For the kinetic text prompt, I decided to animate a poem that I wrote last year, called “free.” Originally, I was going to put this text to my own music since combining my different art forms has always been part of my interest in this class. When I starting sketching out my ideas though, it became apparent to me that a song whose tone fit the piece much better than my own music (maybe because my music is electronic, but jazz is always at my core) is the jazz tune, “Black Narcissus” by Joe Henderson. Since the version I wanted to use is five minutes long, I started out by mapping approximate placement of frames, how long each one would last, and how many there would be, in order to make sure that the text could fill five minutes. It seemed like it would, as long as the text’s pace was relaxed. I wanted a minimalist aesthetic for this project, so it seemed to fit.
Once I started building the project, I realized how surprisingly long it takes to animate what feels like a short piece of text. This poem is 70 words, which is one of my shortest poems. Once I was in After Effects, it became apparent that 70 words is a lot to keep track of — especially timing-wise, when trying to coordinate animating them in and out. I had gone into it thinking that maybe some words could be in the same text box or layer, but since my vision involved making each word stand on its own, with its own personality and timeline, I realized they each had to be edited in their own layer and every word had to be given more consideration than I had recognized when I began this process. To deal with this, I split my workflow into steps. I made a background layer, and then made a layer for each of the 70 words. Once I imported the music track, I spent a long time listening and relistening to the track and marking where each word would enter and exit, and taking notes on what kind of transition would bring the word in (a fade? an abrupt entry? a dissolve?). It was tricky figuring out how to pace the words so that they suit the flow of the music, but could also still fill out the length of the song, not leaving music or words over at the end. I wanted the words to speak to the music, and since timing is crucial in jazz, the timing of each word’s entry with a cymbal hit or saxophone note was important to me. I based conceptual ideas of timing and flow around what the instrumentalists in the song are doing.
Once all of my word layers were in their proper time places, I moved on to the next step in my workflow which was to position them all on the screen, in relationship to each other, as well as in relationship to their timing in the overall context of the piece. This piece has a lot of open space which left a lot of room for play. I went through and arranged the words in different configurations, trying to figure out how to place them on the screen in a way that accented the tone. This piece isn’t supposed to look tidy or advertisement-like, so I tried to find a way to place the words randomly, while also still keeping it clean and have it legibly make sense. Once they all had their places in time, I went in and made all the transitions. Most of them are opacity fade-ins/fade-outs that I hand-animated because it felt like the best way to get everything to line up with free-flowing nature of the music. On certain hits, where the instrumentalists all hit a note together, I found it interesting to not use a transition to bring words on, but to abruptly bring the words onto the screen, so that they “snap,” into existence in imitation of the cymbal hits, and then “snap” away in time with the hits as well. I tried to make these kinds of juxtapositions between slow fade-ons and hard snaps, to keep the viewer engaged and feeling the right vibe.
Once the basic transitions were done, I interspersed a few interesting textural ones where I thought there needed to be a change or motion to keep the piece fresh. I was determined to keep the piece minimal, so I tried to avoid drastic effects, but went more with ones that added a subtle flow or motion change that enhanced the relationship with the music. One in particular, the “Raining Characters Out” effect seemed like it might be too grandiose, but then I ended up liking it and feeling that it really suited what the sax did at that point in the song. I incorporated more of these presets as the song went on, trying to subtly build new visual ideas and reflect what was happening in the story of the text and the music of the song.
After all of the words had been positioned where they would come in and out, I moved back to thinking about overall composition and what elements I still needed to add. In my original sketches, I had a shift in the tone in the middle of the piece, where the sax solo comes in and the person in the text story is gathering their possessions to leave the place they are. At that point, I had a word scale up, to play with how the viewer was perceiving the space. I also changed some transitions so that the words move into their places via motion paths. I found that a change in the type of motion was effective in breaking up the sameness and keeping the eye engaged, while still remaining authentic to the tone. At this stage in the project I considered other words to scale and other types of motion to bring in to continue building up the engaging details.
