Draknek & Friends Announces New Voices Grant for Puzzle Game Devs

Draknek & Friends, the developer/publisher behind titles like A Monster’s Expedition and A Good Snowman is Hard to Build, have announced that they will be distributing grants to creators working on puzzle games. Called the “Draknek New Voices Puzzle Grant,” the program is aimed at creators from groups and backgrounds who are “under-invested-in,” which includes but is not limited to developers from outside of North America and Europe, people of color, and primary speakers of languages other than English.

Grants are available in both $5,000 and $20,000 USD variants, with the former intended to be a small investment for a short-term project and the latter intended to support an ongoing piece of work. Draknek & Friends is offering  3-4 $20k grants and 8-12 $5k grants in the first cycle, and grant recipients will also have the opportunity to receive mentorship from the recently-launched Astra Fund, whose mentors include developers like Daniel Benmergui (Storyteller), Gwen Frey (BioShock InfiniteThe Flame and the Flood) and Draknek & Friends creative director Alan Hazelden.

The funding for the grants is coming out of Draknek & Friends’ profits from their games, as well as a matched amount from Astra Fund. However, neither Draknek nor Astra Fund will own any stake in recipients’ projects. The grants are, in other words, no strings attached pools of money for developers working on creative puzzle games, which makes them a great opportunity for developers working on titles that are primarily about thinking and reasoning rather than timing and execution. Recipients can spend the money however best makes sense for them, whether that means development tools, asset creation, or even just rent. The grant site explains:

We love puzzle games, and see that the community of people who play and love great puzzle games is full of people from a wide range of backgrounds. However, the people making the most successful puzzle games and getting funding to make the next great puzzle games are noticeably less diverse – even less so than video games more broadly.

We hope that these grants can be a small part of the work of changing that and help more people from underrepresented backgrounds to thrive in this space, and to create experiences that no one else would have.

Applicants have until July 3 to submit applications for the grants, and Draknek & Friends expects to make their decisions by August 12th. Puzzle games — with the exception of match-3 action puzzle games — are kind of a niche at the moment, with only a few titles achieving breakthrough success (this year’s Patrick’s Parabox comes to mind, as does 2019’s Baba is You). Arguably, thoughtful and slow puzzle games have been a victim of streaming and social media, which tend to favor games which are entertaining to watch others play or that look good in GIF form. Hopefully, these grants will help even the field a little bit and nurture the development of some interesting titles.

For more on the New Voices grant, check out the Draknek Direct stream, which will be hosted on the Draknek YouTube channel this Thursday, May 19th at 9 AM Pacific.