This faux attract mode screen was created to emulate the console technology of 1984 when the book was released. Aesthetically the image is reminiscent of the design of bell hooks second and at that time, most major work of critical theory. However, the screen resolution of 256 by 240 is consistent with that of the first generation NES/Famicon system and the color as is the limited color palette. By porting a work of literature into the visual language of games that were its contemporary, I hope to ask viewers what an alternative history of games would be like if it had been able to synthesize other kinds of media (like theory) and how that might have affected their audience and reach both then and now.
This game was intended to satirize the popular family guessing game “HedBanz” by turing it into an activity that would reveal a players lack of awareness of privacy issues with popular websites and social media services, rather than showcasing their ability to identify a fun character or pop culture icon as they would in the original game. While I played around with a variety of themes that would take the HedBanz mechanic and break it for demonstrative purposes (ie. turning all the character cards into great female authors or filmmakers to reveal how little is commonly known about women in these two spheres, for example) but ultimately I decided to go with Internet privacy issues and the major tech companies that frequently step all over them. Given the recent revelations by Snowden and others about the extent of government surveillance and the complicity of said companies, I thought this game could be a thought provoking re-imagining of a popular game.
I’ve always been fascinated by media representations of “Mom” and the way the identity of being a mother is constructed in popular culture where its traded both for laughs and sentiment. Although this 90’s ad campaign for Robitussin is a clearly dated example of playing the recognizable “Mom” trope, its interesting to look at in now and note the ways that stereotypes about the division of domestic labor and the feminization of parenting and reproductive labor still persist in contemporary media. While these ads are styled with a winking tongue-in-cheek tone, its unclear where exactly the laugh is supposed to land. Who were these ads thought to appeal to when field tested by advertising execs? Were women or “Moms” (often spoken of as the ones with the most household purchasing power) the target demographic? Were they meant to laugh in recognition at the domestic comedy of being the sole care provider for sick children and slapstick husbands?
The unsettling subtext to these ads is the way that these women are in fact NOT doctors, precisely because they ARE “Moms.” They are not professionals, managing their family’s wellness with the help of over the counter products after a long day of being lawyers, bank clerks, nurses or actual doctors. They are portrayed only as “Moms,” existing in the home and cheered for their ability to synthesize the advice of medical doctors into their domestic sphere.
A two-part intervention, I both created the Twitter account (username Doctor Mom and the handle @DoctorMomIsIn) and physical calling cards in the form of miniature Robitussin boxes. Laser-cut and assembled into 2.5 inch high replica’s of the standard Robitussin package, the boxes contained an image and message inviting the public to tweet at Doctor Mom for a “personalized remedy”.
In a moment of recently re-awakened debates on working mothers (the so-called “Mommy Wars) and on women in professional spheres more generally (Lean-In, et all) I decided to try resuscitating this transparently sexist (but still fondly remembered) mascot for Robitussin on twitter. I conjured up the voice of “Doctor Mom” as an amalgam of all the long-suffering, suburban, white, domestic-comediennes I remember from advertising and pop culture and I tried to channel that voice into an advice-giving Twitter persona.
NOTICE!: Pre-play tip – Walking can be done by tapping the arrow keys instead of using the walking man cursor. Do not hold the key down. Just single tap in a direction to have your character walk as far in that direction as possible. I apologize for not putting that tip in this version of the game. Also, after having playtesters try out the game, I discovered some problems with navigation:
EDIT!: Served piping hot, it’s version 1.3 with even less bugs! The new version is below at the same link. After many other playtesters, I was able to fix some issues and add content that made concepts easier to understand. There are now paths and signs everywhere, making navigation more apparent. There was also a game crashing bug that was fixed and edits made to some cutscenes. Certain puzzles are also now easier and more bug free!
I apologize for using dropbox. I could not find another way to share an .exe file. Let me know if you have any problems with it.