In the time that I had to finish this, I was unable to clean up the project and add the other engaging details like more motion and color changes. For me, underestimating the time it would take to complete was the biggest issue with this project. I thought a minimalist poem would not take as long as other work I have done in After Effects (the last prompt was much more maximalist), and I just did not have enough time to stop and edit again or to add the final touches. Other than that, I had few issues, and found it to be fairly easy to come up with and animate my ideas. I plan on editing this piece and trying to incorporate some of my ideas about color, scale, and motion, as well as change the font in a few places and add a trim pat. I hope to experiment a little with how to make a minimalist piece more interesting, hopefully without changing the tone too much.
For this project it was preferred that we use text that we had written ourselves. The text we used could be as long or as short we liked. When I began brainstorming for this project, I was not sure of what kind of text to use at first. I did not want to limit myself to just one word but I also did not want to end up having to fit in a whole page of text. I am not much of a song writer or poet so that was out of the question. I do however, like creating small dialogues between characters from time to time so I decided to start from there.
Initially, I was going to have simply shaped characters on the screen along with the text, but I scrapped the idea out of fear they might take too much attention away from the text. Since I could not have my characters I had to think of other graphics to go with my text. I started to think of phones and the small phrases commonly used over them. I then began to brainstorm several phrases I could build scenarios on. I also began designing phone graphics to put alongside the text so I could have more to work with. My idea was not very specific when it came to the overall structure of the project. All I started out knowing is that I wanted it to start out slow with a few phone sound effects and then build to a loud climax.
Most of the graphics were based off the different types of phones I’ve had. I was very young when I got my first phone. So young in fact that my first phone was a flip phone. Then the next one was a phone that had the back slide out to reveal a keyboard. After that my next phone was the first of the standard smartphones we use today. I made a graphic representing each of these along with a graphic for the most symbolic a all phones the rotary telephone.
I had specific ideas on how I wanted each phone to move in the project and I kept those ideas in mind when making the final graphics in illustrator. I wanted my flip phone graphic to flip open. I created two frames: one was closed the other was open. I put a click sound between the two frames in order to imply movement. For the the phone with a keyboard I designed two halves. One was the top with the screen. The the other was the bottom with the keyboard. I put the bottom half behind the top half. Then I keyframed the top half sliding up enough to reveal the keyboard on the bottom half.
While designing the smart phone my intention was to make several different screens and have them slide onto the phone frame I created. Then a call screen would come up and I would keyframe it in After Effects to imply the person hit the decline button. However, all the screens aside from the call screen seemed to be a bit much so I decided to scrap them. I also gave the smartphone a gradient color screen to set it further apart from the older models.. The other phones’ screens just went from black to blue to suggest there was a call. Finally, There was the telephone graphics I based off of rotary telephones. Despite the fact that you don’t see them around their likeness is still used as a symbol for calls. Whenever I get called on my smartphone it’s always two rotary phone handle symbols that pop up on the screen. This is reflected in my smartphone design for the call screen. I had two phone designs for rotary phones. The first was the classic rotary dial phone. I wanted to use it towards the end of the video to transition from the loud noise of the climax to the calm end. I split it into two parts: one for the base and one for the phone handle. I wanted the handle to come down to the base as the climax starts to settle down. The second graphic I designed was a rotary phone handle hanging from the cord. I wanted it to drop down during the climax along with a few other items.
Once I finished my phone graphics I had decided on what kind of music or sound I was going to use. I already knew I wanted to use various sound effects, especially for the climax. I thought about using music as well but decided not to because I did not want it to take away from the sound effects. I also decided against voiceover for the same reason. Since my ideas on how to go about structuring the video were still fairly vague, I just picked out as many sound effects as could (but ended up looking for more later on anyway).
