The Big Indie Pitch is a regular event run by the makers of PocketGamer.biz.
It sees indie developers engage in a speed-dating-style pitching competition for fame and those sweet, sweet promotional packages.
The event gives indies five minutes to pitch their games to a panel of press, publishers and industry pundits. The judges then pick three winners and everybody gets valuable feedback.
The indie view
The Big Indie Pitch is getting bigger and bigger as we bring it to events all across the world.
To give you an idea of what the event is like, who attends the events and the games on show, we've sat down with a number of past BIP contestants to offer their views.
This time, we spoke to Sophie Artemigi from Team Hook Up, who recently pitched Hook Up as a part of the Mobile Big Indie Pitch at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital NEXT supported by N3twork and Green Grey and walked away as the winner.
PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio - who is on the team, and what are their inspirations?
Sophie Artemigi: The main contributors to Hook Up are myself, Becky Vicars, and Itzel Gonzalez Estrada.
I forced both of them to play games like Florence, A Normal Lost Phone, and Tender: Creature Comforts during pre-production, so they’re definitely big influences on Hook Up.
Itzel, our sound designer, is studying for her masters at the National Film and Television School, but she started making games long before then.
Becky, our animator, is currently working as a 3D animator for film and TV but has a background in animation for games. She joined the project because she was excited to do more 2D work.
I’m Sophie Artemigi, I just finished my masters in Games Design. I want to make more narrative games like Hook Up going forward.
Can you tell us about Hook Up that you pitched at the competition?
Hook Up is about a woman who matches with her high-school bully on a dating app. You play as Alex, a sex-positive twentysomething, by messing around with her dating profile and talking to her matches- including her ex-bully. Through your conversations, you learn about what really happened in high school and how it affected each of the characters as they grew into adults.
What do you think are the most unique and interesting aspects of Hook Up that players may never have seen before?
There are some amazing games out that play on the conventions of mobile apps, but none that I’ve seen deal with sex positivity and hook up culture in this way.
Alex’s story is one that’s relatable to some and alien to others so I think it was important to immerse the player in her dating life through the mechanics. Every aspect of the works together to do this: the meta-game format, the ways you can edit her profile, the different conversations you have, the cut scenes, even the UI sound design.
I’ve never seen a game that engages with this kind of character in such a way. We got some really enthusiastic feedback about the game from both gamers and the press when we showed the demo at EGX.
Hook Up is a game all about the trials and tribulations of dating. What made you choose to make this kind of game, and what do you think you offer gamers that they may not have experienced before?
I saw a tweet in 2020 saying “please don’t sleep with your bullies” which resonated with me on a level that I couldn’t fully understand.
Did I find it hot? Did I find it disgusting? Did I find it depressing? Often when I can’t understand certain feelings I write fiction about them in order to process them. That’s how Hook Up was born.
I hope the game gives its players the space to reflect on ideas of sex, trauma, and adolescence the way it did for me. Dating sims are quite common, but I hadn’t played one before with this exact vibe. That, mixed with its awkward British humour, is what gives Hook Up its unique experience in my opinion.
How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop Hook Up for?
Developing for mobile was an easy choice. You play through Alex’s dating profile, so making the game feel as close to a dating app as possible creates a more immersive experience.
It also fits really well with our target audience. We want to reach a lot of people outside of the core gaming audience, so it made sense to develop for hardware that most people already own, not just avid gamers.
Looking at the studio a little more now, how hard is it to survive as an Indie developer?
I’m not sure you can say that we have survived in any meaningful way so far. Itzel and I are students so we were able to create this game as part of our studies. Becky, who has a full-time job as a 3D animator, kindly volunteered her free time to make the animatics.
We are keenly aware of the perils of indie development so we were incredibly resourceful with our time and energy. Hopefully, this pays off and we can use the profits from Hook Up to fund our next project.
Are there any tips and/or advice you would give to an independent developer out there who is just starting out?
If you’re a disabled developer and you happen to land yourself in hospital for a large chunk of the project development period, you’ll be happy to know that the NHS wifi is easily good enough to download any FMOD projects and animatics that your team members send you.
How did you find your experience pitching as a part of the Big Indie Pitch?
I love pitching and public speaking so I really enjoyed it. It was still very intimidating at first, but everyone was so lovely and I ended up making some cool and talented friends.
What do you feel you have gained from the experience, and what do you still hope to gain?
I think my pitching skills really benefited from having to be so concise and grab people’s attention so quickly. Also, the judges themselves were fantastic, a few contacted me afterwards and offered some insights which I wouldn’t have got otherwise.
What are your hopes for this game in the future, and do you have any plans for any future projects?
We’re planning to launch Hook Up on IOS and Android in April 2022. We can’t wait to share it with everyone. We also have another project in pre-production but you’ll just have to follow us @HookUpTheGame in order to find out more when we’re ready to share.
Want to show off your exciting new game? We host Big Indie Pitch events throughout the year, so be sure to keep an eye out on our events page for an event near you, or even our new Digital pitches.