Monthly Archives: March 2015

Self-Portrait: A Map of Depression

My self-portrait is a map of my depression, using a collage-based approach with text pulled from my own poetic writing and physically-linked symbols.

una map final

My initial brainstorm was closer to my final product, with an idea of spatialization based on my own gendered ancestry (my family’s history in Poland, the trauma of survival, etc). The maps we viewed in class, such as the dream map, inspired me. My mode of art is largely collage-based, though, so I was nervous about working outside of that medium. I was also distracted by the personal nature of the project and the idea of having a single, recognizable sign system, surface, and connection system.

However, after viewing the work of Ward Shelley, I thought I would go in a different direction and instead map the evolution of my sense of postmodern aesthetics. Like Shelley’s work where he maps in neurotic detail different artistic movements, I wanted to create a detailed and text-based timeline of counterculture aesthetics moving into the internet age of “new aesthetics,” something that I know about as obsessively as Ward Shelley does with his movements.

2015-03-03 15.20.48

My sign system was text and pictures pulled from my personal internet projects, such as facebook aesthetic groups (inb4, sport aesthetics), and from my tumblrs, and The surface was minimalist, on black with an extra pattern representing the advent of the internet into counterculture. I considered adding more text in boxes to explain different phases of postmodernity, but I struggled to find a connection system that satisfied me artistically, and also felt like my work was not personally connected enough with these explanations.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 11.58.04 PM

Eventually, I returned to an idea more similar to my original one of collaging my own sense of spatiality and embodied experiences of different spaces or states. I decided to map what I know the best right now, which is my depression and my own thoughts.


My surface was different states of depression, coded by color and space:

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 11.57.16 PM

My sign system was collaged poetics, as well as pictures of bodies, many of them my own, and of consumed media I encounter entering into my subconscious.

My connection system had to do with different states of mind. I primarily used the symbols of pills to communicate going through different chemically-influenced states of depression. I also used a crow in the top left corner, a symbol of death and darkness in a natural world, and a hand reading “NO” in the bottom left. The hand represents the power silently and physically no to violation and trauma represented by the bottom of the map, the “basement” section.

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The main effect I tried to produce with my map was a sense of different, separate physical spaces. I wanted it to feel like one could imagine oneself enter into each different space and travel throughout them, hence the use of roads, landscapes, a bed, and my computer screen. I tried to supplement this impulse to enter or traverse by using pictures of different bodies, so that the viewer could feel corporeally connected to the map.

My map attempts to make visible the ways in which mental illness can cause a sense of being lost in the vastness of one’s own head. I wanted to make visible the expansiveness and physicality of my mental illness, especially in an era of internet mass media, pornography, and chemical supplements. I am a trans person and an web artist who’s self-making has been internet-based. I interact with my corporeality and sexuality heavily in virtuality. The tools of webcams, selfies, and other such highly recent technologies affect my consciousness about my body and about where I live psychologically. The screen, feeding back my image to me, causes me to live in a dreamlike, virtual state. The shifting chemical states caused by medication adds another dimension to this bodily sense of shifting. These two factor, chemical changes in one’s state of mind, and the shifting in senses of spatiality because of the constant feed of media, can make depression an even more complicated state of mind to grapple with. My map attempts to make visible this struggle.

Final Project – Feminist Ad Bust

January 15, 2015


I wanted my final project during my intersession to address social issues that are relevant to me. My plan was to use an existing advertisement, paint it white, and then add text directly onto it. I decided to return to my initial idea of creating a billboard which advertised compliments that aren’t about physical appearance. I felt this is increasingly necessary especially in this area, given the number of times I was cat called in this neighborhood while I was here. The inspiration for this piece came from a post I read on angryasianfeminist.

I decided to springboard off of this post, and add my own compliments, make it public and add a bit of humor. I brainstormed on compliments for awhile. Some of the rejected included things like “There’s no need for TV when you’re around” and “You’re the reason Kanye has self esteem issues” (I thought that might sound like bullying Kanye, rather than just being like ‘you’re so flawless’). I left two bullet points at the end open so that passersby could add on their own. I noticed that someone added “I LOVE YOU” when I went back to check (ironically on Valentine’s day). It’s a silly addition, not one I would have added, but I like that someone ws inspired enough to participate.

