It’s the penultimate game of our GaMaYo Showcase.

GaMaYo is an in person exhibition of the amazing games talent across Yorkshire and this creator is known for their games being the kinds of unique experiences you just have to be there for!

It’s time for…


This is being developed by Alex Johansson and we asked him to fill us in on what to expect.

What would be your description of GNISTA?
Alex – “GNISTA is a unique interactive in-person experience, a bullet hell operated with a firelighter as the games controller!

Twist the firestriker left and right to steer, collect trees for kindling then rapidly alternate to strike up a fire to slay 8 Norse gods corrupting the pines. As you play, you’ll be bathed in the light of two red LED strips, pulsing each time your firelighter twists. It’s white knuckle both in gameplay and in physicality.

If you can reach the 6th, 7th or 8th boss, you’ll win a small token of the boss you killed! Good luck.”

How did development start? (Were there any key inspirations or ideas that drove you?
Alex – “So there’s two primary inspirations for the game; One was a game jam from a number of years ago, we worked on a cardboard version of the firelighter controller but didn’t pursue it any further, I then revised and enhanced the design by using magnetic reed switches and now have this new interface.

As for the game, I wanted to design a bullet hell controlled with just two keys, so whilst prototyping that firelighter controller came to mind and formed the foundation of the interface! What’s lovely about the interface is whilst the game can be controlled with just two keys (or the two halves of a phone screen), the physical controller enhances the experience and sensation of play.”

Tell us about the team working on the game? (Where are you from? How did you get started?)
Alex – “So I’m an award winning experimental games designer based out of Sheffield, both the interface and game for GNISTA were entirely fabricated by me. I’ve had over a decade releasing games, with 7 commercial titles, a number of Apple features and close to 3 million downloads. I’ve toured my experimental work internationally, from Busan to San Fran, Sarajevo to Tokyo and had the opportunity to showcase a wide variety of interactive experiences. I’ve shown a muppet boxing game, a Morse game operated with a telegraph key and 1930’s headphones, a full sized operation style board called Vaccination, a projection mapped, covid safe installation in Kings Lynn to promote local environmental action and many, many more experiments.

I got started in games development just over a decade ago teaching kids how to code at a summer camp in upstate New York, did that for a couple of summers and learned how to make my own stuff. Since then I’ve been doing a mix of teaching, building my own games and fabricating alternative controllers. I still do educational workshops and teaching, most notably I do ALT-CTRL workshops for both schools and organisations interested in experimenting with the intersection of craft and technology.”

What kind of experiences do you hope to bring players?
Alex – “My main interest in building these experiences is getting developers to expand their ideas of what games exhibitions and play could be, as a medium we could do so much more to enhance the way we display and exhibit games, given the billions we sink into marketing budgets. We were the medium of physical design back in the arcade era but because of the lack of commercial viability, we’ve let the medium of touch and physical sensation decay and wither. There’s a hunger for innovation from audiences and curators and that’s something I hope to continue indulging!”

In 10 words or less, highlight the appeal of GNISTA?
Alex –  “You’ve never played a game this way before, one night only!”

What controller should I make for my game?
Alex –  “I’m currently available to do consultancy for interactive design and helping developers to cut through the noise with weird interfaces is something I relish the opportunity to do.”