This project began very sensitive; I wanted to discuss sexual assault and harassment on campus, which is quite personal to me. I came at the project initially from a point of anger, and conceptualized a piece where I would use polaroid pictures of places on campus to insinuate the viewer in the situation. I wanted to make it uncomfortable to be a bystander not doing anything. After a lot of discussion and thought, it became clear that the project needed to take a different form. I hadn’t consider that the piece would be upsetting to other people who have been assaulted and harassed on campus, and that it wouldn’t only be seen by those perpetuating the abuse or disaffected onlookers. So I abandoned the polaroids, but I held on to the idea of gendered harassment, as it felt too important not to tackle. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I could appeal not only to the bystander and the perpetrator, but also to the affected parties, and how I could accomplish projecting a message that would be understood differently by different people. I looked a lot at Jenny Holzer’s work, and the ways that she abstracts ideas slightly into phrases and places them innocuously but obviously. The idea of humor was important in conceptualizing the form the piece would take, but ultimately abstraction became the most important element. I decided on posters, instructional, in the vein of the CPR instructional charts posted in school cafeterias. The gendered bathrooms in Heimbold seemed the perfect place for the project – the concept of a gendered bathroom is loaded politically and emotionally, and even a public bathroom of any kind can be extremely anxiety-inducing for someone who experiences sexual harassment. I found a hand-washing instructional poster and removed most of the text, finding the images useful for evoking the images of paranoia experienced both by those fearing harassment and those who are overly concerned with the genders of the people they share a bathroom with. I tried to draw attention to the ridiculous amount of thought people put into the gender of those around them and how that relates with their own gender – an angle I felt would be sympathetic enough to not be triggering for anyone but would still have the potential to cause someone to reflect on their own thoughts and actions. The actual process of installation terrified me – when I considered the placement of my piece, I put aside my own fears surrounding gendered and public bathrooms, but ultimately I was able to install. It was a positive experience, and gave me space to think, in relation to my project, about the arbitrary distinctions of spaces that are closed off by gender and class. The social constructions are baked in to the space, but that makes it easier to hijack.
I began this piece thinking a lot about the idea of a home, or homeliness, and the ways in which Heimbold can be unhomely and unsettling. I began trying to take inspiration from images of the home as unsettling, taking a lot of inspiration from horror games, which is where I began to conceptualize a clothesline. I wanted to create something that felt undeniably like part of the building, but at once felt like it should be hidden, and put it in plain sight. I looked a lot at Kitty Horrorshow’s Anatomy, which conceptualizes the house as a body, and wondered how I could create “veins” in Heimbold, personifying the space and imbuing it with life, even if that life was unsettling. At this point in the project, I started to take in some images of Louise Bourgeois and Tracy Emin, and began to consider intimacy and clothing as a medium for homeliness. I settled on the idea of a clothesline, which brought together many of the concepts I was exploring in a way I was quite satisfied with. I also decided to use dryer sheets (hidden in the socks) to make the piece more encompassing. The real challenge of this piece began with installation. The placement in the building was important; it needed to be visible and obvious, obstructive but not so obstructive that it was a fire hazard. Tall people needed to be able to walk under it (a factor I overlooked at first, as no one in our class reaches 6 feet). This meant changing my intended install space a couple times, because a ceiling was too low, or because it was a spot that was too out of the way. The physical installation of the piece was also a challenge – the pulleys I had didn’t quite fit securely with either of the types of hooks I had bought, and I was terrified of my piece falling and hitting someone on the head. I ended up fastening them to the hooks with wire, which gave the line more flexibility, and it didn’t fall. I think the piece accomplished what I hoped it would accomplish – it changed the feeling of the space, and people were surprised by it. There was a sort of cheery relief in the people I spoke to about it; one student who passed by while I was finishing the installation gleefully asked if it was art or if I was avoiding paying the $1.50 for the school dryers. I think the fact that it resembled a familiar clothesline so distinctly, that it was alone in the space, and that the clothes were mostly intimates like socks and underwear worked together to make the project successful. I learned a lot working on this piece about how to use the placement and space around a piece to complement and add to it – my previous piece had far less focus on a physical installation, and I think the way I used space for this piece informed the way I used space for my conference piece and changed how I plan to use space in the future.