The response online has been incredible. A photographer from the Philadelphia area snapped it and his photo was pretty popular on tumblr, gaining about 4,000 notes (‘notes’ indicate when another blogger has favorited or reblogged the original post/photo). I posted a similar photo and it got about 178,000 notes and counting. Even though this is dry data and doesn’t describe any impact the art may have had on these bloggers, it’s at least an easy way to numerically represent that a large number of people have appreciated the work enough to share it. My friends have even mentioned how they saw pictures of this piece popping up around various corners of the web. Suffice to say, the photo of this piece and its share-ability on the web is more important than the actual piece itself because it was able to reach more people.

Overall, I consider this project a success. I was thrilled by the way the piece came out, inviting humor yet still attempting to challenge serious issues around catcalling. The fact that it went viral is a pretty clear indication that people want to see work that speaks to real issues. I think about that a lot when I think about the success of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh with her “Stop Telling Women to Smile”. Her project was incredible, combining street art and powerful messages about women reclaiming their agency in public spaces. Her work is obviously great, but I think the response to her work is the strength of the project. It felt almost like women had been waiting for someone to say this, so when Tatyana spoke the message people immediately rallied behind the project. I’m not suggesting my piece is anywhere near as good as Tatyana’s campaign, but I think the responses to our messages show how eager people are to see art that addresses these larger social concerns about the treatment of women.

Group Game #2 – Light the Lamps

 Sketch43152513(a preliminary title screen)



For my second group game, I’m redesigning my first group game, Relay. I started my redesign by imagining what Relay would look like if Tim Burton were to design the game, and came up with some some sketches:

photo (25)Instead of the bad guys being circles, I changed them into black triangles with red eyes. The black and red colors of the triangles contrast with palette of my game, which is mostly grey and yellow. I decided that instead of simple black rectangles for goals, my goals would be lamps. The object of the game is to avoid the bad guys while keeping the lamps lit. The bad guys want to shoot globs of red at the lamps to put them out. If the bad guys manage to cover the lamps entirely in red, the player loses. After sketching, I created a simple interface:

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As in Relay, the game starts without any bad guys on screen. But, each time you drag the lamp lighter, bad guys start to appear:

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 11.57.31 AMThe lamp lighter’s eyes also glow when you drag it around. I really like the mechanic of adding bad guys each time the player is dragging, because that way the player has to constantly be engaged with the game. This also gives the player choice – they can choose to drop the lamp lighter, but that will increase the game’s difficulty by making the bad guys more powerful. I also added a behavior to the bad guy that wasn’t present in Relay – it shoots red globs at the lamp to try to put the lamp out:

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I want the bad guys to cover the lamp red section by section, but I’m still working on writing that code. Right now, the globs are an array list within my bad guy class, and the bad guys are an array list in the main class. I might change the wrapping pattern of the bad guy so that they’re harder to avoid, or add a different bad guy that does something else, like shooting globs that freeze the player momentarily. I also want to add another lamp so that the player has to cross back and forth between the lamps while avoiding the bad guys.

I still have a lot to work on, but I’m confident that I can get the code written and design a more detailed interface. I’m working on drawing a different lamp lighter on my tablet, who looks more like this:


I also want to design a background that looks like a street in victorian London, and make a better title screen. I look forward to posting about my game when it’s all finished!

Group Game #2: Polarity




For our group game Shiyuan and I decided on a concept that incorporated a notion of magnetic force. Particles with a certain polarity would repel a single non player moveable particle of the opposite polarity to an end zone. The force would have to be carefully judged to propel the target particle the requisite distance.

Gameplay would be split into two phases: setup and action. Setup would either last a few seconds on a timer or simply be activated by the player with a tap on the end zone. It would start with the target particle surrounded by an array of other particles of varying polarities. The polarity could then be changed by a tap and the particle dragged to a suitable position. In later stages, there might be fewer particles whose forces would need to be combined. Positive and negative attract and the offspring of two differently charged particles would equal a particle with the ability to exert greater force. In the gameplay mode, forces would be applied and the game would begin its action phase and become kinetic.


In this game there was some confusion over what could constitute a bad guy. We considered what kind of enemy might want to use the magnets and what they might represent. In effect we were creating an enemy that might want to use power for its own purpose. This could be represented by bad guys who had stolen one of the particles which now had to be regained by getting all the other particles to work together. The bad guys then might be at the end zone taunting and indirectly attacking the players by advancing a force field or attractive force at the other end.  This force would impel players to move fast lest their particles be sucked into the trap. Both the bad guys and good guys then are contesting a magnet and the bad guy affects the environment by altering its parameters and the good guys’ movement possibilities.



