My Digital Life: Megan Wheeler, Game Designer & Founder of Cat Tap
The hotly tipped game designer talks to TFD about her career so far.
Anyone who knows me knows that I really, really like cats. I'm also partial to a game (or 500) of Candy Crush. When I discovered Cat Tap, a game that combines mischievous felines with the addictiveness of CC, I promptly waved goodbye to any spare hours. In a nutshell, Cat Tap involves channeling one's inner kitten and, I quote, "knocking things off tables and causing as much mess as pawsible."
I have Megan Wheeler to thank my new favourite game (and the accompanying assortment of purrfect pusscat-themed puns). The 25-year-old, Bournemouth-based game designer created the game at just 21, while studying Computer Game Arts at the esteemed University of Creative Arts in Farnham. It not only attracted the attention of Apple, who has featured Cat Tap several times, but landed Megan her first job in game design.
Now in the coveted role of a Game Designer at Amuzo, an award-winning developer creating games for some of the biggest brands in the world, Megan is always enhancing her skills and playing games. Dream job, right? During her busy schedule, she managed to find some time to speak to me about game design, murderous podcasts and, of course, cats.
NH: How did you get to where you are today, as Game Designer and Founder of Cat Tap?
MW: I’ve been big into the gaming scene since a young age (probably all thanks to my older brother!) and knew I wanted to be involved in it as soon as I realised that was a doable career choice. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” and all that. I studied Computer Game Arts at UCA in Farnham which is where Cat Tap was initially created as a concept piece and then later developed in an incubator program set up by the uni. Cat Tap landed me my first job as a game artist at an edtech start-up in Bournemouth where I met my good friend and business partner David Gallagher who was the studio's game developer. After seeing that Cat Tap had some organic success, I asked David to work with me on a new update which was released in December last year. Sadly the game is now on the back-burner as we are both working at new studios, but it's always on my mind and we have plans for the future!
NH: I love Cat Tap! It's addictive. How did you come up with the idea
MW: I’ve always had cats in my family – current headcount of three - so the concept of cats knocking things off tables was a very intuitive idea for me. They seem to enjoy it, so I thought, why not!
NH: What were the biggest challenges in bringing Cat Tap to market?
MW: My biggest hurdle was budget... you don’t get much more ‘start-up’ then a university project. And as a recent graduate I was definitely strapped for cash. We seemed to luck out by being featured on the App Store a handful of times, plus being able to monopolise hit words like ‘Cat’ and ‘Tap’ helped get us a few more search hits. Taking the game to expos was also tricky, the cost of the tables and travel expenses were difficult but fortunately because I still had ties with UCA still they often helped us from their side. Couldn’t have done it without them!
NH: What are your career highlights so far?
MW: Taking Cat Tap to EGX last year was probably my favourite highlight. It was so cool being surrounded by huge games and companies that I actively follow, but actually interacting with them as a fellow developer.
NH: Do you use any digital tools to help organise work?
MW: I’m a big fan of G Suite and I use a tool called Planoly to help visualise social media. Other than that... the files on my laptop are an organised mess.
NH: What advice would you give to those wanting to work in game design or design their own game?
MW: Just go for it. The game industry is such a booming industry and there are so many different paths you can follow. There’s so much information out there in terms of courses and online videos and the community is always happy to help. If you’ve got an idea that you think is fun, there will be people out there that agree with you. Join some forums and watch YouTube tutorials, it's not as scary as you might think.
NH: What are your favourite games?
MW: Oh man, that’s such a difficult question. Probably The Last of Us, it truly is a masterpiece. The sequel also made me question everything I’ve ever believed in. I’ve also been playing a lot of Animal Crossing New Horizons (quite proud of my island!) and have always been a sucker for tycoon games like Planet Zoo.
NH: What are your favourite social media accounts to follow, for work and inspiration?
NH: Which apps have you recently downloaded?
MW: I recently downloaded TikTok and feel that might have been a mistake. Many hours have been lost scrolling.
NH: What podcasts are you currently listening to?
MW: I love listening to My Favorite Murder by Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff!
NH: Are there any physical things you would never, ever swap for their digital counterparts?
MW: Books over kindles/eBooks all day! Also whenever I get a new game it has to be a physical disc instead of a digital download. I like to look at my collection, even if it means having to wait for the postman!
Interview by Natalie Hughes