Along with small sounds that build up to louder climax I also wanted each of the cell phone models to have a small segment of the video to themselves. I decided to jump right into video making and working things out as I went along. The first segment went to the flip phone. I just used two pieces of simple text (“Hello” and “Oh hi!”) and from there I thought that I would have each phone have its own independent segment of a random phone scenario. However, as I continued I began to build a single narrative. This narrative being that someone is deliberately ignoring someone else. The next segment was with the keyboard phone being filled with text messages and then having “I’m Busy” typed out as a response. The smartphone segment had the call screen come up and the red phone decline button was pressed. Then it transitioned to a voicemail being typed out.
Even after those segments I still had a decent portion of the video to fill before the climax. I decided to take elements from the previous segments and combine them in different ways to build up to the climax. When I finally got to my climax I ended up using less elements than expected. I mainly just implemented the rotary phone graphics and voicemail text.
Despite the constant trial and error I still managed to keep to my original ideas. I had to adjust many of the audio levels so the climax would not be unbearable to hear. I also think that in some cases the phone graphics might overshadow the text but they both serve their purpose well overall.
For my kinetic text piece, I animated a short narrative about how I put a word to my gay and trans identity, focusing on my young crush on Freddie Mercury.
For this piece my main focus was simply the text. Because in previous years I have only used visual forms to represent concepts, the use of text as graphics was new and foreign to me, especially since all my life it has been drilled into me that the only use of text and letters was for extremely rigid writing.
Because of the exact nature of the project, I found that using primarily text was liberating. I focused on aesthetics, how the letters looked and felt with different fonts, and also keeping everything cohesive. Because of the subject matter, I wanted to allude to two time periods: my youth in 2011 and the glam rock era of the late 70s. Because I wanted to focus solely on the text, I kept my visuals at a minimum. In fact I only used two effects: fractal and noise HLS on the wild layers, used glowing trim paths, and only changed the colors on the soil layer every 30 seconds to a minuet. In fact I relied on visual repetition for the trim paths and just remixed the same key frames manually. My only other visual component was live footage from a Queen concert, which I put put a mirror effect on so it would only “open” when Freddie Mercury was on screen.
The text itself is a mix of 3D and 2D animated text. While I would have loved to render all my text layers in 3D, in truth I was scared that the file would take too long to render and that my computer would overheat, leading me to 3D animate any text sparingly. However I know with the right equipment, 3D rendering all the text would have been possible, and would have led to a more compelling reading and viewing experience. However within the film, I male use of animated text intros and decoder effects to keep viewers interested in the screen. I animated different parts of text to change color, as if it were rainbow for the very obvious reason: this film is about being gay. In fact, as a gay man, I make use of a censored LGBTQ+ slur targeted at gay men, and make change to all colors of the rainbow. In this way I am simultaneously reclaiming and asserting my identity with a slur which is in relation to this story of putting words to my identity. I also stuck with a prose style for this film, namely because I wanted the work to feel personable, as if I am talking to you at a coffee shop about this, and thus take away a layer of accessibility. I also found that as prose, the narrative flowed more easily than not. I also tried to use a loose narrative structure,the film has a clear beginning and end, even though both do not amount to much and they shouldn’t, to me my attraction to other men and only men is part of my everyday life and at this point, normal, why should’t I portray it as normal in my work?
This film also deals with the beginnings of something that I currently cannot explain any better with language: the fact that men who love men (gay, bi, pan men) experience love and attraction differently from straight women. I have no idea how else to go into detail about it but one of the reasons I know why its different is this: I have not met a straight woman who was attracted to Freddie Mercury ever in my life. Are there women who are attracted to queer men? Yes, and they sometimes get into relationships if the man is also attacked to women as well. However, for some reason, no straight women has ever expressed her attraction to Freddie Mercury while many queer men have. Through my personal experience, and hopefully through more art, I hope to explain how the phenomenon of love between men and lust between men works.
In all this project challenged me to think very differently from my usual. I am used to thinking in form, color, and shape in a the context of pictures, never in fonts, words, or text in general. I truly tried to tone down my use of imagery to three main components and use repetition as an effective visual device and keep the mood of my piece effective and consistent throughout the film. Awakening is probably one of the firsts of unknown firsts of many more works of art to come that explicitly deal with identity, gender nonconformity, attraction, and love that come with being a gay man, especially a gay trans man in 2018.
