Andrew is our Co-Director of our Vala programs, our administrative systems manager, and website manager. We sat down with him to get him to tell his Aeoncademy story.
When did you join Aeoncademy?
I was 11 – no, 12. I was in high school, I’d had a couple of holidays out of the routine of holiday programs and to be honest was getting bored, but loving the freedom. It took a while, but my sibling, Rania – forever an artist – was the real impetus.
Vala is our dramatic adventure and storytelling program where you teach the most. What got you interested in that?
I’ve always been a storyteller of some sort, I guess. More to the point, I can vividly remember the kinds of games I used to play as a kid. We were ghost-hunters or secret agents, and there were these complex realities we’d construct. It was always really cool – but the stories would eventually break down.
So storytelling was the hook?
It was just so complex, we had these amazing scenes play out in miniature, we had these complex character interactions – with people like Luke as part of the game and people like Mathew running the stories. It was amazing to have this rich and vibrant story spring to life around my decisions and actions. I was hooked from day one. We were playing Dawnsaga stories almost exclusively back then, and it was amazing to become a part of a living narrative – which is something I think we’ve kept really well over the years.
So how did you move from student to teacher?
I remember in the third, maybe fourth program I came along to Mathew was looking for assistants to help keep the story flowing. His rules were simple. You had to be at least thirteen, and you had to be tech-savvy enough to learn the program we were using. I was both by then.
This was back when we generated characters for all the new players on the first day, and had to do the same for any newbies who came later on during the week. It was a time-consuming process but I – and I distinctly remember doing this – took the initiative to streamline the whole process. It went from half a day of dice-rolls and debates to ten minutes to knock up everyone’s character. That was really cool for a thirteen-year-old.
Organisational Efficiency from day dot?
So what happened next?
We inaugurated M Group with Luke, Me, and a few others who’d been coming along and were starting to get old enough. It was so cool to spend my Saturday afternoons hanging out with these peers, learning how to hold meetings, learning how to collaborate on story.
I started assisting, as soon as I was old enough. It took three years of learning to get there but then I was really young, incredibly inexperienced. I guess all thirteen-year-olds are. By the time I was sixteen, I think I was ready. From there, I was an assistant, then a DM in rapid succession. I still remember getting my ‘license to kill’ from Mathew. It’s such a vital step for story progression, but also very cool – DM Andrew: License to Kill.
How did you step up?
I graduated Year 12 in 2009, and had decided well in advance to take a gap year before university. This was mentioned to Mathew at some point and – lo and behold – there was a job for me. I went from an assistant in the holidays to the administrative officer of Aeoncademy after school. It’s almost as if Mathew and Teffany timed our After-school expansion to coincide with my availability. It was really cool. I learned how to prepare food, how to balance the books, how to deal with difficult enquiries, and a whole lot about children’s services regulation. I did that for nine or ten months, took a bit of a holiday, and then started with my next big chapter.
That’s because you returned to university, is that right?
That’s right! I’d gotten into the University of Canberra to do a Bachelor of Writing. I was still facilitating after school. Things got busy, fast. I worked on university, in and on the Vala program, and on some interactive stories. I found myself a weekend job or two, got caught up in putting together a whole bunch of community events, and then embroiled in a film. Eventually I got my degree somewhere in that mess too.
But now you run the Vala After-School and some of the holidays, as well as the office?
There was a rapid spate of changes to what I was doing but it all concluded with me developing the After-School version of Vala in consultation with Mathew and Luke, and everything that flowed on from there. Some changes came up and we discovered a gap for an office manager, so I filled that too and then we kind of ended up where we are today.
And where is that, precisely?
I’m in charge of our administrative systems, and more or less in charge of our Vala program in its After School format. I’m also one of the more experienced facilitators here. I also have some exciting work with Mathew and Teffany outside of the Academy
– but that’s staying under wraps for the moment.
So how would you describe yourself now?
I’m in such an enviable position it’s fantastic. I get to be an Author and Educator. I’ve been given the opportunity to work with my chosen art form and be remunerated for it, and I get to help inspire and nurture the next generation of students. It’s fantastic. One of my massive interests, for a very long time, has been interactive storytelling. To be able to explore it on such a grand scale is almost unbelievable.
What would you say to any potential recruits?
Throw yourself into the opportunities that present themselves with absolute abandon, even the ones that seem bizarre or out there. Especially the ones that seem bizarre or out there.
Aeoncademy is so unlike anything that happens anywhere else, and it’s so cool to be able to shape this operation. At the end of the day, nothing compares to the satisfaction of having left such a positive impression on our community.