea after attending [a similar event] in Montreal.”
Shouldice was impressed with the strength of the video game community in Montreal and the effect it was having on the video game scene.
“We want to build Halifax into a Neo-Montreal,” says Shouldice, helping to build a city where independent video game development is supported by its community.
Shouldice always dreamed of becoming an independent video game developer. He had made a few small projects before, but was itching to have a major release under his name.
“At a certain point I thought if I’m going to do this indie thing, I am going to pull this trigger at some point.”
A year later, in the spring of 2015, Shouldice decided to quit his job at Silverback Games to start working on Secret Legend, his first major video game.
He had long thought about taking the plunge and branching out on his own to develop a game and finally decided to take his chance with a Zelda-inspired action-adventure game.
Adapting from working in a big studio to working alone on a big project was tough. Even if it can be very empowering to be in total control of your creative project, having to structure your own time, discipline yourself and having no support from coworkers is always a challenge.
A year passed, and Shouldice was still having trouble making progress with his game.
That’s when his friend Robin Baumgarten told him he had to go and participate in the Stugan program.
Stugan is a non-profit accelerator program for young independent video game developers.
Around 20 developers from around the world get chosen every year and move to a secluded wooden cabin in Dalarna and work on their projects for two months.
“Robin was right. It was one of the best experiences of my life,” says Shouldice.
While surrounded by other young independent video game developers, Shouldice found the help and support he had needed all that time.
Back from Stugan, Shouldice is a lot more confident about Secret Legend and hopes to release the game around the end of 2017.
It has also invigorated his involvement with the Halifax Game Collective.
Having had the help and support to assist him on his way, Shouldice wants to make sure there is a community of people that can do the same for other independent video game developers.