Jacob Leaney is game developer and songwriter/producer based in Melbourne, focused on exploring the intersection between pop music (radio-friendly music with lyrics) and video games.

His solo music project Monster Mansion releases companion video games with each music release, most recently 'Video World' (January 2021), which included collaborations with artists Jack Kirby Crosby (Moving Out, Heavenly Bodies), Aspen Forster (The Sims Freeplay, Wayward Strand), songwriter Chris O'Neill (Metal Gear Solid), and photographer Giulia McGauran (Tones and I, Tash Sultana). Career highlights include speaking at Freeplay Independent Games Festival and PAXAus, working on Stella Donnelly's critically acclaimed debut album, being a semi-finalist in the 2018 International Songwriting Competition, creating and releasing 'Video World' EP and game, and writing design documents/pitches to secure almost $500,000 worth of funding for Canadian studio Signal Space Lab.

What activities will the Creators Fund support you to undertake?

The Creators Fund is supporting me in a period of experimentation and prototyping for a series of video game mechanics based on original pop music (i.e. radio-friendly music with lyrics). I will be collaborating with a variety of Victorian songwriters/producers to write original songs, and then developing basic video game prototypes based on each song. This period of experimentation (exploring wild ideas to see what sticks via trial and error) is a really powerful step in my arts practice and being able to truly move the music x games cross section forward. Essentially, the Creators Fund is supporting research/experimentation that will help establish the basis for a new model for creating and releasing music and video games.

Can you talk us through what your work routine will look like with the help of a creator's fund grant? 

My work routine will jump between songwriting/production and video game prototyping. I will spend a week writing/producing a song at Wilson St Studios in collaboration with a variety of Victorian songwriters and producers. There’s lots of synths and beautiful instruments laying around so there’ll be plenty of experimenting and playing around with those!

After a song is written, the following few weeks will consist of choosing a prototype idea (based on a list of pre-prepared ideas I’ve developed through research and brainstorming at the beginning of the project), creating a basic but playable version of that idea in Unity (a game engine), iterating on the idea, and then adding some polish (narrative, sound FX, art etc.). Although this process will be primarily done alone I’ll be liaising with my mentor Andy Trevillian (ex game designer at Blue Tongue Entertainment) to get feedback and direction on the prototypes.

Where would you like to see yourself and your career at the end of this process?  

I’d like to be able to see myself as a pioneer/leading innovator in the commercial music and video games cross section in Australia (and potentially globally). I’d like to be in a position where I can take one or more of my prototypes and use it as the basis for a larger project - e.g. releasing a full album of songs that are the central focus and mechanic basis of a commercial video game release. This would be a large step in creating a definitive work, as well as establishing more credibility across both the music and video game industries to develop further projects like this for myself and other artists.

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