For this independent study project, I wanted to make a game that focused on the relationship between clothes and gender. I eventually landed on the basis of what the game now is — a part-shopping simulator part-dress up game called Let’s! Go! Shopping! . The main character is invited to a casual party at the beginning of the game and must go shopping in order to find clothes to wear to the party. Then they go to Cohl’s (fictionalized Kohl’s) to shop, then they go through a level where they try to leave but are forced to talk to shoppers and store employees, they realize they’ve forgotten an item and have to go back to the shopping level, once again attempt to exit the store, and then finally go home and get dressed before heading out to the party.
Through these levels, it becomes clear that the player’s gender is being determined by others based on the clothes they’ve “picked.” I intentionally made the shooting level at the beginning of the game feel random and chaotic and unclear at first so that the player would not realize that the clothes that were going in their closet would determine the way NPCs would treat them. After the game was working at a base level and consulting with Angela, I decided to add a second cycle of the shopping and leaving levels so that the player would have more understanding of what was happening in the shopping level. To prevent the leaving level from getting stale, however, and to represent some real-life supportive people, I added a variable amount of positive response from NPCs when the player corrected them about their nonbinary gender.
For the home level, I wanted the player to feel like they had complete control and could dress however they wanted for the party. Because of this, I put all of the clothes sprites that are available in the shopping level in the player’s closet at home so that they can dress the main character with any clothes they want before going to the party. I hope that this change from randomness and assigned gender to choice and no gender designations will feel freeing to the player in the final level.
I still need to work on polishing the game (with a walking animation and making the player’s closet feel more real), tweaking different elements so it’ll run smoother, and fixing some bugs in the leaving level, but overall I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made and I feel like I almost have a complete game!