Gavin Ward is one of the Galway-based developers behind the new mobile game Frankenfarm. Having faced many real-life challenges living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), he now spends his days designing virtual challenges for mobile game players to enjoy.
"Frankenfarm is a new puzzle game I developed, where the player has to combine different animals to clear the dragons from the farm before Aunty Betty finds out you've been gene-splicing her animals together!" explains Gavin. Gavin works for game development company 9th Impact as a level designer and quality assurance engineer for Android and iOS games.
"Frankenfarm is a completely new type of match puzzle game, which initially seems simple but requires a lot of forward thinking to ensure your animals are placed correctly. It has over 140 varied and very tricky levels and it's a lot of fun to just pick up and play."
Gavin was introduced to his current role through EmployAbility Galway, who assist people with disabilities, mental health difficulties or people in recovery from illness or injury to obtain and sustain suitable employment. EmployAbility Galway's first step is to undertake detailed need assessments with clients and identify their skills, interests and employment needs.
Gavin had recently qualified with a Computer Science degree from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and had a strong interest in game development, so EmployAbility Galway Job Coach, Roisin Mc Donagh, made contact with local game development studio, 9th Impact.
"Through initial discussions it seemed there was a potential fit between the needs of the employer and my client" said Roisin. "Gavin was already familiar with some of the tools, such as the Unity 3D game engine, used by the company and could show through his college work, an ability to learn and master new technologies. The atmosphere in the company was energetic and creative but the work processes were well structured with clear objectives."
It was agreed that a short work experience programme would be arranged. "Sometimes an outcome is that our client undertakes work experience so they can gain specific skills and insights into a particular workplace and we fund this." said Roisin.
During the 2 weeks of work experience Gavin learned how the game development process worked at 9th Impact and received training in the development toolset used at the company. These 2 weeks gave an ideal opportunity for Gavin to showcase his capabilities and talent to the company.
"Immediately after the work experience programme we offered Gavin a full time role at the company," said Finn Krewer, head of development at 9th Impact.
"Gavin has become a valuable member of the team and takes on critical roles in level design and quality assurance in our development pipeline. He has designed many of the levels and puzzles in our games - including in our well known Biker Mice from Mars series of games."
Gavin's latest work, Frankenfarm, is available to play on Android and Apple.