My inspiration came from multiple sources. I am critical by simultaneously fascinated by religion. I am also fascinated with the role of the author especially in the realm of video games. In Roger Ebert’s testimonial against games as art, he uses Romeo and Juliet as an example of a non-fiction story that would not work with branching narrative. I wanted to disprove him by telling a story about Jesus. For this project, I wanted to create an interactive fiction with multiple endings in a critically unique non-fiction(?) setting. Jesus is a very controversial figure and he is in a unique position because there are multiple interpretations of him by different groups. I wanted to prove that non-fiction. As a disclaimer: This is satire, but don’t intend the game to be an “everything that’s wrong with religion” game. This is an experiment that I had a little bit of fun with at the expense of religion.
Story-wise, I wanted to create a game that allowed multiple parties to look at Jesus in a different way. Perhaps a Christian might be offended, but they might also see Jesus from someone else’s point of view or learn to lighten up. Perhaps an atheist might be bored, but they might be a little bit more interested in learning about religion. These are lofty goals for such a small project, but they were what I had in mind while making it.
The title is WWJD: The Gospel of You, because I wanted it to reflect that this is a story about individual experience. It is your Gospel and you are telling it in a way that YOU understand it.
Because I was short on time and working alone, I opted to go for a very minimalist style. This helped get my point across in a small way in that the very apparent pixels constantly remind the player that this is a video game. The images above are my sprites, which if blown up any more would look like a mush of pixels. In the game they look just fine at full screen. The sprites and backgrounds in the game animate, but very subtly.
NOTICE!: Pre-walkthrough tip – Walking can be done by tapping the arrow keys instead of using the walking man cursor. Do not hold the key down. Just tap in a direction to have your character walk as far in that direction as possible. I apologize for not putting that tip in this version of the game.
I went through a number of different phases. Originally, I intended to have the player collect each apostle individually, but that proved too large a project. The final product features stories that are summaries and combinations of actual bible stories.
- Jesus meets four of the apostles while fishing. I just lumped them all into the same story.
- The Sermon on the Mount did not feature any apostle recruiting.
- The ‘Temptation of Christ’ featured 3 tests, not just one
I also meant to cover a large number of different ideas about Jesus, but I ended up having to cut them down a great deal. Judaism and Christianity are covered as is the Dan Brown popular opinion that Jesus married Mary Magdalene (although I wasn’t able to add as much of her as I wanted to). Satan is covered as my own little side story. SPOILERS: I just like the idea of Jesus and Satan getting along.
I asked many friends (of different religious affiliations) what it would take to get them to play a game about Jesus Christ. The dinosaur was the result of discussion with a friend. He is pointless, but I like that he is included. I also did a lot of research about the Apostles, most of which I ended up not using. There are a number of in religious jokes in the game. If you ever had Sunday school, you may understand some of them. Judas, known as being the betrayer, is covered with flies and has red eyes. He insists, if you talk to him, that he is not going to betray you. This was to potentially reign in a religious crowd who might see this as a game entirely made to offend.
My main issues had to do with walking the line between multiple ideologies and morphing these well-known stories into puzzles. Some stories had to be changed or expanded in order to become interesting gameplay-wise. Some stories had to change in order to accommodate the length of my game.
I also wish that I had been able to add music, but I couldn’t get sounds working in the Adventure Game Studio.
Unlock Peter (and co.) as an Apostle: If you go to the docks by left clicking the dock sign, with the hand cursor, you will encounter 4 men engrossed by their fishing. They will not talk with you unless you walk on the water that they’re staring at. Just click on the water with the stick man or use the arrow key and walk over there. They will react. Peter will fall in the water. Click on him with the hand cursor (QUICKLY! Or he will drown!) to save him. He will then join you.
Unlock Satan as an Apostle: Grab the bread in the desert at the beginning of the game. This will make Satan appear at the Sermon on the Mount where you can select him as a disciple. In order for him to be selectable, you cannot have already selected your apostles. He shows up in your ending if you select him. If you selected Judas, he will save you from the cross. If not, he will simply show up and give moral support.