My project began centered around this image: a pair of jeans, $425, covered in faux mud. The image was to me a representation of the ways in which more privileged social classes desire the aesthetics of the working class without desiring any of the hardships that go along with them. These jeans, for instance, represent the marketability of clothes that look worked in, and that people will pay ridiculous amounts of money to achieve this look rather than to actually be down working in the dirt for an hour or two. I had initially conceived a project in which I took obviously used objects, such as dirty/distressed clothing, safety gear, work gear, etc. and sold them as if they were designer. I felt that this could create a reversal of the image of designer clothes made to look lived in. However, as I worked with this project, I found it incredibly difficult to pin down the visual/object based aesthetics of the working class in a way that was universally recognizable. I tried different approaches, but eventually the project moved in a direction that had tonally been done many times before – that of merely critiquing the ridiculous prices of designer items, rather than focusing on the commodification of working class aesthetics. I conceptualized a couple other ways I could get my point across – a box with supplies to distress jeans (dirt, rusty metal, sandpaper, paint), marketed with a sort of DIY twist; an online shop marketing things as thrifted or vintage rather than new designer. In an effort to pin down the image vocabulary I was working with, I tried to place the images in a sort of mock “museum” setting. I had hoped isolating the images in a white box would make it easier to figure out how to represent the concepts I was working with, but it proved to be just as difficult as it was in a non-isolated setting. This section of the project permutated to represent the unattainability of the American dream, and I took a more clarifying approach to this permutation, collecting images that helped represent my concept and clarify the ways in which I wanted to present my ideas. I then ultimately presented my concepts through altered images, finding modern equivalencies with new technology and old advertisements. These images went through multiple permutations, but the theme of technology seemed to fit the project best. I think there were a few things in my way when I first began executing this project. I began with humor on my mind, but moved away from it when attempting to execute the piece. I tried to jump right in and create a physical piece of work, rather than using words or images to clarify my idea further than what I initially presented to the class. I also set up a barrier for myself when deciding that my visual hijack would take place in physical space, as physical projects require materials and space that I did not necessarily have the means to acquire, or that I did not know how to go about acquiring. When taking inspiration from our readings, I also felt torn between my agreement with Fairey and with Vallen’s critique of Fairey, which I think may have muddled my intent when it came to how to hijack my image. Ultimately, I found clarity through achievable goals, a great deal of research, and realizing that my work didn’t have to agree entirely with Fairey or Vallen – I could take elements from both, in addition to our other readings.
Mila is a top-down 2D RPG about a young girl’s search for a connection with her estranged father, and her slow disillusionment with the world her father is a part of. I’ve struggled a lot through the development of this game, and presently I am on a second or third draft of the art and maps. Functionally the game supports blendtree animation for movement, moving between scenes/maps, and collision. I spent a great deal more time than I expected to on the art, which is how I ended up with multiple drafts of nearly every asset and map. Because of this, the time I was able to spend on code suffered. I was able to make my game semi-playable, even with the amount of time I spent on the art. The process of the dev cycle helped me realize how well my background in design and visual art aided me in the process of game design. Although I was unable to spend as much time on it as I wanted to, I was also able to pick up on the logic of the code easily and quickly. I have a much better fundamental understanding of it now, and my skills in and understanding of animation grew a lot over the course of working on the character animations for this game. I’d like to continue to hone my understanding of abstraction and representation in art and animation, and to build my code vocabulary. During this project my greatest difficulty was scaling and rescaling the scope of the story. I began with a potential plot that was way too large to create within one semester – the fact that I spent the first few weeks of the semester working on and sketching out this plot (and then rescaling it when I realized it was unrealistic) lost me precious time that I could have put into making the game more functional. The coursework and materials gave me a lot of ideas about the functionality of a game, and the ways in which a game can get ideas across. I feel that I was able to incorporate a lot of ideas about shape theory and color theory, as well as taking design inspiration from a couple of top-down RPGs we played in the course, particularly Undertale and Suits: A Business RPG. I also took a lot of inspiration from Mortis Ghost’s OFF, which we did not play in class, but which I feel uses a minimalistic top-down format to create a very immersive and real-feeling world. It was also very helpful for me to see what my classmates were working on, as it gave me inspiration and motivation as well as reminding me that there is more than one successful way to make a game in the same code box. I certainly feel that I could have budgeted the time I spent working on code better on this project. I do feel that the amount of time I spent on art was warranted, as I will likely be able to reuse assets from this game in the future. On future projects I would definitely try to allow myself more time in the beginning of the cycle to focus on art before delving into the code.
