From studies in Skövde to internship at a game company in Japan

When Deborah Carlander decided to pursue a Master's degree in Game Development, some of her friends were hesitant and wondered where it would take her. The answer is Japan, Belgium and Malmö, Sweden. From her accommodation in the 14-million city of Tokyo, she now walks across the street to one of Asia's largest game companies.

Deborah Carlander is in her second year of the Master's programme Game Development at the University of Skövde. The education offers several opportunities to make games, for example with a client, or via an internship at a company. Deborah has done both. Internship at game companies in both Sweden, Belgium and now Japan. In addition, together with some other students in the specialisation Serious Games, she has made a game prototype in collaboration with a Swedish author.

One semester with salary in Tokyo

During the spring semester, she is in the capital of Japan, on an internship at the game company Cygames. In addition to the internship giving her new knowledge, lots of experience and a unique insight into one of Asia's largest game companies, she also receives accommodation and a salary in the meantime.

When we meet Deborah on Zoom, she has just returned to Tokyo from a study visit to Cygame's office in Osaka.

“Normally I am at the head quarters here in Tokyo, but in Osaka the company has a large motion caption studio.”

She explains that the motion capture studio has a ceiling of eight meters, and plenty of room for the actors to jump high and do stunts, attached to wires. In the meantime, you can follow the animated characters moving in a corresponding way on large screens, connected to 168 cameras.

“It was crazy to see. The studio is built for very big stunts. I didn't even know that motion capture was done that way, that someone jumps from a height of 5 meters.”

Deborah Carlander MoCap2 (003).jpg

Motion capture studio at Cygames.

Trains an AI to recognize when players are going out of character

It was working with her Master’s thesis that brought Deborah to the internship at Cygames. There she investigates whether it is possible to train an AI (artificial intelligence) to recognise when a player goes out of character and stops role-playing in the tabletop role-playing game, (RPG)* Dungeons & Dragons.

“An AI can win in chess and in anything that has a calculated number of solutions. But in role-playing games there are several players and the participants do not play based on the way that necessarily means winning, but the way their characters would act based on, among other things, background, class and the alignment system. You have a role to play, and if you break it, it affects the other players. That's why it's so interesting to look at. At the office in Osaka there is an RPG enthusiast, so I talked to him to get some ideas.”

Deborah is part of Cygames research group. The working hours are from 10 am to 7 pm and in addition to the usual work, Deborah receives lessons in Japanese. But the best thing, she says, is the access to knowledge and resources the company offers in the form of researchers and facilities.

“Oh, such a boring answer. But they take me on excursions and I get to see a large part of the gaming world. I get so much access to information I wouldn't have had access to otherwise. At a triple-A company* everything is so incredibly much bigger than at an indie company*, it's very cool.”

What would you say to someone who is considering studying the Master's programme Game Development?

“Some of my friends were against me doing the Master's and said that no one in the games industry cares about that degree. But I think I've disproved a lot of it. Partly, I have gained experience both in theory and practice. That's what brought me here. In the Master's proramme, you get to explore your own interests in a way that was not possible during the Bachelor’s. Whether you want to do research or work in the games industry, I think it's very valuable, as long as you put in the time.”

You are half way into the internship, what has been the most fun?

“Cygames have encouraged me to go and do some sightseeing. They say "Experience Japan!". But I want to make the most of my time att Cygames. It feels like what I'm doing is valuable or could become valuable in the future. It's inspiring that way. But yes, I'm having fun!”

With that last statement, Deborah smiles and gives two thumbs up into the Zoom camera.


*Role-playing game, or RPG, is a kind of interactive storytelling where the players are usually the protagonists of the story, which is usually led by a game master who drives the story forward.

*Triple-A is an informal classification of games produced or distributed by a major publisher. The games often have large budgets and long production times.

*Indie games (from ”independent”) are games, often created by a small studio, without having a publisher or being owned by a large game company.

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