Unlock Mary as an Apostle: When you come across a house in the background, enter it. A demon will talk with you briefly before God tells you to ‘lay hands on her’. Use the ‘act’ cursor (the one shaped like a hand) and click on her. She will teleport somewhere else on the map. Her teleporting is random, but she cannot appear in Jerusalem or at the Sermon on the Mount as a demon. A short timer starts each time she teleports so if you happen to touch her and she appears in the very next room, you can tag her multiple times. After 7 tags, she becomes regular Mary Magdalene and then proceeds to the Sermon on the Mount. In order to select her, you must not have done the Sermon on the Mount.
Unlock Mary’s marriage proposal: If you save Mary from the demons (see above), grab the bread in the desert, AND select her as an apostle, she will approach you and ask you to marry her. She will appear in various endings if you marry her. My personal favorite: If you get the ‘Judaism’ ending after having married Marry, the game ends with her standing pregnant at the cross after your death. Jesus Jr!
Unlock ‘Christian’ ending: The Christian ending is not the good ending. It is the most complicated to achieve though. In order to achieve the Christian ending, you must: Unlock Peter as an apostle, save Mary but DO NOT choose her as an apostle, do not choose the bread in the desert, and choose all the correct apostles at the mount (This is all of the apostles at the Mount except Paul, Matthias, Mary, and Satan. Choose 8 apostles, but DO NOT choose those 4 if you want the Christian ending.)
Unlock ‘Judaism’ ending: Do not choose Satan as an apostle. There are no other requirements. You could pretty much just walk through the whole game and ignore all quests and get the Judaism ending. In this ending, Jesus is just a man and he dies like a man.
Judas Tips: Endings vary if you do not choose Judas (the guy with the red eyes and the buzzing flies at the Mount). If you do choose him, Jesus appears on the cross at the end. If you do not choose him, Jesus is not betrayed and a different ending ensues.
EDIT: I apologize for the late posts. I had more bugs to figure out than I thought I did and then I got caught up in making fixes and content.
My playtesters fell for the bread at the beginning of the game almost immediately. Both of them figured out that they could walk on water, but one of them didn’t react quick enough to save Peter before he drowned. Both of them got the ending where Satan becomes an Apostle. After multiple tries, neither of them got the ‘Christian’ ending, which works well. Knowledge of the Bible and gaming is required.
“That’s… pretty blasphemous,” an onlooker said as the Satan ending started.
I expect that a Christian with gaming experience playing might do better at getting the Christian ending in that they might correctly gather the apostles.
EDIT AGAIN: I was finally able to play with someone who had some foreknowledge of the Bible. He is critical of religion, but still considers himself religious and grew up very religious. He was the only of my players to realize that the ‘bread’ in the desert was meant to not be picked up. Even after the forewarning, players who did not know the Temptation of Christ story were driven by their knowledge of games to pick the bread up. This tester avoided it and went all the way through the desert. He also deliberately did not pick Judas and was the only one who did so. This got him another ending that was far different from other player’s endings where Christ is not crucified at all. He was ecstatic that this was a possibility. He even played again to try to save Peter and get one of the Satan endings after .
“Did Andy actually read the Bible to do this?” he commented to someone else when I was out of the room. I still need to get someone to play who is very religious, despite the backlash that is likely to happen, but I was very excited to have seen such a drastic impact in choice when a religious person played the game.
Often, the language barrier is one of the most significant hurdles for new immigrants. More than a matter of assimilation, failure to properly learn the native language severely impacts job prospects, which in turn, relegates families into poor financial health and few opportunities for parents to climb up the job ladder. Despite his fluency in understanding English (and years of learning), my father struggles when asked to speak it.
The game hopes to simulate the slow process of decoding a foreign language, and the impact that slow process has on concrete matters (like paying the bills). I chose to structure the game as a two-player, cooperative iPad game, having players pass the iPad back and forth while trying to rack up points.
