We are devastated to announce that our dear graduate, colleague, and friend Dario D’Ambra passed away on July 26.
In the winter term 2015/2016, Dario started studying the Master Program Game Development and Research at Cologne Game Lab and finished his studies in 2017 with his master thesis, “The Theatrical Lens in Game Studies and Game Design: Analyzing and Adapting the Cognitive Process of Improvisation,” supervised by Prof. Dr. Gundolf S. Freyermuth and Prof. Bernd Diemer. Dario was an exceptional artist and scholar and continued his work with CGL as an assistant teacher and lecturer. In 2017, for example, he gave a brilliant talk called “From the Node to the Web,” where he tackled the theme of narrative structures in video games – a topic that he had also explored in unique and award-winning games of his own. During his time at CGL, he founded the collective “Maggese” together with Giorgio Carlino and fellow CGL-graduate Nina Kiel, a group of developers devoted to creating meaningful narrative experiences. Their game “Don’t make love” was very well received and played by many visitors at Amaze Festival. It was also nominated at the Independent Games Festival in the category Best Student Game in 2018.
Last year, Dario worked in CGL’s research project “Literacy of Games, Literacy of Play: Imparting Media Competence in the Field of Analog, Digital and Hybrid Games” until his advancing sickness prevented him from continuing. He was about to write his Ph.D. on “Narrative Video Game Language,” supervised by Prof. Dr. Stephane Natkin (CNAM, Paris) and Prof. Dr. Gundolf S. Freyermuth.
“Dario was a unique and talented and smart and incredibly brave person. I was honored when he chose me as his supervisor, and I have been following first his amazing achievements, and then his terrible suffering for several years. Early this month, he wrote to say goodbye. As the doctors had stopped treating his cancer, his only hope was a natural regression. I cried when I read about his physical condition. But his spirit was unbroken. And against all the odds, I kind of hoped with him. In this last mail, Dario wrote: “I’m a little disappointed my play session turned out shorter than I would have liked …” And he also wrote: “CGL has been for me a life-changing experience on so many levels. I’m very glad I had the courage to move to Germany.” Life is not what it should be. It ain’t fair. Never has been. I miss Dario so much. With his intelligence and creativity and his smile, he made our institute shine. For unique talents and enlightened human beings like Dario, we founded CGL. We shall never forget him!” Prof. Dr. Gundolf S. Freyermuth
“I was very fortunate to be able to work with Dario on our joint research project “Literalität des Spiel(en)s.” It is true that the world is not always fair – but it is also true that Dario has always done his best to make it a better place. Dario was not only exceptionally smart and talented; he was just as dedicated and ambitious. This applies to his art as a game designer; it applies to his research interests; and it also applies to our joint project, in which we wanted to convey a game literacy to socially disadvantaged children. It is because of Dario’s dedication that our idea of an editor game, in which analog Lego bricks could be used to build digital levels, worked so well. Thanks to Dario, the children’s Lego constructions were brought to life in an almost magical way – and I will never forget the sparkling eyes with which the enthusiastic girls and boys could explore their own game worlds. This was typical of Dario’s work: he intuitively understood how to combine the playful with the inspirational – and in doing so, to appeal to both the intellect and the heart. After all, our time together at CGL was particularly valuable for me because it went far beyond work. His systematic and pragmatic thinking, which was always accompanied by a light-footed, always optimistic sense of humor, always made a big impression on me and will continue to do so. The news of Dario’s death has left me deeply dismayed and very saddened. It pains me very much that he will no longer be able to implement the many great ideas he had. But a small consolation is that he managed to influence all those who were lucky enough to meet him – and in this way, he will always be with us. I will miss him very much – as, as a person, as a colleague and as a friend.” Dr. Hanns-Christian Schmidt