By Sophia Zhu and Katherine Cao
A lonely astronaut uncovers a familiar story while scavenging for supplies on a long-abandoned ship.
For my installation project, I wanted to make an environment by putting 2D sprites and animation in a clearly 3D space, creating an illusion of depth for objects that clearly don’t have any.
Title: Storytelling(Working title)
Description: A “mad-lib” style game where you fill in blanks to a story, and the story is then told based on your choices. However, your only choices when you fill in blanks are bad literary tropes/stereotypes. Working within the constraints of these, you must somehow subvert and escape the story you’re trapped in.
Art/Research Statement: I really want to use this game to examine some common tropes found in entertainment and storytelling, and how constraining/harmful they can be. At the same time, I want to find clever ways to subvert or rewrite them to be better.
1. Kentucky Route Zero: Visuals/staging and narrative
2. Stanley Parable
3. Woman Known as Fujiko Mine: Shadow puppet imagery, animation style, trope deconstruction.
4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (the TV show)
Title: Real-time Knitting Simulator
Description: A real-time knitting simulator in which you can select different articles of clothing to make. Each ‘stitch’ you make corresponds to a stitch in an actual object, for however many stitches the article of clothing should be. For larger objects like sweaters, you can reach different milestones for each ‘part’ of the object (for example sleeve, or front half).
Art/Research Statement: This is sort of an anti-game where I want to simulate the (at times frustrating) repetition and frankly ridiculous amount of time it takes to knit something. At the end of it, however, you don’t even get a ‘real’, physical object as a reward for the time you’ve put in; you get a ‘useless’ virtual one. This will hopefully contribute to the conversation over whether or not spending time and real money for ‘virtual’/’fake’ goods is worthwhile or not.
1. Goat simulator
3. My obsessive knitting habits
Description: A game set entirely on a browser/computer interface where you try to catfish someone through a series of emails in an attempt to find the secret to happiness.
Art/Research Statement: I want to examine the relationship between our virtual/online identities and our real selves, and due to the prevalence of the internet, how one individual can have multiple personas (and not necessarily that some of them are ‘fake’).
1. Digital: A Love Story
2. Pony Island
3. Mystic Messenger (I have not actually played this game and do not plan to ever)
4. That one time one of my friend’s online communities got catfished and it caused a huge scandal
5. Catfish: The Documentary
6. Samurai Flamenco (one of the character’s obsessive texting habits)
Cardboard Computer is a indie game studio consisting of about three people and currently responsible for the game Kentucky Route Zero,a narrative-driven point and click game about a bunch of strangers who end up traveling together on a magical (?) underground highway in rural Kentucky. The first of five acts was released in 2013 and the rest have been released intermittently; currently four acts are out (the amount of time between acts 3 and 4 was about two years).
Kentucky Route Zero has a relatively linear storyline in that the choices the player makes don’t have much effect on the overarching storyline (timeline wise it will occasionally jump into the distant past or future, often casually switching character POV in the process). Instead, the player’s choices end up defining or detailing the character’s personalities, which have no overall effect on the ‘plot’ but can certainly change the feel of the game for the player. The game itself is heavily influenced by Southern Gothic tropes, Americana folklore/ghost stories and is filled with literary references.
My idea is a scene that takes in audio as input. The default state is black, but it can parse volume/pitch and creates an aurora-like visual sound wave on different inputs.
Another potential play mode: the scenes outputs a specific sequence that the player needs to mirror, and plays a specific animation upon successful completion.
Ideal interaction mode: Possibly VR but doesn’t really have to be (could just be a fixed screen, since the start state is pure black). Definitely needs a microphone of some sort, but ideally it would be a headset/portable so as to not be too obtrusive. Below is a mood board, and some potential gameplay.
I wanted to create a scene in which things weren’t colored/textured in accordance to the way they are in the real world. By tinting everything red and white (and not necessarily objects that are supposed to be one color as that color), I wanted to create something that looks visually appealing but with a sense of surrealism and strangeness.
Neopets is a relic of early-2000s internet, a once-popular site whose heyday has since come and gone. The site is a shell of its formal self: beloved staff members are gone, weekly puzzles have been on hiatus for years. Advertisements pepper every aspect of the site in a last-ditch attempt to suck as much money as possible from its former glory.
I have had my current Neopets account for almost seven years, but have been playing much longer- a previous account I used for several years was frozen. I have participated in multiple site-wide events, I have meticulously customized each of my Neopets, I have submitted comics to the weekly newspaper. I also have spent hundreds of hours playing minigames, with which you can earn Neopoints, the game’s form of currency, amassing over 2 million Neopoints over the course of all these years. There are many reasons for hoarding so much money: saving for an expensive item, for example, or simply for the satisfaction of having it.
The economies of online communities operate in surprisingly complex ways and have actually been the subject of several academic studies. In the case of Neopets, money can be made by playing games, but the money isn’t being ‘taken’ from somewhere else. So money is constantly and easily being generated without being spent or destroyed; the amount of money circulating is almost always rising. Because of this, constant inflation is a problem Neopets (and many online economies) face. Neopets has implemented several features in an attempt to curb inflation, for example an extremely expensive wheel that almost never gives a return on investment (so proportionally it removes more value than it puts back into the economy). There are also options like donating money and literally throwing it down a well.
For my project, I have elected to throw away all of my accumulated wealth as quickly and senselessly as possible, removing myself from the Neopian economy and signifying a rejection of the game and its market. Arguably a project seven years in the making, I destroy a significant amount of invested time and effort (as well as emotional investment) in a matter of minutes- with no apparent gain in the process.
I’m Sophia Zhu!
-Link to programming/art portfolio: here