William Morris fabric inspires free iPad app by the V&A's in-house game designer

The V&A’s first Game Designer in Residence, Sophia George, has created a beautiful iPad game inspired by Strawberry Thief.

The V&A’s first-ever game designer in residence, Sophia George, has just created a beautiful new iPad game inspired by the work of William Morris, with the aim of showing a more artistic and creative side to games.

The new game takes its title, Strawberry Thief, from a William Morris furnishing fabric on display in the V&A’s Britain 1500-1900 galleries. The game enables the user to sketch and colour the famous pattern by flying a bird – the strawberry thief itself – across their iPad screen.

As the player drags their finger across the screen, it leaves a trail for the bird to follow – and each section of the pattern it flies over then transforms from a pencil sketch to the coloured pattern.

Animations and music from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) gradually bring Morris’ pattern to life in an experience designed for players of all ages.

Sophia George won a BAFTA Ones to Watch Award in 2012 for her first game, Tick Tock Toys, through Abertay University’s Dare to be Digital game design competition for students.

George researched her game between October 2013 and March 2014 in the V&A, before returning to Abertay to develop the game with Erin Michno from game studio Quartic Llama, Neil Cullen from RSNO and Abertay students Ellen Brown and Cameron Moore.

“I’m delighted to be releasing my second game, Strawberry Thief, after a wonderful year working in the V&A and at Abertay University,” said Sophia. “It’s been an incredible opportunity to have access to the V&A collections, and to the game design experts at Abertay.”

“With Strawberry Thief, I wanted to show that games are an incredibly artistic, creative medium that can excite, inspire and even relax the player, quite unlike the stereotype of games just involving fast-paced violence. It’s also very important to me that families play games together, that games are designed for older people to engage with technology, and that girls and young women see game art, design and programming as real career options for them.”

Her next project will see Sophia introducing game design to primary school pupils in Dundee, working with Dundee City Council and Abertay. She will introduce inspirations from her V&A research as the building blocks for game ideas – including the works of Margaret Macdonald, the wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and her sister Frances.

“It's wonderful to see the way in which Sophia has responded to the V&A's historic design holdings in creating ‎her Strawberry Thief game,” commented Philip Long, Director of V&A Dundee, partners in the Residency. “Taking inspiration from design of the past to produce new innovative design is at the heart of the V&A, so we are delighted to be working with such a rising star as Sophia George.”

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Professor Louis Natanson, head of the School of Arts, Media and Computer Games at Abertay University, describes Sophia George as a very inspiring young designer.

Strawberry Thief gives us a glimpse of the potential for games to explore new ways of interpreting and exhibiting the work of famous artists,” said Natanson. “Working in partnership with V&A has allowed their expertise in art and design and our experience in game development to help create a beautiful new game.”

The game development was supported by the Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee, which funds an Innovation Internship each summer for a student at Abertay University.

Strawberry Thief is available free from the App Store on iPad