Aberdeen and Ross’s Rise to Gamedev Fame

The Maiden Stone with Norman
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.

We took the train up to Aberdeen next, where Colin’s relatives Alan and Karen live with their two boys Ross and Alex. We saw them during their visit to Nanaimo last summer and they were happy to put us up for a few weeks while we were in Scotland. Ross is 8 now and Colin was determined to teach him to make video games. He got him started using Game Maker, a sort of WSYWIG tool for making Windows downloadables. After the first day Ross was off to the races, developing his first game Alien Black Hole. It turned out to be a surprisingly engaging game, where you are chased through a maze by enemies who eat the level walls as they go. I’m a big fan of his sprite art for the spaceship.

Inspired by Colin’s success, Ross was eager to publish his game online and charge for a full version. I set up a website for him (Thunder and Lightning Games – what a name!). He dictated and I designed, emphasizing the use of Comic Sans and a tiled lightning background to (I think) excellent effect. Then, Internet magic took over. Colin posted a link to it on Facebook, where some of his indie game friends picked it up and reposted it on Twitter. From there it found its way to a review on popular gaming blog Rock Paper Shotgun. Overnight Ross was receiving praise, donations and requests for the full game (which he hadn’t actually finished yet!) from all over the world. Alien Black Hole was a huge success and the world is now eagerly awaiting Ross’s next game.

So that worked out.

Colin’s (more or less) aunt Lorna lives just up the street from the Glens, and is immensely knowledgeable regarding the Aberdeen area and its history. She took us on excursions to Crathes Castle (still with the actual furniture and family heirlooms displayed), Aberdeen University where she works (founded in the 15th century by the local bishop), the Aberdeen docks (huge oil sector there) then down to Kirriemuir to visit Colin’s (also more or less) uncle Douglas and his family. We also met up with (uncle) Norman for a tour of his area of town, a peek at the Maiden Stone which inspired our wedding rings, and a truly excellent Scottish meal. I’ve been trying to link to things we’ve really enjoyed on this trip, ever since another couple’s blog of their trip to Malta helped me to plan our own excursions there.

Karen warned us that Aberdeen was known for its grumpy inhabitants, but we didn’t find that to be true. We spent a number of our days there just wandering about town, dipping into local pubs (our favorite was the Prince of Wales, try the mince & skirlie) and cafes (I recommend Books and Beans). We brought our laptops and searched for quiet places to get some work done on our games. They progressed a little more slowly in Scotland but that was fine as we were having such a good time with family.

We took three days and headed up to Inverness by ourselves. We didn’t get much farther into the northern highlands, but found there was plenty to do around this laidback and walker-friendly town. Invernessies claim to be the happiest citizens in British polls, and we think with good reason; they have great local food and music venues, nature all around and beautiful walking paths just minutes from downtown. We visited Loch Ness and a remarkably skeptical Nessie museum; their motto should have been “There is No Monster”. We then happened upon world-class Thai food at traditional Celidh (Kaylee) folk music bar called Hootananny, and were so delighted we came back for it the next two days.

It was wonderful being with such hospitable and fun family in Aberdeen. Karen and Alan were just fabulous hosts and we hope someday we can repay the favor, or pass it on to someone else in the family.


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