New game: OPPRESSION OLYMPICS 2K16

Last weekend, I participated in GAMERella, a game jam for women, gender-nonconforming folks, people of colour, and any others who feel like they haven’t had a chance to make a game, hosted at TAG. I teamed up once again with my good friend Jess Marcotte and together, we adopted a new game jammer, Sarah Fay Girard.

Our theme was “inter/sections”, which made us want to do something related to intersectional feminism. At some point while brainstorming, we decided it would be funny to lampoon the idea of the “oppression olympics”, a term that’s used to describe when people of different marginalized groups “compete” against each other in order to prove who’s more oppressed — in other words, the antithesis of intersectionality. Several hours and cheesy sports metaphors later, we came up with this gem:

titlescreen

You can play the game here — for best results, gather together some friends around a single keyboard and button-mash as fast as you can! (Also, the source code is available here.)

Posted in Blog Posts | Comments Off on New game: OPPRESSION OLYMPICS 2K16

DomPam2: Games are not for everyone

I feel like there’s a misconception among well-intentioned games people that to promote diversity in games, the goal ought to be to make a game that everyone can enjoy. While it’s a goal that sounds nice in theory, in practice, it tends to result in bland, uninteresting games that don’t really speak to anyone in particular. I personally feel that what we should really be doing is making more games for people who don’t typically have games made for them.

One of the most frequently repeated criticisms of DomPam1 was, in fact, that it wasn’t a game for everyone. [1] To this day, I’m still frequently confused as to why this is even a bad thing: the vast majority of videogames in existence — the vast majority of works in any medium, even — are not for me, and I learned that lesson pretty early on in life. It occurs to me, however, that some folks do in fact go through life assuming that their tastes are universal, particularly those for whom the constructed “gamer” identity is a perfect fit. That is to say, if you play videogames, there are very particular reasons why you like videogames, and very particular games you hold up as gold standards for the medium. Generally speaking, you enjoy smooth-feeling gameplay that makes you feel empowered and as if your choices actually matter, and you like having impressive production values to go with that.

Continue reading

Footnotes:
  1. There was even a particularly glowing review I remember that nevertheless ended with an editor-mandated lacklustre 6/10 score solely because of its not-for-everyone-ness. Unfortunately, this review seems to be lost and gone forever, otherwise I would link to it.
Posted in Blog Posts | Comments Off on DomPam2: Games are not for everyone

DomPam2: Letting the cat out of the bag…

dp2-alley

So, I’ve leaked a few teasers here and there, but in case you weren’t aware of them: yes, I am indeed officially working on the sequel to Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!” — which will be called Dominique Pamplemousse and Dominique Pamplemousse in: “Combinatorial Explosion!”

Full disclosure: I kind of hate sequels. I especially hate the idea of being obligated to write them. When the first DomPam game exploded and people started to ask me if there was going to be a sequel, I’d either groan audibly or joke that sure, I’d make a sequel, but it would be an angsty Twine game about my feelings, or something equally far-fetched. As far as I was concerned back then, I’d already written the story I wanted to write the first time around, and there was no point in continuing it.

But then, sometime last year, I got an idea. I was at WordPlay, and Sherwin Tija [1] was giving a talk about his “You Are A Cat!” gamebook series. He stated that if you write a story with multiple endings, and you then decide to write a sequel to said story, then it logically follows that you have to choose one of your multiple endings as the canon endings. And then I started thinking, hey wait a minute, what if you didn’t have to choose? In fact, what if the entire plot to a sequel involved being confused about which ending was canon?

So, I started thinking about Dominique again. Regardless of my feelings towards its completeness, a lot of things have happened in my life in the intervening 3-4 years since making it, which I now want to address. As it happens, my current PhD research is on autobiographical games, and while DomPam is not explicitly autobiographical, it has enough of my lived experience in it that it feels very formative to who I am as a person. [2]

The premise, therefore, is that since the first game had two endings, the sequel features two versions of Dominique, one from each alternate timeline. And so, they wind up wandering around in search of answers to the question of which one of them is canon, while encountering a number of wacky characters and situations in the process. I hope you find it as fun as I do.

Stay tuned for more writing about my design process, including thoughts on Brechtian alienation and stand-up comedy!

