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The Indie Intern: Working with Molecular Jig during a Turbulent Time

 

Last Semester wasn’t an easy one

Now a semester away from the end, and all major due dates finally behind me, I find that now is the time to reflect. A lot of things happened: I was joined by some of the best people in my cohort to make my silly little adventure game. I got to work on an intriguing grant proposal with Robert Hone, a game designer that has worked with the NIH and NSF to create games to educate and engage children and those with health issues. I even got so meet some amazing undergraduates as we struggled to understand the basics of artificial intelligence together. And I can (and probably will) take the time to write out posts to expand on each of those experiences I wanted to use this post to talk about my most interesting interaction yet; my internship.

Meeting Melanie & Molecular Jig

During my first year at the Game Lab, I had several opportunities to meet Melanie Stegman, the head of Molecular Jig. She was kind enough to come and speak about her work and process during my first semester. She talked about her love for biology and how she wanted to spread that to kids. She told my class about her game immune defense, and how it would allow the player to take command of cells so they can take on bacteria and viruses that are trying to destroy a human body.

This had me fascinated. I had never truly thought about the realm of educational games until that point, thinking that what I wanted to do wouldn’t mesh well with what was being taught in schools. This game sparked my interest, but seeing as I needed to finish quite a few projects those thoughts were set to the back of my mind.

Thankfully, I got many other opportunities to see and talk to Melanie. I was able to go to the Global Game Jam where I got to talk to her again and hear about the progress she’s made on her game as well as her thoughts on the game jam itself. I then got the opportunity to attend an event for the DC chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). My team and I had the opportunity to show off our game Copper and she gave us feedback and encouragement that was both kind and helpful. Couple that with hearing one of our alumni Rae Heitkamp talk about their experience working with Molecular Jig and I knew that I wanted to help.

First Contact

At the end of August, I took the leap and sent an email to Melanie asking if she needed an intern to help work on the game. A day later, she replied asking if I would want to do a phone meeting to discuss some of the logistics and what would be expected of me if I took on this job. When interviewed, I was asked several things. What did I expect to get out of this internship? What background did I have in learning game? What experience did I have in biology games? And with an interesting 3 hour long conversation, and a scheduling of an in-person meeting, I became the new intern for Molecular Jig.

A few days later, Melanie and I met up to talk more about the internship and to start doing some work. The meeting was great, I was able to learn more about the development process help start work on the more administrative end of my work, and meet John Biddle the lead programmer and developer for immune defense. Both were ready and willing to let me know about their work flow and development process, and receive any feedback that I could give after playing the game. It was refreshing to see what was going on in this indie developers’ world.

Okay, but what do you do?

As an intern for Molecular Jig I get the following tasks:

  • Admin work: I helped to input the contact information for all the connections that Molecular Jig has made during all their conference appearances, IGDA meetings, and talks.
  • Playtesting: While not my primary task I get the opportunity to play test new versions of the game as they come out and give feedback on the game.
  • Totally professional blogger: I get to update the main blog over at molecularjig.com with updates on the game and news about what is happening around it.
  • Social media savant: I also have the privilege of updating the official twitter and facebook on the happenings of the game. This can be anything from letting people know about new blog posts to sharing screen shots of the game.

Being an indie intern: A review

          As I continue this adventure with Melanie and Molecular Jig, I can now say that I made the right decision in sending the email that day. She has become someone I trust in this industry and I can proudly say that I got to work on immune defense in whatever small way. I also get to impart wisdom onto those who might also want to take the leap of contacting small indies. Here is my insight and advice for you:

  • Life gets in the way- As enthusiastic as both Melanie and I are about this partnership and the game itself, neither of us have a lot of time. Despite a successful Indiegogo campaign and hundreds of supporters both financially and morally, Melanie can’t afford to take on this project 24 hours a day. Working to live is still a thing, and despite being passionate about her project she gets swamped with other tasks. Again, stating that this was my most harrowing semester, I had to spend a lot of time focusing on projects for classes and got the opportunity to work on different things. Neither of us had time to fully focus on my internship work until we got breaks from the storm that is life.
  • Communication is Key- Because we were both swamped and because I worked remotely for most of my intern work, being able to get in contact with each other was super important. We have open access through multiple forms of communication so we can figure out what’s going on in the other’s life and that helps us focus in on our work. If you find yourself in a similar situation make sure that those lines are open for you, otherwise the internship might not be a good fit for you.
  • Your boss should be a form of support- An internship is a learning experience first and foremost, whether it’s learning to implement certain things, getting insight into the development process, or making connections into the future. No matter how frustrating things might get in your life, do NOT shrug off this opportunity. Even if you have some bad times during the process you are learning what you need when you start your career. And if you have a good boss (like I do) they will provide you with connections that will only brighten your future. Think everything over with a clear mind, the old adage of looking back to laugh will be come true.

 

If you wanna learn more about Molecular Jig, click here!

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