Group Game #2: Polarity





For group game 2, Silas and I are working on a game called Polarity. The image above shows the design concept of this game, which is switching polarities to create diverse movements. For the basic game mechanics, please check out this post.

Since this game was originally conceptualized for its game mechanism, during the design process it started to tilt towards a puzzle, so creating a narrative became a challenge. In order to incorporate a bad guy, first we decided to visualize the timer. Instead of having a countdown, a wall will start moving from the left to occupy the playable space. This wall also serves as a giant magnet that attracts other particles and neutralize them so that the player will have less force to reach the target.

To create diverse multiple encounters, we decided to have the wall/giant magnet act differently in each level. For example, it can adopt different shape, including ones that have a channel in the center, which will not only transform play strategy, but may also influence the goal of a specific level.  Since the behavior of the wall would change, it will give each level an endogenous meaning while creating diverse and challenging game play.

Though the wall will perform the “bad thing,” it may not be expressive enough to carry a whole narrative; therefore we decided to create a real bad guy and make the wall a weapon that he uses. As Jenkins mentioned in “Game Design as Narrative Architecture”, the conflict between interactivity and narrative is often solved by incorporating spatial stories and environmental storytelling into the endogenous world. In the case of our game, the bad guy need to appear in the winning zone (on the right), where he can hold the object that the player is chasing after. Meanwhile he needs to control the movement of the wall, which starts from the left. This spatial separation inspired us to have a chain that goes across the screen, and the “bad thing” is therefore transferred to the bad guy, because he becomes the one pulling.



On the mechanism level, the bad guy does not have any direct encounter with the player. However, he is crucial for a thorough narrative across levels. During the design process, we have discovered similar bad guys in other games who do not have direct collisions with the player. For example, Bowser Koopa in Super Mario often only appear at the end of each level to kidnap the princess to another castle; In Angry Bird, the pig performs bad things only in the cut-scene narratives and do not actually encounters the bird. To a certain extent, those bad guys are giving meanings to the spatial environment. Similarly in the case of our game, the story will be an enacted narrative, which uses features of the environment to move through the plot trajectory.


Group Game #2: Rightfully Yours

Rightfully Yours requires a bit of focus and practice in order to trump your enemy. An ominous shape fires missiles from above while you return with a steady fire of your own.


If the player succeeds at striking the enemy with a bullet, the enemy loses some opacity. If the player makes three successful hits, the enemy changes form. With each form change, the enemy gains speed and increases its rate of fire.


The player is given three lives. Starting in green, a hit from the enemy turns the player yellow. Another hit – red. If the player is struck by three shots, it’s game over. The game mechanic is therefore quickly recognizable as a one-on-one match to the death.


Standing still is obviously not an option. The player is forced to duck and weave between the falling shots, learning which tactics make the greatest difference along the way. It’s no easy feat to land 9 shots total on a target that gets harder and harder to hit. Simultaneously, the stage becomes more and more dangerous to freely traverse. Suspense builds the longer you play.

The design of the enemy is loosely influenced by the mechanics of bullet hell games (flooding the screen with obstacles, drastically constricting the players movement). The enemy’s class is built as a single object whose methods are triggered by the actions of the player. While there is no contested object that the player and enemy fight over, there is a sense that both are fighting to overcome one another, and hopefully make it to the rewarding finish…


I have loads of room for improvement and advancement. My strongest urge is to vary the enemy’s bullet pattern and design more demanding dodge tactics. I also wish to implement upgrades to throw a bit of chaos into the mix. I feel confident in the structure of my game and my use of ArrayLists and collision.

Group Game # 2: Rabid Squirrels

Scanned together by Danielle


Our game will be made out of the paper prototype that we came up with in class. Because it was a paper prototype, we had created objects beyond our time and ability to code. Thanks to Amy, we were able to come up with a reasonable solution to creating our game. In the game we hope to create, the player (Red Riding Hood) must escort Granny and the magic buns to the cottage before Granny transforms into the Big Bad Wolf.