The song Wait by M83 is from an experimental series of music videos that I have hardly watched. They tell a surrealist story involving industrial America, folk lore and space. I haven’t watched it in years, not since the song was featured on the ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ movie soundtrack (no matter the film movie soundtracks are goldmines for sound). At the time I saw the movie I was having trouble developing emotional attachments to pieces of art. The medication I was taking for depression/anxiety had a numbing effect that made seeing movies and hearing music frustratingly dry. This song plays at the very end of the film when the main character goes through a transformative experience which leads her and her family to accept a harsh situation. The song made the end of TFIOS into something powerful enough that I felt satisfied when I exited the theater. Powerful enough that I could feel a lot when I listened to it on repeat after I got home and 5 years later when I listen to it now.
I am on better medication now. Art effects me and the song has lost none of its beauty. So for this process I did not make any sketches. I listened to the song on repeat and kept it as simple as I could. Particle and Scatter are good for this. I slowed them down and lowered the opacity very slightly. I timed the scatter of the first two “Sings” at the beginning of the video catch the viewer’s attention in the beginning so they would be more inclined to stay on. The rest of the video is, however, fairly low-key apart from the Kaleida effects. The opacity on those were also played with. The word “Wait” which stays in place for the entire video goes in and out of focus as an additional eye-catching motion. I could not decide how fast or slow to make it and I have submitted it with uncertainty.
I created a pink particle layer and added three masks over top it to give peeks at its slow journey into a twist. I also included the words, Wait and Sing. The moving kaleidoscopic effect was the result of me applying Kaleida to a text layer that read:
I think adding those subtleties to the work helps it to match the song. There are so many layers to it and slow turns. The Kaleida adds the unexpected to ready the viewer for the end which is when the climax of the song occurs and it makes all kinds of turns. My worry for this was making it too languid. My own attention span is very short. I have to be in the right headspace to even listen to the song completely, though I enjoy it so much. However, in the end, I feel the particles and extra additions made it interesting enough.
Saint Vincent’s self titled album holds a very dear spot in my little gay heart. Every song manages to punch me in the gut, take me back to my first summer alone in the city, and oh yeah this album helped me come to terms with my gay and trans identity. I, Baphomet Nayer, owe my existence to weird album and I’m ok with it.
Bring Me Your Loves holds itself up as probably one of my favorite heart break songs ever because of how raw, angry, and anguishing it is. There are no saccharine woe is me lyrics or melodies here, nope just intense and true anger and desire for revenge. In my opinion the reason why this song resonates to me is because being angry and vengeful, while a character flaw if actually acted out, was denied to me for so long, and honestly those are my true feelings in any heart break scenario, and to here them so unbridled and raw is freeing.
For the video I decided on the color scheme simply because Bring My Your Loves sounds like its mostly pink. Then for each repeating phrase (bass line and vocal) I animated trim lines in the shape of a vital signs monitor and just varied them slightly. To convey the song’s movement and emotion I utilized the following: fractals, hand drawn frame animations, and a live recording of a beating heart outside of the human body.
The most interesting parts of the video were using both hand drawn animations and live video to convey raw intense emotion. Since the main simile involves dogs and pets I incorporated those with the following: a dog being split in half, and collard neck bursting, and a mouth drooling. With the live video of a beating heart I made sure to add several style effects such as plastisze, glow, and emboss, change the colors, and change the aspect ratio of the video so while it was centered, it acted more like a window surrounded by movement. These effects and animations, as well as my use of color and fractals ensured that I would do Saint Vincent, my coming out album, and Bring Me Your Loves justice as an intense, raw, and emotional piece.
