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Thursday 22 June 2023 1:59pm

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Videographer Rachel Anson, left, Dr Katie Matts and Spookysoft Games Creative Director Stef Animal spent a few hours filming in the Geology Museum recently for upcoming videogame 'My Year of Penguins'.

Big ones, little ones, prehistoric ones, modern ones – all sorts of penguins will be part of an educational penguin game being developed by an Ōtepoti videogame company with help from an Otago University palaeontologist.

Spookysoft Games creative director Stef Animal says 'My Year of Penguins' is a series of 12 “mini games” alongside 12 video documentaries featuring lots of information about historical and modern-day penguins.

“There's cute cartoon penguins in the games, and then educational documentaries we've been making to go along side it,” Animal says.

“It's nice that kids can learn about penguins that exist now and also the history of penguins.”

Animal is from Ōtepoti and says there are plenty of penguins there.

“They're quite fun to draw and fun to look at.”

Aotearoa New Zealand is also one of the places where penguins originally come from and has been described as the 'nursery' for penguin evolution by palaeontologists, she adds.

“I think penguins are really popular, kids love them, it's a good way to attract kids to the game.”

Putting the game together has seen her working with a few penguin experts including palaeontologist Dr Katie Matts who finished her PhD at Otago last year, and Jordana Whyte of The Wildlife Hospital, Dunedin.

Animal and videographer Rachel Anson recorded Dr Matts recently talking about penguins for the game in the University's Geology Museum.

Dr Matts says she gave Animal information about fossil penguins, penguin skeletal anatomy and their history, and was able to show a few specimens.

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Dr Matts made a point of keeping the videogame's younger audience in mind when speaking about penguins.

She made a point of keeping the younger audience in mind and avoided going “too deep” into specific areas.

She says she has given presentations at school and public talks before but being a part of a documentary or video game is something new.

Her PhD focused on the extinct Platydyptes penguin.

“It's got this interesting place in penguin history because it had some of the more archaic basal features but also some of the more modern features as well.”

Animal says she would try and make video games as a kid and got back into it as a hobby while she worked as a chef.

“It turns out it's a little bit tricky, but it's not as hard, and you get to sit down which after years in hospitality I really appreciated.”

'My Year of Penguins' is the fourth game Spookysoft Games has created.

Animal and three others accessed funding from the Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE) a couple of years ago to develop such games.

CODE is funded by Kānoa – Region Economic Development & Investment Unit and was created to help boost Ōtepoti's game development sector.

New Zealand On Air commissioned Spookysoft Games to put together a game called 'Animal Tracks' which sees the player make music using noises from birds and animals native to Aotearoa.

In addition to 'My Year of Penguins' Spookysoft Games is also working on a comic-making game which sees kids using pre-made images and characters.

“It's for kids who don't like drawing but like playing with computers and being creative.”

Spookysoft Games was able to hire several illustrators to provide the players with lots of different illustrations.

-Kōrero by internal communications adviser, Koren Allpress

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