Stop the “Nightmare: Malaria,” download now
Celebrated animation studio creates first game, saves lives, no big deal
Emmy award-winning production company Psyop has created its first video game with hopes that it will rake in millions. Millions of long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets, that is.
Through a partnership with the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)* Psyop Games designed and developed “Nightmare: Malaria,” an original game designed for iOS and Android.
Inspired by a PSA created through Psyop’s non-profit initiative, Establishment for the Greater Good (EGG), the game drops players into the bloodstream of a young girl infected by malaria. Players make their way through 18 levels of fever-dream visuals, avoiding killer mosquitoes and collecting hard-to-reach teddy bear tokens along the way.
TAKING THE PLUNGE INTO GAMING
Making a game is not a simple undertaking. While Psyop is known for creating incredibly complex and lushly detailed CG worlds, to create a game like “Nightmare: Malaria,” they needed an expert. Brian Kehrer was their man. As a co-founder of Muse Games, Kehrer directed Guns of Icarus Online, a 32-player, airship combat game, which recently won “Best 3D Artistic Experience” at the Unity Awards.
Brian left Muse and joined Psyop to create games that tapped into Psyop’s penchant for visual storytelling. “Nightmare: Malaria” is a proof of concept that Psyop can do exactly that, entirely in-house.
“This is not another advergame,” commented Kehrer, Technical Director of “Nightmare: Malaria.” “We focused our efforts on creating a visually rich and enjoyable, if disturbing, experience.”
ONE NET AT A TIME
Each year, over 1 million people die from malaria. About 70% of them are children under the age of five. A tragedy in itself, this also has terrible effects on the educational and economic health of entire regions.
The most effective means of preventing malaria is sleeping under a mosquito net, specifically a long-lasting insecticide treated net (LLIN). Each net costs about $3, lasts for 3 to 4 years, and protects, on average, two people.
The “Nightmare: Malaria” game is part of a multi-platform effort to bring awareness to this simple fact: nets work. And giving money to the Against Malaria Foundation is an incredibly effective way to save lives.
For more information, please visit the “Nightmare: Malaria” interactive website
Education, animation and giving come together in Psyop’s Establishment for the Greater Good (EGG)
So much more than an “internship.” For the eight students enrolled in this year’s Establishment for the Greater Good (EGG), the 12 weeks they spent creating a 90 second animation for the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) was more like a mix between a humanitarian aid effort and an artist residency than a typical internship.
“The students are fully responsible for this project,” says EGG founder, Pakorn Bupphavesa. “They get on the phone with the client, they have to hit deadlines — and if it fails, it’s on them.” But the students aren’t alone. They’re mentored by senior staff at Psyop, an Emmy award-winning bi-coastal production company that specializes in high-end animation and visual effects.
Susan Sarandon jumps on board
When Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon learned about AMF and the EGG program, she agreed to lend her singular voice to the project.
“Her read perfectly captures the innocence and pathos of the spot” said Ave Carrillo, EGG’s co-founder and producer.
The 90-second spot, starts as a sweet tale about a little girl drifting to sleep at night. Things turn dark, though, when a giant mosquito impales the child, infecting her with malaria and plunging her into her own bloodstream. A twisted series of psychedelic visuals ensues, taking the viewer on a wild ride through the symptoms of malaria.
The nightmare ends abruptly when mosquitoes hit a net draped around the child’s bed. The call to action is simple: three dollars buys a mosquito net, effectively preventing a malaria infection and limiting the spread of the deadly disease.
Music partner Q Department brought the story to life by creating an immersive and captivating soundtrack.
“We thrived on working with a diverse team of developers, artists, coders to bring the game’s world to life through music and sound design,” added Q Department’s Jacqueline Bosnjak. “Tonally we set the scene of the human body as a dark underworld setting of a horror movie with Malaria as the lead protagonist.”
AMF has distributed over five million long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) to malaria-stricken parts of the world, saving hundreds of thousands of lives — most of them children under the age of five.
“The work EGG has done is simply fantastic,” says Rob Mather, Founder and CEO of AMF, “It’s a simple message with a simple request: please help with a net.”
Getting into the game
“EGG is our chance each year to step outside our comfort zone and push the boundaries a bit” says Marco Spier, Director and Founding Partner at Psyop. “This year, we also decided to make a game inspired by the spot. We’ve never done that before.”
In “Nightmare: Malaria,” players make their way through 18 levels of fever-dream visuals, avoiding killer mosquitoes and collecting hard-to-reach teddy bear tokens along the way.
For more information, please visit the “Nightmare: Malaria” interactive website
Psyop and McCann create a world of wonder for Toshiba
Psyop and McCann took a trip beyond the tablet in “Endless Performance” and explored the features of Toshiba’s newest device.
“We worked together to define four key themes of the tablet to be characterized throughout the spot: film and music, productivity, gaming and connectivity,” commented Psyop Director Fletcher Moules. “We wanted to articulate each function in a way that was fun and silly, yet informative and worked well with our overall design concept.”
Psyop approached the project as if it were a mini film, working with a team of designers and concept artists to sketch the energetic worlds. The camera moves forward through the unique characters and detailed environments as they dissolve and reveal all four intertwining themes.
“We were tasked with conceptualizing these ideas but given the trust and freedom to roam creatively,” added Psyop Director Kylie Matulick. “Every aspect of this project was extremely collaborative, from early concepting through the finishing touches.”
Psyop employed a technique called ‘fractal zoom’* to place viewers in the action, using 3D cameras, symbolic elements and matte painting environments add depth and dimension to the shots.
“Production for ‘Endless Performance’ was totally different to any other job,” noted Moules. “There is a lot to see in this project and we needed to be sure to strike the balance between content and viewing speed. We hope audiences will find something new every time they watch it.”
*Fractal Zoom – the ratio of a camera’s speed vs the amount the image planes are scaling (gives an ‘infinity’ effect)
Psyop and Milk Productions keep it real for Burt’s Bees
Psyop traveled back to the beginning with Milk Productions in this spot for Burt’s Bees, telling the tale of the skincare line’s inception.
The camera follows a honey bee as the story of how Burt’s Bees founders Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz first met is revealed. Psyop told the the inadvertent success story by crafting worlds of stop motion filled with dynamic illustrations in warm environments, showing how Burt’s slow yet consistent expansion attracted passionate fans around the world.
“We wanted to connect with both the health and beauty sleuths as well as those who don’t know the brand,” said Psyop Director Georgia Tribuiani. “Psyop established a wholesome, handmade feeling throughout the spot encouraging all viewers to seek products of substance with enduring and healthy values, like Burt’s.”
A raw and earthy spot, “Brand History” is a visual journey that shows viewers how the company has expanded over the years and broadened their product line, all the while holding fast to their down-to-earth core values.
“Growth wasn’t their end goal,” added Tribuiani. “It’s a byproduct of how they do business. Burt’s Bees’ ongoing commitment to the greater good has resulted in consistently attracting passionate fans from around the world. And Psyop was thrilled to be a part of telling that story.”