That was all in the back of my mind as I went into this assignment. Starting with a brilliant blue oil-type brush I drew a random scribble on the canvas. Then, exploring some of the other brush options photoshop has to offer, I used the wet blender brush to smudge the blue around until the entire canvas was filled. Since everything was all very blue, I created an RGB shift add a bit more color and variance to it. Using duplicate layers and that same smudge brush, I then attempted to create an impression of the sky graduating from light to dark blue, as if the sun were about to set but wasn’t quite close enough to the horizon for the blue light to be completely scattered away. Finally, using layer visibility in conjunction with a frame animation, I created this gif:
For this next gif I wanted something a little more stylized, possibly something reminiscent of early 2000’s selfie gifs (blingee, glitterfy, etc.), but still focused on the sky— so I went with twinkling stars. I started out with a light green splatter brush, but quickly changed my mind and decided to just go with blue again. Using the same splatter brush, I painted over most of the green until only specs of it were still visible. This, I thought, would give the sky a bit more texture, and could possibly give an impression of some sort of nebula or supernova in the background if you wanted to think a little too much about it. I then created 14 layers of light pink stars, each one unique and different. Finally, using a frame animation I created one frame for each layer of stars. However, the stars were too few and far between so I went back and added some of the other star layers to each frame, resulting in this:
The final gif in this series veers away, visually, from the blue sky theme I had going. For the selfie glitch assignment I wanted to create a sense of weightlessness, as if I were in the future using an old barely functioning VR rig to attempt to fly. To create the weightlessness effect I used an iPhone app called Focos. Focos is basically a tool which allows you to fine-tune the bokeh effect on photos taken with a dual-lens camera. Notably, it has this neat little feature where you can adjust the angle of the photo, which focos then displays projected onto a heightmap of the depth information from the photo. Using this feature, I took screenshots of my photo angled one degree to either side of the original:
I then took those three screenshots, cropped them so it was just my picture on the gray background, and started messing around with glitching. Unfortunately I was only able to get those streaky line glitches using the text editing method, so I turned to glitching RAW files too. Fairly satisfied with the results, I imported them all into photoshop. For whatever reason when I imported them photoshop turned them all black and white, but it looked cool so I went with it. I then used a frame animation and created the following gif by changing the visibility of the various photo layers for each frame.
What’s the game about?
Gentrification is about a player moving to a transitioning neighborhood. They just graduated from college with some student loans to pay off and they got a job in the city. Now they’re moving to an affordable neighborhood near their job – their goal is to get an apartment.
Where did the idea come from?
I grew up in New York City until I was nine, on the Upper West Side and in Harlem. I moved back to Harlem a few years ago, and it was crazy how much the neighborhood had changed since the last time I had been there. All of a sudden, we had a Whole Foods moving in down the street, a climbing gym moving in, and fancy coffee shops popping up. It’s the process of gentrification in action.
I was at a bookstore (in Harlem, coincidentally) when I found a book called “In Defense of Housing,” by David Madden and Peter Marcuse, that talks about the underlying causes of gentrification which I found interesting and which got me thinking about using it as a subject for my game.
How is your game radical?
My plan for my game is to build a simple and relatable environment in which the player’s goal is to get an apartment so they can begin to work (and begin to pay off their student loan). Through interactions with NPCs and the environment, it will become clear to the player that by taking the path of least resistance – simply renting an apartment – they will be at odds with the best interest of the neighborhood. They’ll be taking part in and perpetuating the gentrification that is negatively impacting the neighborhood and the community.
How did your paper prototype play?
The paper prototype played well. I was very informative to see my idea for the game having been physically built. And it certainly helped to see my game through the eyes of potential players.
People responded well to the game design. The main feedback I got was that there wasn’t a clear enough idea of what my game was about. The class was able to figure it out on their own but it took some teasing out for them to get there. Moving forward, that’s something I’d like to pay special attention to – making sure that the directive is clear at every point in the game.
My initial plan was to make the game with a black and white color palette but in the play through, someone suggested trying it with color.
The third main feedback I got, was to give my NPCs a point of view, driven by some motivation in their interactions.
What are your three NPC encounters in level one?
In level one, I’m planning to have my character encounter an apartment building owner from whom he can rent an apartment, the owner / manager of a new hip coffee shop that just opened up, and the owner of a corner deli whose family has been in the neighborhood for several generations.
