Pictures at an Exhibition, or: Squinky’s First Solo Art Show OMG!


A few weeks ago, I had my first solo gallery exhibition of my games at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. It went from October 26 – November 16, and the works featured were Dominique Pamplemousse, Coffee: A Misunderstanding, Interruption Junction, Tentacles Growing Everywhere, Quing’s Quest, Conversations We Have In My Head, and Fitzwilliam Darcy’s Dance Challenge.

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My IndieCade 2015 Talk: Why People Matter

Here is the full text of a talk I performed at the IndieCade festival today, as part of the “Why ___ Matters” panel. Accompanying melancholy music is here.

I don’t think I would have ever made a game if I didn’t know there were going to be people out there who wanted to play it.

I mean, sure, when you talk about why you make games, you’re supposed to say it’s because you intrinsically love the process of making games. Which I do, honestly, and I have for the last 15 years or so. But the existence of a community of people wanting to play what I made was the thing that pushed me from just tinkering around to actually finishing a game.

As is true of any other artform, game-making is fundamentally communicative. When you make a game, you need players. Sometimes, these players are other game-makers; other times, just regular people who stumbled upon your work somewhere, but either way, your game doesn’t truly come to life unless and until someone else interacts with it.

My game-making practice is, to this day, heavily informed by every review, blog post, forum post, and tweet written about my work — the very proof that what I’ve created doesn’t exist in a vacuum and people have, in fact, played it and had an emotional reaction to it.

This is especially important since most of the games I make are things I work on by myself. I spend all these weeks, months, and sometimes years on a project, practically isolated from the outside, so those moments when I can show what I’ve done to the world become even more necessary.

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Name Change Announcement

I am changing the name I go by publicly to Dietrich Squinkifer.

(You may, of course, still call me Squinky, and in fact, I encourage you to do so.)

Since coming out as genderqueer, I’ve had a complicated relationship with my name and the gendered expectations that came with it — in retrospect, I don’t remember a time when the name I was given ever felt like my own, even though there were many things I did like about it. Squinky is a name I chose when I was thirteen and have always loved, and yet, going by a mononym in a society where most people have a first and last name is, I’m finding, more unwieldy than I’m willing to deal with.

Hence, Squinky is now short for Squinkifer. And Dietrich is a permutation of my given name that someone once called me by mistake and I happened to wind up preferring it to the original.

All my past work credited as Deirdra Kiai or Deirdra “Squinky” Kiai will remain so, because as a rule, I don’t make significant changes to projects after they are publicly released. I see them as time capsules of who I was at the time I created them, even if I am a somewhat different person now. However, when referring to past works of mine in the present day, I would appreciate if you honoured my name change by using notation such as “Dietrich Squinkifer (writing as Deirdra Kiai)”.

And of course, my pronouns, as always, are they/them.

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Fitzwilliam Darcy’s Dance Challenge (and other updates)


I have released a new game! It is an irritatingly difficult, yet extremely silly, ballroom dancing simulator called Fitzwilliam Darcy’s Dance Challenge, based on the popular leading man from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Grab it on!

Also on my store, I have recently re-released Tentacles Growing Everywhere as pay-what-you-want (including free). Additionally, I have started SquinkPicks: a curated list of games on that I have recently played and that I recommend. If you’re looking for something new and weird to play, give it a looksie!

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The rest of my year…

In just 3 days, I’ll be moving out of Santa Cruz and going off on some new and exciting adventures!

First off, I’ll be making a week-long stopover in Portland to see friends, followed by another week and a bit in my former hometown of Vancouver. For the month of September, I’ll be in Montreal, for no reason other than it’s a lovely city and I want to get to know it better, and find out if moving there permanently would be feasible for me.

In October, I’ll be going to the Forbes Under 30 Summit, which will involve not only the 30 under 30 in games among whom I was recognised earlier this year, but also the 30 under 30 in everything. It’s going to be… interesting, for sure. After that, I’ll be back in California, first for QGCon, which I’m once again helping organise, and then IndieCade.

After that, I’m off to Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont for a week-long residency and my first-ever solo artist exhibition! I am, of course, very excited about this and will definitely share more about it soon.

Afterwards, I’ll be making a short stop in Toronto to attend WordPlay, and then will head off on a trip to Japan and the Philippines to celebrate my 30th birthday. In December, I’ll return to the SF Bay Area for GX3. After that? I’m not quite sure yet. Stay tuned!

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Conversations We Have In My Head


I’ve released a new game, called “Conversations We Have In My Head”. It is on sale for the price of “whatever you want” (including free) on my new favourite videogame storefront,

Many of us have voices in our heads that constantly remind us of our perceived failures and inadequacies. Sometimes, those voices appear to us in the form of a once-important, now-estranged person from our past. This is a game about having one of those conversations with that voice in your head, and the many ways it can go.​​

Contains some strong language and discussion of heavy topics. Probably not the sort of thing you’d want young kids to play.

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Summer Activities

Earlier this month, I finished a Digital Arts & New Media MFA at UC Santa Cruz! I’m surprised by a) how quickly it went, and b) how much I managed to get done and how much my life changed in the process.

As I prepare to transition back to life as a non-student, I will be keeping myself busy by co-teaching a summer class on videogame design to high schoolers. I am also co-organizing a low-fi DIY game-making event this weekend called SCRAP [1] and, in a couple of weeks, will be speaking and running a game of Coffee: A Misunderstanding at the Games + Learning + Society conference.

And, of course, I’m continuing to make games! If, by any chance, you’d like to help financially support my game-making practice as I try and make it out into the big, scary world, I have a Patreon and an store. Hint hint.

  1. Santa Cruz Retreat for Analog Play, in keeping with my abiding love for SCUMM-esque acronyms.
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