Footnotes:
  1. Sherwin is also known for putting on Slowdance Night, a dance party that’s all slow dancing all the time, and has become one of my favourite things ever since moving to Montreal.
  2. So, really, to some degree, every game I make is an angsty Twine game about my feelings.
Posted in Blog Posts | Comments Off on DomPam2: Letting the cat out of the bag…

GISHWHES 2016 (in which Squinky makes a bunch of silly art things because scavenger hunt)

This past week, I participated in GISHWHES, AKA the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. Below are some items I worked on that I’m particularly proud of, all of which were done in collaboration with Jess Marcotte and whomever else we could wrangle at the last minute to help us out.

Continue reading

Posted in Blog Posts | Comments Off on GISHWHES 2016 (in which Squinky makes a bunch of silly art things because scavenger hunt)

Babycastles presents: Squinky Hates Video Games

My second-ever solo exhibition, called “Squinky Hates Video Games”, [1] starts tomorrow! Woohoo! Go here for more info, and if you’re anywhere near New York, come check it out!

Footnotes:
  1. Bonus fun fact: I actually prefer to spell “videogames” as one word, which makes the show title even more ironic than it already is.
Posted in Blog Posts | Comments Off on Babycastles presents: Squinky Hates Video Games

A Perfectly Normal Panel About Awkwardness in Games

This winter, two friends and I decided to submit a panel about awkward game design to some conferences. We thought it would be a great idea to experiment with awkwardness in form as well as content, so we settled on a “powerpoint karaoke” format wherein we all wrote our own talks/slides, and then, during the panel itself, we switched identities (complete with costume changes) and performed, completely unrehearsed, the presentation of the panelist we were pretending to be.

We presented this panel at Different Games (livestreamed here), and most recently, at the Canadian Game Studies Association conference this week. Two conferences, because there were two unique permutations for identity-switching — had we had more participants, we would have submitted to others.

For my talk, I decided to write a Twine game — surprise, surprise — which I called “Being Dietrich Squinkifer”. It was a really interesting design challenge to create a playable experience that involved awkwardly giving a prototypical Squinky talk (complete with the requisite dance break) in front of a real audience. It was also unusual for me to design a game intended only to be played by two specific people, but I quite enjoyed being able to do so. In particular, I managed to create a situation in which Allison, playing as me, got to wish herself a happy birthday (Allison’s birthday did in fact fall on the day of our CGSA talk) and Jess, playing as Allison, reacted accordingly.

Performing the talks themselves was a fascinating play experience in its own right — I found myself adopting some of the mannerisms of my friends as I tried to emulate them. It felt like I was primarily performing for the specific person I was pretending to be, as well as any of our mutual friends in attendance, and that the rest of the audience played more of a spectator role. We also had some technical difficulties at points, and having to keep going and work around them, especially since we had never seen the talks before performing them, was extra challenging, but added to the general feeling of awkwardness we were going for.

So, were our talks successful? If you came in expecting an informative panel about game design, you might have been disappointed; it is, after all, very difficult to properly communicate your thoughts in detail when they are, in fact, someone else’s thoughts, and you’ve also never rehearsed them before. That said, as a self-demonstrating spectacle of somewhat intentional failure, I think we did pretty well, and that we had a lot of fun, and the audience seemed to get a few insights, if not awkward laughs, out of it as well. A++++++ would panel again!

Posted in Blog Posts | Comments Off on A Perfectly Normal Panel About Awkwardness in Games

Summer updates!

Last April, I attended the Different Games Conference, in which I a) ran a game of Coffee: A Misunderstanding, b) spoke as part of “A Perfectly Normal Panel About Awkwardness in Games” with my awesome friends/collaborators, Allison Cole and Jess Marcotte, and c) teased a short sneak preview demo of a certain sequel I’m currently working on and will talk more about later.

This week, I’m heading to the Canadian Game Studies Association Conference, wherein Jess, Allison, and I will be doing a repeat of the aforementioned Perfectly Normal Panel About Awkwardness in Games, only this time the awkwardness will be enhanced through the magic of videoconferencing.

Later in June, I’m speaking at the Games For Change Festival, on Comedy, Games, and Social Change, discussing how humour can play an important role in humanizing difficult situations and helping us feel empathy for characters.

Between July-August, I’ll be showing a selection of my work in a solo art exhibition at Babycastles. More details to come soonish!

Finally — because apparently, I haven’t yet had enough of grad school — this September, I’ll be starting a PhD at Concordia University, working with some of the fine folks at the TAG lab. My proposed research will be on designing autobiographical games, a topic that fascinates me greatly, both in terms other people’s work and my own. I’m quite looking forward to it!

Posted in Blog Posts | Comments Off on Summer updates!