How did these encounters express your game idea?
Those three characters all experience the gentrification of a neighborhood from very different perspectives. Each plays a different role in the community. And each will be affected differently, and each has a different motivation.
The apartment owner has already been a part of the community but will want to take advantage of the trend of increased demand for his apartment and will probably raise the cost of rent.
The coffee shop owner is new to the area and is looking to capitalize on the influx of a new demographic of people to the neighborhood – one willing to pay extra for their coffee if it comes with a certain atmosphere.
The corner deli owner’s business may be threatened by the wave of gentrification.
How do your game encounters support a help and hinder paradigm in your design?
The player will have to decide for themselves how they choose to act, while progressing toward their goal. Their actions will either contribute to the gentrification of the neighborhood or they will help to support the community.
Characters like the coffee shop owner or the apartment owner benefit from the gentrification of the neighborhood. In interacting with them, the player will be pushed toward a simpler path to the goal of securing an apartment to live in.
Only by talking to other characters, like the deli owner, who don’t necessarily benefit from gentrification, will the player be able to find a path to their goal that doesn’t contribute to the gentrification of the neighborhood.
How is your game build progressing?
The build is coming along well. I have most of the art completed for the level. I still have to make some animations for my NPCs and background elements of the city in the distance. The code seems to be coming together well.
How are you using color in this game?
After my first paper game play-through, the class suggested adding color to the game. I played around with it and I like the result – though I’m still nailing down a clear color script that will clearly define my character in relation to the world around him.
Still, for now, I enjoy working in this simple palette; I think it gives the city a cool feel.
What was the rationale behind your level design?
I liked the idea of making a 2d side-scroller, set in Brooklyn. I think it sets up a lot of fun opportunities to design fun maps.
So far, I’m trying to keep a lookout for where I place the buildings I design and what that means for the community I’m creating, in doing so.
Where in your elements did you intervene to make the design of the game unconventional?
My ultimate plan for the game – although it may be a bit beyond the scope of this class – will be to add a bit of a fantastical / supernatural element to the third act. The evil that’s truly causing the gentrification to take place has its roots in the city (literally) and I plan to hint at this throughout the first and second acts of the game.
How does your game ‘say a lot with a little?
Visually, the world I’m creating is designed to be simple and yet expressive. The characters are minimal and yet have enough details to convey a sense of who they are and what their relationship to the environment is.
How does your design act to express your theme or story?
If all goes as planned, the environment that the character is moving through will change and respond to the decisions that the player makes. If the player doesn’t consciously make decisions that will strengthen and benefit the community, they’ll see the level changing.
As an example, when gentrification rises, you’ll start to see tags disappearing and being replaced with commissioned art.
Can the player see what’s important in this early level?
The player’s goal – to rent an apartment without contributing to the gentrification of the neighborhood – will be very clear in this level. NPC interaction will be the biggest way in which I can make that happen.
How does your aesthetic emphasize emotion?
The goal of my game is to make the player aware of the negative impact gentrification can have on a neighborhood, help them to understand what causes it and what can be changed, and to empathize with the people who are impacted by the changing community.
- Interact with bank worker Clint, who appears worried but brightens as soon as he sees Casper to tell him a bit about the bank.
- Get coffee, which can later be given to Tessa to improve her mood toward the player.
- Second encounter with Clint, where upon further prodding he reveals that he was worried because his boss scheduled him to work all this week, thereby depriving him of time to shop for an anniversary present for his husband in time for their date on Friday. In my mind, after this conversation a few set items would move slightly.