Our bad guy is a group of rabid squirrels. They exploit the landscape by moving among the forest canopy in a v-shaped pattern. On every third step, they attack the player in an attempt to get one of the buns. In turn, Granny moves one step closer to turning into a wolf, and the environment begins to move closer to night time.

The squirrel’s first stage of attack is jumping towards the player. If the collision is successful, the squirrels eat a bun and gain the ability to move faster. If a second collision occurs, the squirrels gain the ability to create a pot hole. If the player walks into the pothole when the squirrels are still within it, the player lose a bun. On the third and final collision, the squirrel grows larger making it harder for the player to avoid. If the player loses all of their buns to the squirrels, Granny transforms becoming an enemy and the player loses (is eaten?).

The player begins the game with the ability to spray the rabid squirrels with a water bottle. In the game, the player will be alerted to the ability by the object flashing brightly when a squirrel enters a perimeter trigger. The player will also have the ability to manipulate the squirrel’s attacks by using empty potholes to avoid collisions. The player will be able to learn from their failures, by seeing how Granny is slowly turning with each bun they lose.
The player will control the actions of Red Riding Hood by using the mouse-dragged (to move player left and right across the path and the mouse pressed code to activate the water bottle and hide.

In the code, I will be working on the primarily in the squirrel class by creating their path and collisions. Because we worked so hard on the illustrations of our game, we wanted to incorporate the actual pieces of our prototype within the game. I will also be focusing on the graphic and animated parts of the code by making them image files from the paper prototype small enough to run in the code. I will also be working on the animations of granny’s face changing over time, and the squirrels getting larger.

-Danielle Brusco



Our group game is developing from our paper prototype. Our first draft of the prototype lacked a few essentials, such as, having many different encounters, and a few other aspects, which we chose to address in our second draft of the prototype.The idea is to make a game with a paper cut out look. I drew our bad guy (squirrels) rabid looking to contrast with the happy looking fall forest environment. The squirrels follow a precise up-down-up pattern. They utilize the environment by hiding in the trees and creating potholes. After drawing the squirrels, I drew Little Red Riding Hood and acorns. Little Red is our good guy and the acorns are used as projectiles between the good and bad guy.

The goal of the squirrel is to collide with Little Red and take her magical hot crossed buns to make them stronger. Each time a bun is taken a new type of encounter happens. As the player begins to lose the squirrels become more powerful (they get big and faster, they throw acorns, and they create potholes) and eventually becomes a mega squirrel. As the bad guy changes Little Red also has new choices available to her, for example when a squirrel throws an acorn she can dodge it then throw it back, or when a pothole is made she can also hide in there herself. The goal for the player is to escort their granny, who is progressively getting sicker with the big bad wolf curse to her home, the more encounters Little Red has with the squirrels the more wolflike she becomes, and if the player fails she becomes the big bad wolf and teams up with the squirrels. We are planning to make the squirrels an array list and Little Red as a class in order to portray our game in code. We plan on having multiple collisions coded for each encounter between the squirrels and Little Red, as well as having a changing environment according to the player’s progress within the game.  In the weeks to come I will be working with the collision for the squirrels with Little Red and the collision with the potholes, in addition to anything else my group requires.

-Destiny Colon



When we decided we wanted to make our paper prototype a reality, I was initially concerned that we wouldn’t be able to keep the awesome ideas we generated when we weren’t worried about being able to actually code the game. I think it was pretty clear to all of us that, while we wanted to maintain the integrity of our game and keep the best ideas, there would also be a lot that we would have to strip down or simplify so that this could be something we could realistically code in a few weeks. So, during our re-design process, I effectively became the Resident Wet Blanket. I did my best to toss out ideas that were far too difficult for relative novices to code, eliminate details that were cool and theoretically possible to code but would ultimately end up taking too much time when considered on top of everything else we’d need to work on, and to simplify core aspects of our game’s narrative and our game’s mechanic so that they would be code-able *and* play-able. The end result of our two-hour design meeting is a game that I believe will be a challenge to code, but is much simpler than our original idea, and in its simplicity even manages to improve upon our original paper prototype while still including all the narrative and design elements that made us love working on this game so much in the first place.

In the coming weeks, I will be working on making sure the environmental changes are timed correctly (particularly granny’s shift from woman to wolf as the sun sets), as well as providing general help and trouble-shooting whenever my fellow group members run into any issues.

-Amy York

Image from Jessica’s notes