Alumnus Kevin Harwood (’13) is the creator of The Station, a first-person sci-fi mystery game set on a space station sent to study a sentient alien civilization. Assuming the role of a recon specialist, players must unravel a mystery which will decide the fate of two civilizations.
Video games aren’t typically known for their powerful stories, explains Kevin Harwood (‘13), Creative Director of The Station, a new story-driven video game. Companies often try to use story as a way to facilitate the unveiling of a new technology or mechanic. But when it comes to games, Harwood feels story can and should be about so much more.
“To me, story is purpose,” Harwood says. “It’s the reason why you’re doing something.”
Harwood believes that games can be immersive stories with the power to breathe purpose and meaning into a person. This is one reason why he wanted to be a part of a company focused on creating story-driven games.
When it came to creating The Station, everything from visual art style to sound design was carefully constructed to supplement the story.
Harwood calls The Station a “slow, atmospheric game” and wants players to understand that it is not an action game or a fast-paced shooter. “It’s a contemplative, story mystery,” he says.
“There’s a lot of gray morality, there’s a lot of gray discussions brought up,” says Harwood. “My hope is that players don’t take anything at face value and question everything. It’s up to them to figure out what they believe.”
But despite always loving video games and having a strong passion for story, being the Creative Director of a video game wasn’t what Harwood thought he’d be doing when he was younger.
During his time at Trinity Western, he’d done some consulting through Google and Facebook platforms, and really enjoyed himself. “I kept getting dropped into these game companies, helping them develop their marketing strategy,” says Harwood. “I got obsessed with the market.”
Once he’d earned his BBA in Business and Marketing, he kept getting contracts with Serendipity and soon met some of the top talent in the industry.
“You quickly find it’s a small community of people who make the best video games in the world,” says Harwood.
Harwood made many personal relationships as he worked in the gaming industry. Because of this, he was able to rally a team around his game concept.
A self-diagnosed houseplant addict, Harwood says he had the inspiration for The Station while shopping for cactus soil mix at a plant store. The initial idea of a space station sent to study an alien race haunted him, and he pitched it to his friend and mentor Dave Fracchia—former studio head of Radical Entertainment. Together, they talked for hours about the idea.
Confidant this was something worth pursuing, they reached out to other friends who’ve worked with some of the biggest studios and game franchises in the world.
“We saw this as an opportunity to take a lot of our skillsets from the Triple A genre and build a high quality indie game,” explains Harwood. “We didn’t think it would turn into a full-time production that would be the seed for a new studio.”
Through this journey, Harwood admits he’s received a lot of help from mentors and advisors with a lot of experience in the gaming world. One of these mentors was Trinity Western SAMC professor Kevin Schut.
“Kevin is a miracle worker,” says Harwood. “He gave so much encouragement, not just help and resources. I still stay in touch with him.”
Trinity Western also played a crucial role, as the interdisciplinary requirements of the University prepared Harwood for all the challenges he would face and allowed him to develop skills he would need in a variety of fields.
One of the playtests took place at Trinity Western, and the feedback he got from students and alumni proved to be quite valuable. Harwood is excited to maintain his connection to Trinity Western, and hopes that the University’s potential new game development program (pending government approval) will provide him potential new interns and juniors for his company.
This has been the experience of a lifetime, and when it comes to the success or failure of The Station, Harwood isn’t too concerned. He’s obsessed with making games and doesn’t have any plans to stop.
“I’m not going to be able to leave this process,” Harwood says. “It’s so enjoyable to make games. No matter what happens with this title, I’m still going to do this.”