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Company |E and Black Russian Games team up to create an educational video game of dance.


They're a fundamental part of our entertainment ecosystem. According to more than 155 million people - almost half the total population - in America alone played a video game in 2015. 42% play over three hours a week. Of the total number, 44% are female.

In 2014 Americans spent $22.41 BILLION on video games.

Yet, with as enormous a market as the Video Game segment is, remarkably few games use the performing arts as the focus of the game.

"That's where Natasha, A Game of Dance." comes in. Conceived by Boris Wills, the President and CEO of Black Russian Games, and developed in partnership with Company | E, "Natasha" aims to change the paradigm, and to introduce movement, and dance, to the gaming sector.

Beginning in December of 2014 Company | E and Black Russian Games have been capturing, storyboarding, coding and visualizing "Natasha."

Company | E's dancers have worn the Motion Capture (MoCap) suits and created all the movement. They've gone through sequences and refined and revisited the movement ideas which are the foundation of "Natasha."

Working at the MoCap Studio at George Mason University, where Mr. Willis is a Professor of Gaming, they've developed the material which underlies "Natasha."

Using Motion Capture points worn on a suit, dancers create movement which is "seen" by video cameras placed strategically around the Studio. Those movements are transmitted to an MC program and stored in real time motion.

From these data points and motions Mr. Willis is able to render the characters into sprites or avatars, and then begin the process of rendering them into the figures who move throughout the virtual world of "Natasha."

Many characters are designed, with different ideas and "look and feel," using both traditional forms and those more unusual.

Using various tools, like FUSE from Adobe, the characters are clothed, developed and given their "personality."

From there Mr. Willis inserts them into a fully realized, created from scratch, world filled with challenges and pitfalls, all designed to challenge and entertain a user while simultaneously teaching them about movement, choreography, steps, concepts and the key tools which make a dancer a dancer.

Mastery of those skills is a key to succeeding in "Natasha," and the game is coded to require an ever increasing level of skill to move from one level to the next - something which takes time in the gaming environment just as it does in the Studio.

"Natasha: A Game of Skill" is already in Beta form, with a full release planned for June 2017.

Natasha Dance Game
Company | E's partners The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Shakespeare Theatre Company Spain Arts & Culture Washington Performing Arts Cultural Institute of Italy Embassy of Italy Embassy of Poland in Washington, DC The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities