An Illustrative Model of Anxiety
Here’s my project. Use arrow keys to move and space to interact. It’s an .swf file, so open it in Firefox or Chrome. On some computers it lagged pretty badly, so I tried making a large version and a smaller version (both below). You might also try reducing the quality. Thanks for looking!
Based on the suggestions from last time, I changed the premise of the astronaut game. Now, you’re floating through a starfield. I don’t know if there will be any objectives or things to collect. There are some moving diagrams that you pass through (see below), each of which loosely contains a line from a poem I’ve made from quotes on the Internet. The player can thus read the poem in any order. I don’t like the game as it is so far, and think I might switch to my previous train game instead, as this doesn’t seem to be very interesting.
Idea: This will be a top-down game in which you are an astronaut tasked to destroy an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. You have been given a single bomb, which you must place at the right spot in order to destabilize the asteroid and save Earth. In order to find the spot, you have to piece together a map that you find throughout the playing area.
The scenario is a metaphor for a person struggling with depression, who is about to commit suicide (the asteroid hitting Earth). They have to locate the ‘root’ of their depression and comes to terms with it. Periodically, they will experience impulsive thoughts in which a bit of static appears permanently on the screen. Eventually, they will be unable to see the game through the static.
On the asteroid’s surface are diagrams that hint at the true nature of the game, and where to find pieces of the map. These diagrams might resemble religious, occult, electrical or psychological diagrams I found on the Internet. You can also find escape pods crashed on the asteroid’s surface that adds to your oxygen supply, even though your current supply is too already large to ever run out. These represent pills that have no permanent effect on someone’s mental state.
There are three screens – a regular top-down view, a map screen (which also contains your heartbeat, oxygen supply and connectivity to Mission Control), and an internal view of yourself in which your spine fluctuates depending on your mental state. I don’t know if the map or internal screens have any effect on the gameplay yet.
Other idea: You’re looking at a fractal-like microscopic image that you can scroll in and out of to decrease or increase the scale of the image. There are symbolic things like animals and religious things inside this giant fractal image. If you scroll out all the way, you find out that you’re looking at a bottle of pills that a character swallowed, and that the fractal is a kind of history of his/her life told through images. You find that you can change certain things in the fractal by clicking on them, and if you change certain things in the right combination the “final” image (the one with the pills) changes.
Mandala of Infinite Happiness –
Made in Flash. Use the arrow keys to play.
Here’s a screenshot in Flash. You are the astronaut, who is searching for her son, but is really searching for a legacy.
My song is this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJg5tY8QZLk
Game Design as Narrative Architecture –
I never considered before that video games face the same challenge that scifi has struggled with since its inception, the question of whether worldbuilding is a valid means of story and whether characters must be the focus of a story. Does a game need ‘characters’ at all, and what qualifies as a character? All games must have at least one character in the sense of a being that has agency, because without it you would only have strict cause-and-effect with no free will.
I found the comparison to board games interesting, especially in how board games could be seen an exploration of space, with the board as the ‘world’. Viewing board games with more abstract boards such as Puerto Rico or Agricola as a kind of ‘world’ has potential that could be applied to video games – the UI, or the underlying equations behind the mechanics, might be brought into the ‘world’ in some way, even if it’s incongruous with a seamless setting.
Narrative Environments –
I was interested by how the author defined ‘narrative space’ and how that differed from non-narrative spaces. From the reading, it seemed that the difference was that narrative spaces must be constructed for the purpose of a ‘story’, and thus random environments, like the ones in the real world, could not be considered narrative spaces. I wonder if a game that featured random spaces could still form the basis for an interesting player experience? It seemed like in the Narrative Architecture reading that players could create their own story from any environment.
The purpose of this game is to explore the objects in a train compartment. Because the images aren’t vectors, this is best played at around 1100×550 pixels in size (resize your browser window).
Marker Game – Pink:
A surreal game in which you aid a sexual predator. If you get stuck, click on his hand.
The Numbing Hours: A game in which you kidnap an angel and question her.
Idea: You are inside a train passing through a dreamlike landscape. The inhabitants of the train are humans with the heads of animals, and you can talk to them, although they won’t give you any concrete information about the destination of the train or the purpose of your journey. Throughout the journey, the background outside the train will radically change through various calamities such as a storm and an explosion. The heads of the other passengers will also switch several times. On the windows are posted various documents (newspaper clippings, letters, emails, etc.) and inside the suitcases of the passengers are more documents and other miscellaneous objects. The ostensible goal of this game is to find a way off the train, but you will eventually learn that there isn’t any way out. The truth is that you have killed your wife and this train is a fantasy you have created in order to work through what you have done.
I’m still working on my screenshot.
First Idea: You have become reacquainted with a girl from your childhood, now in her thirties. She is a singer and has achieved national success, but has not released an album in several years. She is on the brink of committing suicide and has come to you as a last-ditch effort to save herself. You can learn about the cause of her desperation, and attempt to talk her out of it, or allow her to continue. The character design is meant to express her state of mind.
Second Idea: You are a recent immigrant to an Eastern European town in the 16th century. You learn that the image of the Hellmouth, a Satanic icon, has spread throughout the continent. Some believe that by destroying the physical manifestation of the Hellmouth, located somewhere in the countryside, one can restore order to the turbulent monarchy. You meet a pair of strangers who are not human, who claim to be knowledgeable about the Hellmouth, and have a conversation with them in order to learn more about the nature of the Hellmouth and of Christianity.
(Speculative) Third Idea: You are a sadist and capture a girl from the street. You lock her in a box and threaten to bore a hole in her forehead if she doesn’t answer your questions. The ostensible goal in this game is to first get the girl to reveal information about her personal life (e.g. her beliefs, family, address, desires, etc.) and then to get her to renounce each of them, psychologically scarring her. You want her to degrade herself and reject her values. If she either goes into a complete mental breakdown, or stands up for herself and refuses to talk to you, then the game will end. The purpose of this game is to 1) explore a lopsided power relationship and to 2) make the player feel uncomfortable in the role of the protagonist, which may prompt them to deviate from the goal.