The Kilted Otter is not just another game jam. It’s the first event of its kind to create, collate and curate a whole range of design and development experiences, to explore and celebrate Gaelic and Scottish language, culture and heritage.
The project will include a two-month long game jam open to participants around the world, including schools, creators and developers across Scotland.
The unique nature of the project has already been recognised, with The Kilted Otter receiving support from many of the organisations which support and promote gaelic education and gaelic media. Partners include the Gaelic media organisation MG ALBA, the Scottish Government, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the Royal National Mod business support programme, XpoNorth and Women in Games.
The Kilted Otter will be rolled out to schools and community groups across the whole of Scotland, as well as being publicly accessible across the world.
The first phase of the project will involve research gathering and the creation of a guidance pack for games designers, detailing Gaelic language and heritage, including written, audio and video stories from native Gaelic speakers.
Two Month Game Jam
Following the creation of the pack, a two-month long game jam will be held, with participants invited to create new digital and interactive concepts using the information as inspiration and creating games with a Gaelic heritage connection.
Games created within the jam do not have to be entirely in Gaelic – the goal is to make Gaelic more accessible to a global audience – but the use of Gaelic will be encouraged to help creators and players around the world engage with and understand Gaelic more readily.
Many local authorities in Scotland have already signed up to take part, and participating schools will have the opportunity to build the game jam into their language projects within school curricula, forming one or two lessons a week for the duration of two-month game jam.
Abertay University’s Charly Harbord created and is leading the Kilted Otter project, with assistance from colleagues across the university’s School of Design and Informatics, including native Gaelic speaker Kayleigh MacLeod, David Lyons, Euan Dempster and Ken Fee.
Charly told the Scottish Games Network:
This initial year will create a completely new model for language and cultural games practice. It is absolutely vital that we continue to protect and promote the Gaelic language and the Kilted Otter Initiative does this in an innovative, engaging, and fun way that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.
I’m delighted that so many partners have come on board as the project has gathered pace, and I think it’s important to recognise that Gaelic isn’t just something that belongs to the past but is part of a rich heritage that still lives and breathes today, be that through video games or any other media.
The challenges that Indigenous languages face are not limited to Scotland and as this annual event grows, we hope to bring on board many more countries and cultures from around the world, linking into the UNESCO International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032.
More Than Games
Data collected from the jam will be used to inform research outputs, including academic journal papers and conference presentations.
The intention is to expand the project to Indigenous communities from the First Nations in Canada, Native America, Mexico and China in future years.
Royal National Mod
The game jam will be part of Scotland’s premier Gaelic festival, the Royal National Mod. This will be the first time digital games have been included in a programme that’s internationally renowned for showcasing traditional music, song, highland dancing, drama, sport and literature.
Lecturers and students from Abertay University will join experts from the Scottish games industry and academics from other universities to provide lessons and mentorship in games design and programming, encouraging pupils to think about a career in the video games sector, where Scotland is a global leader.
James Graham, CEO of An Comunn Gàidhealach, organisers of the Royal National Mòd, said:
We are delighted that The Kilted Otter Initiative will be included in our programme of events at this year’s Royal National Mòd.
The introduction of new media such as gaming will help to engage a younger Gaelic speaking demographic and provides an exciting model for further language and cultural preservation. The Games Jam of course isn’t exclusive to Gaelic speakers, and is inclusive of all ages, abilities and nationalities, hopefully sparking an interest in people to learn more about the language.
The Kilted Otter Initiative aims to be accessed by people of all ages, abilities, genders and nationalities, so a series of guides will be created to introduce easy-to-use game engines that enable anybody to make a playable game.
Help and Support for New Developers
A series of lectures will also be streamed online over the course the game jam, with a focus on games design, game development, art, history, culture and other relevant topics.
Scottish musicians, singers and voice actors have also been lined up as a resource for participants to draw on when creating games that are truly representative of Scottish culture and heritage.
A winning game will be selected from the jam to be developed further and promoted in collaboration with InGAME (Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise) and MG ALBA, building on its highly successful FilmG brand.
Other project supporters include YoYo Games, who will be providing free use of their Game Maker Studio 2 for the event; game studio Eclectic Synthesis who will provide an internship prize, and online learning platform E-Sgoil.
Jake McCullagh, Co-Fouder of Eclectic Synthesis, told the SGN:
The Kilted Otter Initiative will caber toss Scottish culture from the highlands to the global stage. We’re honoured to be taking part in such a cultural landmark for Gaelic history.
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Education, Shirley-Anne Somerville said:
The Scottish Government is pleased to support this Games Jam, which is a first for Gaelic and Scottish heritage and I hope that it is successful in developing a range of projects that support these important areas of Scottish life.
Iseabail Mactaggart, MG ALBA’s Director of Multiplatform Content said:
We’re delighted to be partnering with an organisation of the calibre of Abertay University to create opportunities to use Gaelic in gaming.
The Gaelic short film competition, FilmG, demonstrates how creative young people are in using Gaelic to tell their own stories, and the Kilted Otter Initiative opens up an entire new world of possibility of using Gaelic. We’re delighted to be working with all the partners, and very much looking forward to seeing the results.
Shona MacLennan, Ceannard of Bòrd na Gàidhlig said:
We are delighted to support this initiative which will contribute to the National Gaelic Language Plan’s aim that more people use Gaelic more often, in more situations.
Providing opportunities for young people in particular to use their Gaelic in different activities is extremely important for both normalising a minority language and creating more ways to use Gaelic in an entertaining, creative and fun way. Recent research carried out by Bòrd na Gàidhlig showed that young people also want to connect with other young Gaelic speakers across the country and gaming is a great route to that.