INTERVIEW: Georg Hobmeier On Video Games & Social Awareness

More often than not, video games have a higher purpose than simple entertainment. Teachers have been using games to facilitate learning of different subjects such as history, physics, programming etc, while pilots have been using realistic game simulators to practice plane controls and flight management. Different organizations are using video games to promote their ideas to the masses.

Social and public awareness is one of the subjects that has been recently spread through video games. In this regard, Cultured Vultures had a conversation with Georg Hobmeier, the co-founder of Causa Creations, on the purpose of video games in promoting social awareness. This is what he had to say.

Georg, tell us a few words about yourself that would best introduce you to our readers.
I’m one of the founders of Causa Creations, a company that has been making social awareness games since 2014. I come from an artistic background in media and performance art, but I’m incredibly happy that I was able to join this amazing medium and the people who work in it.

“Causa Creations” is an interesting and, at the same time, intriguing name for a game developer. Does it reflect in any way the final purpose of the company?
The final purpose of the company is to make unique games beyond the mainstream, very often looking at socio-political issues and conflicts. Of course this leads us to look for the cause of problems and where it is rooted. Hence the name of the company and its logo.

The goal set by the company goes beyond mere game development, as it tries to promote social awareness and offer different perspectives on contemporary social challenges. What are the key elements of social awareness and how well has Causa Creations managed to promote them?
The world we live in is a complicated place. I think games have a rather unique way to make complex issues accessible, often in an interactive way. And, of course, understanding and awareness are a key to real knowledge. Or the acknowledgement of complexity itself. I think we are still in an early phase, when it comes to making games. Some of our games have reached a broader public, others not so much, which isn’t too tragic for us, since we still make a living.

One of our most important projects, Path Out, was made together with the Syrian designer Abdullah Karam, who fled the war in 2014 and arrived in Austria in 2015. I think this game, still in progress and with the first chapter published, created quite a stir, since it really opens up to a very personal perspective what it means to flee from war. In that respect, we have made many gamers who played the game “aware”.

Do you have an estimated number of chapters that ought to be released for Path Out?
Indeed. While Path Out 1 can be considered a free teaser, there will be two more chapters with more substance and length.

What were the toughest challenges that you have been facing along the way while trying to combine gaming with the promotion of social awareness?
Getting money for this kind of project is hard. When we started out, there was no commercial interest in this kind of games. This now has changed. I personally think we have it easier than most indies, since we operate in a niche and also have a viable work for hire section.

Speaking of money, do you rely on crowdfunding or on publisher financing when it comes to gathering funds for development?
Both will be part of the mix, but we also have some options considering public funding in Austria, particularly from the business grant area, where we already got support from Vienna’s Wirtschaftsagentur and their Content Award funding.

Causa Creations has a pretty rich and diverse portfolio of games. Which of them are you most proud of and why?
That’s a really hard question. Path Out certainly reached a very broad audience. Vienna All Tomorrows, fresh out of the oven and not even on our website yet, was incredibly popular with the players. But I have to admit that “The Fallen”, a game which I made with the group gold extra and which was supported by Causa Creations, is possibly my secret favourite. It’s a game about the nature of war and I will not rest until it will be finished. Expect a release by 2027.

What is/are the game engine(s) that you have been using for developing your games?
We tried quite a lot, from HTML5, Löve 2D, Corona, Unity, Processing and even RPGMaker MV. Whatever works. High-End 3D is not really our thing, I prefer to work with means that are more affordable and clever.

What other tools (graphics, programming, sound etc.) have you been using through the development process?
Whatever works! It’s a really long list, but fairly standard stuff. In the beginning we did quite a lot with Supercollider for the sound, which was rather special, I reckon.

You have team members scattered across different countries. What are the biggest challenges that you find in managing a development team at distance?
Curiously enough, this trend is slowly coming to an end. Most of us sit in Vienna right now and this year we did our first project with everyone actually on location. It’s so much better. Remote teams are hard, for everyone. It slows every process down, especially when it comes to fast iterations and it also creates a very particular breed of “uncertainty stress”.

Are there any upcoming titles that we can expect to be released in the near future? If yes, what can you tell our readers about them?
Indeed. We are working on the 2nd part of Path Out, its mobile port and some minor details like localisation. We also have more cooperations with cultural partners in our pipeline, very exciting stuff, but I’m not allowed to talk about that yet.

There are many aspiring game developers wishing to see their ideas materialized. Considering your experience, what advice would you give a novice game developer?
Don’t go big in the beginning. Rather make 5 games in 1 year, than 1 game in 5 years. Failure is a natural part of making games and it’s easier to cope with some small projects to not make it, than suffer a crushing defeat after spending 5 years on a project, that somehow fails.

Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Hello world. Go and play Path Out. We hope you like it. If you do: leave us a review.

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