How to Play:
Players begin as a newly arrived immigrant, having to choose a job to interview for. Each job has a difficulty rating (level of communication skills required), harder jobs paying out larger potential salaries. Upon selecting a job ad, the interview begins.
Interviews are conducted in turns, while players sit across from each other. On the first turn, player 1 listens to the interviewer’s question (spoken aloud by the iPad), while player 2 (holding the iPad) has access to select translations. When the turn advances, player 2 hands the iPad to player 1, and player 1 is tasked with recreating the previously spoken question from a word bank. The words in the word bank, however, are written in a strange, foreign language. Meanwhile, player 2 is listening to the interviewer’s next question. As before, select translations are available on the iPad’s screen (which happens to be in player 1’s hands), forcing player 2 to seek player 1’s help.
The interview continues, alternating as described. The effect is as follows: each player must translate a spoken phrase into a gibberish-language, then reenter that phrases while simultaneously helping their partner translate their own phrase.
Upon completing the interview, the player’s salary for that month is determined by their performance. Then, living essentials (rent, electricity, etc) are deducted from the player’s earnings and savings. At the end of the month, the player fails to hold the job and must conduct another interview.
As I play tested the game, my wife and I began committing the gibberish language to memory, allowing us to risk more difficult interviews. We began to strategically assign words for each other to remember in an effort to cut down on the cognitive load required. However, it became clear that knowledge in the language wasn’t our limiting factor: the sheer number of words in the word bank means that we loose valuable time searching for the right word, even if we already know what it is.
For this project, I wanted to make a simple digital game that represented an epiphany that has majorly affected my life recently. At first, I thought about doing something that symbolized the fact that most personal growth happens outside one’s comfort zone. I had to later let go of this idea because I couldn’t find a compromise between a compelling narrative and simple game mechanics that I could use to represent the experience I sought to convey. After a little more brainstorming, I finally decided on making something which would represent the importance of separating one’s drive to achieve personal growth/improvement from the success or failure of one’s transient attachments. I moved to pick this because this is a realization that rocked my life not too long ago, when I was at my lowest after a failed infatuation, and helped me find my way again. Since I was dealing with a fairly abstract and complex idea, I wanted to use simple game mechanics to make a light-hearted, simple parallel to it. So, I picked the asteroids template for game mechanics and proceeded to code in processing. The way the game is set up, the player character is supposed to be dodging/facing(zapping) the obstacles/challenges(red orbs) in his life. After a little while the player can opt to take a heart-shaped power-up that pops up. This grants the player god mode, and the player stops sustaining game-ending damages upon contact wit the red orbs. However, this is only until the power-up expires. After losing the power up the player slows down significantly and it becomes almost impossible to not be beaten by the game. This is supposed to symbolize the depressive after effects that follow when one bases all desire to live a good, healthy life on transitory pursuits, and those pursuits fail to pan out. After repeating the game a few times, it becomes apparent that the only way to beat the game is to survive without the power-up (making self-improvement independent of transient affairs) for long enough to evolve a natural god-mode, which helps the player to eventually beat the game (hopefully conveying that one can live a really happy and successful life it one doesn’t let strong yet transitory personal attachments become one’s sole motivation).
Level Design: Szuting Chen, Jihan Feng, Chun-i Lee, Fengbo Li
Art: Jihan Feng, Szuting Chen,Fengbo Li
Platform architect: Chun-i Lee
Sound Effect: Szuting Chen
Let’s play our game:
We try to capture the weird dreaming experience in our life by putting bizarre scenes and stories together into this game. The character in the game is a pencil while we try to represent a student, who suffers from massive pressure from his life so he felt asleep and had this weird dream about chasing by a donut a monster.
The game takes the form of a platform game. It starts with the pencil character at the font and when it starts running, a donut monster follows it and tries to catch it. The goal of the player is to run through all the levels without being caught by the monster. The player will win the game if he/she reaches the end and wakes up without being caught. The pencil needs to go through the scenes of the donut factory, donut shop and bathroom.
