“I’m encouraged by a great deal [in the industry] but also dismayed in equal measures” – Polygon Treehouse’s Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou

Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV/DEVELOP with their unique insight. This month we talk to Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou, Co-Founder & Art Director at Polygon Treehouse

Congratulations on your BAFTA nominations, how do you feel about awards generally in our industry?

Thanks, we found out just yesterday so it’s all still sinking in and a little surreal at present! For us as tiny indie developers the nominations we’ve received for The Game Awards and now BAFTA are a massive win in terms of raising the visibility for Röki (and Polygon Treehouse) so sure, I think awards have the potential to play an important role for teams like ours.

You co-founded Polygon Treehouse and come from an art background, does that make the studio different?

Possibly. We’re an art-led narrative studio so that’s definitely our ‘in’ and jumping off point, we’re visual storytellers. Saying that, our approach to narrative in games is holistic, we try to leverage all the different tools at our disposal (music, sound design, in-game cinematography, empathy driven game design, etc) as interactive storytellers to make the most of all the levers that our medium offers, rather than being led by the written story or dialogue.

Previous to that you worked for Sony for 15 years. What was it like moving from a triple-A to an indie environment?

It’s pretty different. For starters the teams are much smaller, we have no physical office and there is no free fruit! We learnt a great deal from working with some awesome people over the years at Sony. We try to bring all that experience and know-how into our indie work. Many of the same creative challenges present themselves, just at a different scale. I think it wouldn’t come as a shock that working in the indie space gives a greater sense of self-expression and creative control, but not everyone has that itch to scratch.

With the greatest respect to your current role, what is/was your dream job?

As a kid I wanted to create comic books so I’ve not landed too far from the target! I can’t imagine a job that I’d get more of a kick from than creating indie games so I consider myself pretty fortunate. For me, it’s the perfect blend of art, animation, story, tech and entertainment and a space that I relish working in each day.

What was the funniest single moment of your career to date?

We were asked to give a live stage presentation for a big crowd at Dreamhack, a huge multi-day gaming and esports exhibition in Sweden. We’d flown straight from E3 and then driven about 6 hours across Sweden to get to the event. Although tired, we were feeling pretty composed as we went on stage. That was until my sleepy brain decided to introduce us as ‘Polygon Shoehouse’ which promptly caused Tom to break down in hysterics on stage so that was a memorable day!

I see a lot of delicious food in your Twitter feed, have you always been a keen cook?

Ha! So cooking is my wind-down activity to transition out of ‘work’ and ‘into’ play. I have quite a wired mind so find it really useful to have an activity to focus on after I clock off to unhook my brain from whatever tasks I’ve been tackling. Also, I get some (mostly) nice food out of it so it’s a double win.

Do you feel the games industry is headed in the right direction?

That’s a big question! I’m encouraged by a great deal but also dismayed in equal measures. It’s safe to say there will always be room for improvement and it remains critical that we keep endeavouring to move things forward in the right direction, for everyone.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is a freelancer writer and was MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer from November 2019 until May 2022. He joined the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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