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This article was published 24/11/2017 (1640 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
What started as a hobby in his parents’ East Kildonan basement has turned into a successful career for Alec Holowka.
Holowka, a River East Collegiate grad, is an award-winning video game developer and musician. In 2007, while living out in B.C., Holowka and Derek Yu released a game called Aquaria through their independent company Bit Blot. The game received rave reviews, and took home the Seumas McNally Grand Prize winner of the 2007 Independent Games Festival.
His latest project, Night in the Woods, which he worked on with Pittsburgh, Pa.-based artist Scott Benson, has been a big hit among indie gamers worldwide after raising over $200,000 on Kickstarter.
"It took us about three and a half years," Holowka said. "It was kind of an unwieldy beast."
Published by Finji and currently available on the PS4 and Steam platforms, Night in the Woods features a cast of animal misfits trapped in a dead-end, Rust Belt town.
"There’s a lot of inspiration from Winnipeg, too," Holowka said. "The sense of being stuck here."
Along with the programming, Holowka wrote and performed the music for Night in the Woods.
"Typically I have a MIDI keyboard hooked up to my computer," Holowka explained. "I just kind of play stuff, riff on it."
In the game, the main characters have a band, which Holowka composed original songs for. Unexpectedly, a number of those songs, especially a track called Die Anywhere Else, have been performed by real bands and uploaded to YouTube.
"I always wanted to be in a rock or indie band," admitted Holowka, who played in River East’s band program in high school. "This is kind of like the next best thing. I never expected something like that would happen."
When writing the music for Night in the Woods, Holowka said that Benson pushed him to branch out and try new approaches to his songwriting.
"He was great to work with for the music, because he had these super specific references," Holowka explained. "Which was great because it gave me a chance to grow and try new stuff."
Next month will see the launch of Night in the Woods: Weird Autumn. The new edition includes expanded and improved game-play and a number of added features, and brings the game to the XBox as well.
On Nov. 30, New Media Manitoba is hosting Holowka and Benson for a conversation about the process involved in bringing Night in the Woods to life. The event takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. at Red River College’s Great West Life Theatre (160 Princess St.).
"It’ll probably be pretty personal," Holowka said. "The game was successful, it came out, people liked it, but there was a lot of crap that happened along the way that was unexpected and hard to deal with."
Holowka added that having Benson come up from Pittsburgh for the event is exciting.
"He’s a super talented, funny person who’s very politically engaged, with a lot of empathy as well. He’s a great story teller. The main draw will be seeing him speak about his experiences."
Tickets for the Nov. 30 event are $10, and are available from newmediamanitoba.com
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112