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V&A’s First Games Designer in Residence Takes On 19th-Century Textiles

by Allison Meier on September 4, 2014

by William Morris, indigo-discharged & block-printed cotton (1883) (via Victoria & Albert Museum)

Detail of “Strawberry Thief” by William Morris, indigo-discharged & block-printed cotton (1883) (via Victoria & Albert Museum)

Curiosity was piqued across the games and museum communities last May when the Victoria & Albert Museum announced their first games designer in residence. Now games designer Sophia George has unveiled her first project in the residency, which transforms a vivid Victorian textile into an iPad experience.

strawberry-thief-320Called “Strawberry Thief” after the 1883 William Morris work it explores, George unveiled the game last month at the Dare ProtoPlay festival in Dundee, Scotland. George decided, as part of the V&A’s task to reinterpret British art from the 1500-1900 galleries, to concentrate on the Arts and Crafts Movement, specifically Morris. In collaboration with the V&A, V&A Dundee, and Albertay University, her “Strawberry Thief” deconstructs the botanical pattern into a tablet game where you fly as one of the fruit-stealing birds to draw and color the screen with picked up flowers. BBC Scotland’s science correspondent Kenneth Macdonald got a preview of the game, earlier this month, showing the beauty of the Morris art replicated digitally, with gently soaring music against the simple gameplay.

Later this year, it’s planned that the game will be available for free. Meanwhile, you can check out the build progress on George’s website. The density of the details in the textile and wallpaper designs by William Morris can be hard to mentally break down, but the “Strawberry Thief” looks promising as encouraging a real appreciation for how the fantasy in floral unfolds. Perhaps if it’s a success more museums will invite game designers into their collections, as while it can be a novelty to turn art into a game, it’s even more interesting when the game environment is giving a better understanding of the original work.

Read more about “Strawberry Thief” and see the game’s development at Sophia George’s site.

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