My game Union Town (a working title) is about an unnamed new hire at a fast food restaurant. You play as this new hire, making connections with the other workers by getting to know them, picking up shifts, and bumming them cigarettes in order to form a union. Meanwhile, the manager of the restaurant offers you a raise and the employee of the month award if you refuse to help out your coworkers and only flip burgers. I got the idea for my game because this is actually what my brother is doing right now in Portland. He’s working on a union campaign at a fast food restaurant chain, flipping burgers and building relationships with his coworkers and helping them learn the power of the union. Talking to him about his day-to-day life as a union organizer gave me the idea for my game. He’s having fun working on building the union, but building community in the face of corporate isolation and the trauma of poverty created by working minimum wage jobs is tough work. This game is radical because it examines this process of union building, promotes values of class solidarity, questions the ethical authority of managers and bosses. The main radical aspect of this game, though, is its promotion of radical friendship and solidarity building. Though the tactics of striking, boycotting, and other contentious means of forming a union are definitely vital to organizers, the radical nature of relationship building is an essential and undervalued aspect of organizing that I want to highlight in this game. My paper prototype played fairly well during the Paper Game class, I had some trouble creating and nailing down the interactions for each level.
I had planned my game around the player having options for response, this mistake definitely showed through during the paper game play through, and working around that has been a little difficult. But I’ve figured it out for the first level at least, where the player begins outside the back of the restaurant.
Here, there are three NPC encounters. The first is with a former worker of this restaurant, who informs the player of their task to unionize the workplace. He tells the player that he had been fired for organizing and warns the player to watch out for the manager.
Another encounter on this level is with the trashbags, among which the player finds a pack of cigarettes that they can then use to build friendships with other workers. The final encounters in this level is with another worker who is outside on a smoke break. He asks to bum a cigarette, and if the player has already picked up the pack of cigarettes from the trash, the worker continues talking and tells you about his work woes. After he finishes talking, the manager comes out and tells him his break is over. Then the manager turns to the player and tells him to not mingle with the other workers because they’re lazy etc. and that you should just stick to flipping burgers if you want to be employee of the month. These encounters work to express my game idea by first setting up the goal of the game with the former worker, then providing an opportunity to build friendship and solidarity with a worker right off the bat. The help and hinder paradigm is then seen when the manager comes out and offers you an alternative goal for the game, achieving employee of the month. My gamebuild is progressing fairly well considering it is my first game. I’ve made one level in Unity with one interaction. I am having some trouble with the animation, as it seems to be skipping when the player walks down and to the side (though not walking up, for some unknown reason). It’s going slowly but surely, and I’m enjoying learning how Unity works.
My use of color is somewhat strategic. I plan on utilizing less and less color as the player moves through the levels. In the first level, the back of the restaurant, the assets are very colorful. The layout of the level is also very open, the player can move around the road/parking lot and has to explore the level to see the other worker. This is meant to make the player feel free, able to move around and engage with the level without any visible constraints. This serves as a juxtaposition for the following two levels.
The second level is a bit more closed and a bit less colorful. I use grayscale and browns to make the player feel less free. Its rather empty (there will be NPCs in this level, however). The grayscale is meant to represent the feelings of boredom and entrapment that workers of minimum wage jobs often feel. The third level, the shop floor, is an exaggerated version of this. It will look more like a prison or cage with less color and less room to move around. I don’t think I’ve intervened enough to make this game unconventional, so far it is pretty straightforward, but the structuring of the levels is somewhat unconventional in that it is not necessarily linear. The player can move between the levels freely, moving toward and away from the imprisonment by capitalism.
I think this game, though fairly simple, puts forth some big ideas about the power of building relationships when confronting capitalism. The game is not just getting union card signatures and striking, but actually interacting with other workers and forging strong friendships with them by getting to know them. In the end, it is this solidarity that helps build unions, not just old leftist tactics. This is something we can all stand to learn, leftists and non-leftists alike. Often, leftists get caught up in the glamorous, contentious aspects of organizing work, thinking that the radical work is the disruptive work. But this game is meant to serve as a reminder that radicalism also manifests in acts of friendship, and the power of radical friendship is not something to be dismissed or undervalued in the fight against capitalism.