My focus throughout most if not all of my dev cycle has been on art, not code, and that definitely shows at the place that I’m in with my game right now. Most of my maps are on a second or third draft, and I spent a great deal of time solely on color in certain parts of my game. After our second state-of-game in class, I was able to push past a lot of difficulty I’d been having with the second map – the green outdoor map. I made the map larger and populated it with more plants and trees – thus making it feel more alive, more a part of the world, and less closed-in and out of place. I’ve had consistent encouragement throughout the dev cycle that my art is successful in conveying what I want it to convey without words – sometimes the first or second draft of a map or character won’t be quite right, but usually by the second or third draft players can pick up a lot about the world with little explanation. Going into state-of-game, I was feeling very unsure about my choice to omit text in my game, concerned that players wouldn’t fully be able to read the art the same way they could read a description of it. There were definitely some critiques that I was able to take into account and make changes with (specifically in the second map, which I mentioned above, but also some notes about scale and trees) but I was surprised to find that my art got across a lot more about the story and characters than I expected it to. After state-of-game I put a lot of work into reworking the trees in my maps and the pathways and color schemes in a couple of them. I also spent a great deal of time to make the through-line of my maps very intuitive, something that I’m still working with. I want most of the conflict of the game to come from external forces and not from the player, so it was important for me that the world of the game be very immersive and steer the player away from seeking conflict. I feel I’ve somewhat accomplished this through the design of my player character. Almost everyone who’s playtested or looked at the game has felt endeared to Mila and has not gotten a sense of combat or fighting being necessary from the world.Players have expressed a feeling that conflicts in the world could be solved through conversation or compassion. Although there is often conflict surrounding Mila, I want most of the choice in the game to come from their decisions in characterizing her (in the conversation with the doberman, for instance) and from how they treat the other characters in the game (the vulture and mole, in addition to Mila’s father). I’ve also been playing a lot of game jam or lab games, usually made by one or two people, to get a sense of what other people are making working within the same scale or timeframe as I am. This has been immensely helpful in setting reasonable goals for myself and keeping me engaged in working on my own game.
Mila is about a little girl (the titular character), who, lonely and estranged from her father, leaves her home to search for him. As she moves forward, the world becomes colder and more unforgiving. Winter trees give way to concrete skyscrapers. When she finally makes it to her father, she finds not a kindred spirit, but a cruel CEO who sends her back to her ramshackle house. She makes her way back to her father again with the intent not of reconciling but of freeing the workers she saw along the way. I was influenced by top-down RPGs like OFF and Undertale, which use a sort of 3/4 view to create a sense of depth and dimension, and Sword & Sworcery EP for its abstracted pixel art style. My intention was for Mila to be a bright spot in a dim and (literally) gray world. I took narrative tone inspiration from Russian novels and games like Spooky’s House of Jumpscares, The Stanley Parable, and Papers Please. I want to create a dismal setting permeated and slowly saturated by hope. I’m attempting to translate this through color and character design. I also plan to include friendly NPCs based on “ugly” animals, such as the star-nosed mole and turkey vulture, to create a reversal of the common Disney-esque trope of a female main character befriending cute woodland creatures. Mila is also ragtag and disheveled for this reason. My state of the game focused on translation of idea through visual aesthetic, and this was mostly successful; even without more than one map or a narrative, players gleaned that Mila was searching for something important to her, and that she was a very hopeful character in a dreary world. I received some feedback about tile texture and made some adjustments accordingly; the workshop was very helpful in figuring out how to make certain textures (concrete, asphalt) read to a player in game space. Players also commented on Mila’s lack of a mouth, which I had intended as an artistic abstraction but which read as a conscious choice to show the character as quiet. I chose not to change this aspect of Mila’s character model because I don’t think the observation of her as quiet is incorrect and I am fine with the character being viewed this way. The paper game stage was very helpful for me in figuring out the layout of my story; I settled on a relatively linear progression mostly because of time constraints in the development process, but also because I felt it could get my meaning across simply and effectively. Players progressed mostly the way I expected them to, although I did receive some unexpected feedback about the presence of combat in the game, which led me to nix combat for the most part and look for other ways to portray and resolve conflict. Players thought that Mila attacking enemy NPCs broke an illusion of her “goodness” and that violence was unnecessary in the game. Development has been rocky less in terms of problem with code and programs but more so in terms of decisions about art assets and narrative choices. I’m currently struggling with the decision of whether or not to use dialogue in my game at all. I think dialogue in english might make the narrative feel less universal or more contrived. Players in the paper stage seemed to expect it, and without completed visuals I wasn’t sure how to express the narrative without it, but I would prefer to use pictures and scenes to illustrate meaning rather than dialogue.