In the first level of the donut factory, the character need to finish the tasks such as jumping above oil pool, avoiding sugar frosting, running through punching machines, etc. At the end of this level, it will jump into a donut box and then be delivered to the donut shop to start the second level.
video for level 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLMfqZvvqC4&feature=player_embedded
Then the pencil starts its adventure in the donut shop and need to overcome candy obstacles. To express a sense of humor, we photoshoped the dunkin donut into drunken donut. And sometimes in our dream, we are so urge to find the restroom, so we also put this into the end of our level2 and the player pass the level by jumping into the toilet.
video for level 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lbFxn9Cfe6w
Finally, the pencil character will reach the surrealistic level which indicates the surreal feeling towards time and space in dreams. Players can barely see what is around in the level because the background is so dark. The character itself is under spotlight and seeks for the way towards the end of the level. We also have this level in a circular mode instead of linear to represent the tangled feature of dreams.
video for level 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87eACp-bjno&feature=player_embedded
We made a trick to simulate the AI for the monster. We scripted that the monster’s motion is actually following the player’s motion, but 0.8s slower than the players. So it looks like the donut is having it’s own thought when he needs to jump.
We created this game using Construct2, which is a great game prototype software supporting different physics and interactions. We drew all the characters, backgrounds and animations in Photoshop and created the game procedural logic in Construct2.
We asked our friends to play test our game and got some feedbacks on visuals, sound effects, level design and interactions and we iterated on those to make it more user friendly.
I decided to use Twine, in order to create an interactive fiction that deals with the concepts of karma and reincarnation. The interactive fiction can be played by clicking on the link below.
Here is a basic overview of the game from the Twine Editor. Each block contains a large piece of text (you can’t see all of the text because it has been minimized, in order to save space), and the arrows point to where each hyperlink in the interactive fiction leads to. As you can see, there are a lot of paths that can be taken.
A Statement by the Artist:
A few months back, during DiGRA, I listened to somebody talk about this game called Deepak Chopra’s Leela. Apparently, the goal of the game is to play mini-games that help focus your seven chakras. I became very interested in the game because I couldn’t remember ever seeing or playing a game that had such a major focus on spirituality, so for this project, I decided that I would work on something that would also focus on spirituality or other higher powers.
As I was thinking about what I wanted to work on for this project, I realized that most video games don’t focus on what happens when you die. If you die in a game like Halo or Grand Theft Auto, then you get some sort of game over screen, and the game forces you back to a previous checkpoint. There isn’t any kind of video game afterlife, so I figured I could create a game that had some sort of video game afterlife system.
I thought it would be interesting and unique to create a game that had a reincarnation system, but I wasn’t sure how I would implement it. Who or what you are reincarnated into all depends on how you behaved in your previous life, so I knew that I should force the player to make several karmic choices during the course of the game. Karmic events can take a lot of time to create on a visual platform like Flash or Unity, which is something I didn’t have, so I knew that I had to create an interactive fiction. I figured that creating an interactive fiction would allow me to be more creative with my karmic events as well. In order to work on my interactive fiction, I decided to use the application called Twine. This is because Twine has a very visual interface and a hyperlink system that makes creating interactive fictions and playing them very easy. After working with Twine for a while, I finally created an interactive fiction called Karma.
In Karma, the player experiences the lives of 5 different entities: a human, a buck, a hawk, a tree, and a spirit. I tried to make each of these lives as unique and interesting as possible, and during the course of each life, the player must make several different karmic choices that affect the rest of that life’s time. Eventually, each life will end in some way, and once that happens, the player must click on a “Get Reincarnated” hyperlink and get reincarnated into one of the other 4 entities. Which entity the player gets reincarnated into, however, is entirely dependent on the choices he or she made during the karmic events of their previous life (Reincarnation is random, if you are the tree, however. You can’t make many choices when you are a tree).
