Champlain Abroad: Indiana Edition

By Julia Broman (Game Art ’21)

This semester we’ve had the lovely chance to welcome someone from a completely different school into our Champlain Game Studio fold. Cole Swany is from the University of Indiana, and is studying Game Design there, but they don’t have many study abroad opportunities for his major. And so, he found us. I sat down with Cole for a quick little interview about his experiences here and how he’s been enjoying Champlain and Montreal so far.

Q: What got you into Game Design?

A: It started with an interest in branching stories, I think. I played old adventure games, like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game, and I remember building branching narratives out of linked word documents, so I always enjoyed that. And I also had been working on composing for a while, and I think what really attracted me to game design is the fact that you can have a bunch of disparate interests and they’re all useful, because game design is such a multidisciplinary field. 

Q: Why sound?

A: Really, by way of music. I’ve been given good advice which is that if you wanna do music for a game, to also help do sound for it, because you’re a more attractive candidate if you can wear multiple hats. And so I sort of picked up sound along the way, but my passion was and is mostly music.

Q: Why did you look into studying abroad in Montreal? Did you find Champlain first, or find it after knowing you wanted to go to Montreal?

A: My school has a pretty extensive study abroad program, but just nothing related to game design. So I think I pretty much just whipped up Google and looked up ‘game design study abroad” and I think Champlain was the second result. It seemed sort of like a hail mary, but then I got on the phone with Noah Goldblatt and he was extremely helpful, and the more I heard about the program, and about Champlain’s extensive alumni network and connections, it just seemed like a really fantastic opportunity, so I just took it more and more seriously, and here I am!

Q: How are you liking it so far?

A: Oh I’m really really liking it. I’ve never been to French Canada before, and it’s a big shock to begin with, but I think being able to dive into the work and being able to collaborate with a bunch of new people is really exciting.

Q: I understand you participated in Game Jam recently? How did you find a team? What was it like?

A: Yup! Well, I sort of just migrated around the room with my backpack for several hours, querying people about whether they needed narrative or sound, and I eventually found a few other lonely hearts in the back of the room and we made a team. I ended up doing both narrative and sound for the game, so that was ideal. None of us knew each other beforehand except the two programmers, but we ended up all working hard on it and we came out with something pretty cool, so it was a good experience. 

Q: What have you enjoyed the most so far about being in Montreal?

A: I guess I mentioned this before, but it’s really exciting to collaborate with a group of different people, and I think Champlain does a good job of cultivating students with a bunch of different skill sets, so people can be really collaborative. It’s nice to be around people with such varied interests and people so dedicated to what they do. And, I’ve never lived anywhere this big before, so that’s pretty cool too!

Q: What’s your favorite class so far? Are they different from classes that you’ve taken previously?

A: Some things are similar, some things are different. I’m very familiar with the production format of “this class is just all about making things,” but I think the Advanced Seminar in Game Design class and the Systems and Experience Design class are really interesting opportunities to deep dive into areas of design, where I think a lot of my previous classes were more broad strokes trying to cover a lot of different things. Especially the Advanced Seminar, which is all about just honing in on one big solo project, which is a great way to motivate yourself to get a really polished portfolio piece.

Q: What are you looking forward to in the next couple of months, now that we’re halfway through the semester?

A: Well I’m pretty much mostly just excited to see how everyone’s projects shape up, since there’s several different projects going on at the moment. 

Q: Final question – What’s your favorite food item/place you’ve found and why?

A: Well, it’s not the classiest joint… But the OJ? The big orange dome-place, it’s off the highway, the Orange Julep – Basically it’s like a fast food place in this giant orange concrete dome, and they serve this creamy orange juice stuff with every meal. It’s overpriced and terrible for your heart, but I had it once and it was an experience to remember.