Meet Katarina and Tennessee, a couple from the US who moved here to pursue their dream as game developers. After looking for training on the other side of the Atlantic, they found themselves in Boden. After just one month, they are already ready to stay here.
At the heart of Boden Business Park, students from all over the world are immersed in their projects. The sound is muffled, a bit like entering a library. The voice is automatically lowered and the only sounds are the keystrokes from the keyboards. It sounds
as a wonderful symphony of creativity and concentration. There is a relaxed feel to the new, fresh premises where daylight pours in from the large windows.
A couple of new souls here in Sävast are Katarina Kelso and Tennessee Philips Ward, both 24 years old. A love grew between them during their student years at the University of California. When it was time to pursue their dream of becoming game developers, the couple searched for schools in Europe. One requirement was that the school should offer both art and design education, a point that Futuregames at Boden Game Camp delivered on.
The move took place across the Atlantic – to Boden. A move they were both really looking forward to after reading about Swedish culture and the school where a large majority of students get jobs after their studies.
– My first time here has been fantastic. The people here are so warm and welcoming. The environment in Norrbotten is so clean and lovely, says Katarina with a satisfied smile.
Katarina is studying art. This means all the graphics in the games, from the environments to the characters. When we ask her about her dreams for the future, she lights up and says it’s very open. She hasn’t set her sights on any particular game studio, but it’s clear that she wants to be a game developer. Preferably in fantasy games, she adds.
Tennessee has gone the design route instead. Art and design may sound similar, but the design line in game development is more about the mechanics and design of how the game is played. He has targeted the so-called AAA studios, which are the biggest players on the market and the creators of many well-known game series. One of these is Respawn Entertainment, which Tennessee mentions as an example of a target for him.
In the Futuregames premises where the trainings are held, there is a diversity of faces. A blissful mix of nationalities who all have one thing in common – their love of game development. Someone breaks into Stockholmian and another introduces himself as a newcomer from Singapore. The premises have plenty of communal areas for socializing.
In the kitchen, someone has written the abbreviation for a class on the chalkboard, to which Katarina points and explains that each class has its own kitchen week. The whole atmosphere is like a cozy office where everyone is working towards the same goal.
In addition to digital creation at Game Camp, students also develop their own card games. Groups of three people can work together to develop a new game. The groups then test play each other’s card games in the studio building at Boden Business Park and learn the basics of game development that way, before moving on to digital creation.
Katarina says she baked ghost cupcakes and invited three new friends to eat them the other week. Ghost muffins are what it sounds like, we learned after a quick check online. We show her a picture from the search results of a cupcake with a ghostly frosting and ask her if this is what she made. She responds by bursting into laughter and saying that it is correct, just that hers might not be as beautiful.
When baking is the topic of conversation, the couple also tells how they shop for groceries in a store where you barely know a word of the language on the packaging.
– It is very much Google Translate. Almost all shops have free wifi, so just take a photo of the packaging and upload it to the app to see what it is, which is usually fine.
The language barrier is just one of the major changes. Imagine the change from using the units of liters, grams and meters all your life, to suddenly using units that you have hardly ever been in contact with before. How much is a liter of milk? How long does it take to drive 5 km? This is exactly the change these two young students experienced. Except for adapting to a new country with a new culture, a new language and where everything has to be just right.
When Tennessee isn’t studying, eating ghost cupcakes or playing his favorite game “Enter the Gungeon,” he likes to ride his bike. He has discovered the local life in Boden and that everything is within cycling distance. They both think it has been easy to move here because everything is so accessible.
– It is so easy to get around. There is good access to public transport and when everything is close by, it is easy to walk or cycle to school, to town or to leisure activities.
During the ongoing interview in the relaxed gaming environment, we look out the large window and see a sign that winter is coming. Some swans fly above us, aiming for more southern latitudes. We shout “Look, they’re running away, hold them!” and explain to the Americans that this is a sure sign of fall. The couple then talks about their own relocation plans, or rather the plans that don’t exist.
– We have been here for a month and are already prepared to stay forever,” says Katarina.
Due to the pandemic, they have not been able to spend much time with their friends and family before the move and that it has therefore been easier to move here. It was easier to move away from the old life when they had not had much contact recently. Moreover, they have been able to create a new life here, with new friends from their studies. Unless there is a job in Sweden after the training, they have no plans to leave the country or return to the US. They have been delighted
of Sweden and are delighted with the excellent reception they have received. Before we leave the business park for this time, we chat casually with the couple about the weather. Now that the aurora borealis season has started, we also ask if they have experienced it.
– Yes, we’ve seen it and think it’s nice,” says Katarina, pausing briefly. But we’ve only seen it in paintings so far,” she adds…
TEXT: ROBIN SÖDERLUND