The five entities you can play as during a playthrough of Karma.
For my game, I wanted to create something that is not common to games- a deliberately bad and frustrating user experience. I have not had a single good experience calling customer support or technical support for any product I have bought. The process is very frustrating, often making me feel helpless as there is nothing I can do to speed the process up even if I know what the process is. The personnel on the other end of the phone line rarely have the required technical knowledge. They seem to be following preset scripts to diagnose problems, rarely using their own intelligence.
In the game, the player has to work with the customer service agent to help figure out why his or her internet connection isn’t working. The first few questions might seem normal- for instance, they ask the customer to reset the router normally even if the person already told them they did that and it didn’t help because the problem is something else. As the game progresses, the questions become more absurd. This is an exaggeration of how sometimes they seem to ask questions that seem to make no sense in the current problem scenario simply because they are following a generic script or maybe because they don’t have the technical know-how to fix the issue.
The game is frustrating in that the help agent does not reply soon either. My initial design has it such that the reply would come in any time between 1 to 128 minutes (determined pseudo-randomly) from the last player message. But to ensure that players stayed with the game, I also tracked the mouse. If at any time the player went to close the tab or browser with the mouse, a reply would be posted, thereby trying to ensure that the player sticks with the game. But based on play-testing it, I found that it was more fun when the players figured this out so I removed the time constraint and made it such that the reply is sent from the help agent only when the player is about to close the game (I haven’t play tested this version as I only made this change after the demo in class).
Note: the agent does not reply until the user has sent at least one message reply to the previous customer agent reply. This is to ensure that the users are actually trying to type something and get frustrated instead of moving the mouse all the time to generate agent replies quickly (without getting really frustrated as they would if they typed replies).
After some time, the help agent starts asking seemingly random or arbitrary questions about the player that have no connection to the issue at hand. This was an exaggerated way to show how sometimes, they follow scripts or ask questions almost mechanically instead of actually analyzing the problem to come to a solution. These scripts are usually designed for cases where the customers have no technical knowledge about the device or system, and would not have tried to solve the problem themselves before calling for help. They are also designed to get the best call times per caller in the average case as the main objective and performance metric for these call centers is the average time they spend per call (the objective being to reduce this time to the lowest possible number).
Marquis Aurelius and I worked together to complete this project.
Our game is a version of Super Mario Bros. where the player’s actions have consequences. In most games a player can do whatever they want with minimal or no consequences. Stealing, killing, and other illegal activities are not only common, but oftentimes encouraged. However, as we all know, this is in no way the case in real life. If a person was caught doing any of those things in real life, they would face jail time or potentially the death penalty.
In Super Mario Consequences killing things causes cops to come after you, which will jail you if they catch you. The game itself doesn’t encourage killing at all; power ups have been removed, pits have been sealed off, enemies do not damage you, and even the time limit has been removed so there’s no need to feel enemies are trying to stop you from reaching your goal. Reaching the end of the level without killing enemies gives you the message “Congratulations! You’re a decent person” and lets you play again. However if you make it to the end and killed something, goomba cops swarm the stage until you are caught. Once the player is caught he or she is put in jail for 20 year, real time. The game cannot be replayed until the 20 years are up. Because Mario is Italian and Italians are strongly opposed to the death penalty.
Ironically, killing the goombas is the most fun part of the game. It really brings to light the fact that our culture has been desensitized to violence, or at least animated violence.
The game itself was built in Unity. Gameplay is close to the original Super Mario Bros. that the game is based from, to the point where several play testers didn’t even notice a difference at first. The point of the game is to highlight how lightly illegal acts are treated in video games, as well as point out how desensitized to violence we all are.
The game was inspired by games such as Grand Theft Auto or Skyrim which allow killing, and will attempt to punish you, but the punishment is not severe enough to really deter the player from doing the action.
Z to run
X to jump
Arrow Keys to move