My game is about a cowboy in a movie set of an old west movie. Players progress through shooting various scenes in the movie with freedom of choosing how the scenes play out. Their previous actions they take dictates the actions they can take in future scenes. For example, helping the bandit early on could mean not being able to talk to the sheriff later on. After shooting the scenes, players get to see what kind of movie they’ve made at the end.
The idea came from the development process of the game. At first, I wanted to make a game about the pressure to conform to a role in front of other people. After researching the old west genre, I decided a more interesting theme to explore would be the dissonance in the escape and immersion popular entertainments promise and the stereotypes they actually show.
To bring out this idea, my game puts the player in both the shoes of the producer and the audience of entertainment. After the players decide on the type of movie this is going to be about, they are forced to consume it. Through this, I call attention to the decisions made for us by the producers of the media we consume and the stereotypes they reinforce. I purposely break immersion with the movie sets to call out the lack of immersion breaking that encourages consumers to passively consume media.
Early on in development, I made a paper prototype to test out some of the ways I could explore this idea within a game environment. My paper prototype was based on an earlier idea of the game where players had no choice but to conform to stereotypes. I learned that the traditional gamey elements like quests and dialogue options were too distracting. By stripping my game of some traditional elements, I was able to bring out the focus of my game.
Through that process, I was able to iterate on various ideas that resulted in what I have now. Currently, I have just the first level partially built. The NPC encounters in the first level are the director, bandit, saloon girl, and sheriff. The director sets the scene of a cowboy looking for a place to stay. The rest of the NPCs each represents a “type” of cowboy the player could play. They all offer a solution for the player’s problem. By choosing the align with the bandit, saloon girl, or sheriff, players will have decided on if they want to play the bad, carefree, or good cowboy respectively. Throughout the game, players will be given the options of staying with their alignment or straying away from it.
Currently, I’m working on getting my first level to run with dialogues and traversals smoothly. I’m still establishing some of the base codes of the game. Once that is done, it should be a matter of writing and building out the rest of the game.
Regarding the aesthetic designs, I’m using bright colors to contrast the muted and dark color scheme of the western world. The various movie set objects in the game should stand out with their industrial and bright colors. I’m contemplating on potentially changing the colors of the game to show the player’s current alignment with the type of narrative they’re on the path to create.
One of the design challenges I face is to find a way to convey choice. In a traditional game, a choice is typically presented with a drop-down menu describing the various actions players could take. However, I wanted to reinforce the idea that in real life, our choice and actions aren’t always going to be laid out for us. To do this, I’ll be applying the design strategy of presenting players with options before the choice. For example, in the example of my first level, players naturally encounter with the bandit. The bandit provides the option of stealing a key from the sheriff. However, to choose that option, players will have naturally encounter their two other options before being given the ability to make the decision. Once this pattern is established, I plan to have more obscure options players can take to communicate the idea that our choices about personal identity require exploration and are not always the first option presented.
While I haven’t fleshed out the full story of the game yet, I plan to keep my game fairly short in order to encourage replay attempts. I think the message becomes the clearest when players become more conscious of their actions and consequences. By having two gameplay experiences, they have a different result to compare to. Some may argue that the intended replayability makes the game’s choices less meaningful. However, I think the players’ own curiosity to explore the various options in the narrative is exactly the mindset I want them to have. The curiosity to explore the options is more important to me than living up to the consequences of the actions.
Early on in the game, the impact of the players’ choices is not immediately obvious. It’s not until later in the game when restrictions are placed on the choices they can make are the results of their actions obvious. At this point, some players may feel a bit of frustration or guilt in their lack of freedom. I think this is positive for the game because it encourages people to replay the game. However, they will always end up with a coherent narrative where the cowboy is reinforcing some sort of stereotypical narrative. If the lack of control at the end takes players out of the immersion and gets them to think about how they’ve constructed their narrative, then I will have succeeded in getting my message across.
I didn’t plan for the game to be so reflective of some of the things in life I’m working through right now. The process of creating this game is forcing me to look deeper at some of the influences (both positive and negative) I had growing up. I hope that this experience will not only help me grow personally but also result in a shareable product that inspires introspection for other people as well.