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 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 itch.io store. Hint hint.
Santa Cruz Retreat for Analog Play, in keeping with my abiding love for SCUMM-esque acronyms. ↩
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Puberty is weird and awkward, especially when you happen to be a tentacled space alien!
In this incredibly queer mashup of Judy Blume, Babysitters Club, and pulpy sci-fi, join three childhood friends — Charlie, Jace, and Valentine — as they write to each other in their online journals about going to new schools, fitting in, crushing on cuties, dealing with adults who just don’t understand, and of course, all those bizarre new changes taking place in their bodies.
Buy it for $2 (USD) on itch.io or get a free copy by supporting me on Patreon!
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Happy Monday! I wrote a new, non-fiction interactive Twine piece called So You’ve Been Called Out. Here is my “artist’s statement” of sorts about it, directly from the piece itself:
I see people writing about “callout culture” a lot, and while a lot of digital ink seems to be spilled on scrutinising the behaviour of people who do the calling out, very little seems to get said about ways to constructively react when you are the recipient of a callout.
When we are called out for saying or doing something derogatory, dismissive, or otherwise hurtful towards a marginalised group of people, it can often be a hard pill to swallow, even if it is feedback that we desperately need to hear. I believe that if we can learn to take such criticism of our behaviour not as permanent indictments of character but as learning experiences, our communities will be stronger, healthier, and better at conflict resolution.
If anything, I wrote this guide because I need it for myself. If anyone else happens to find it useful, all the better. Thank you for reading.
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I made a Let’s Play video, like all the Kids These Days™ are doing! The subject of said video, in an exciting turn of events, is a game of my own that I made when I was sixteen. So, it’s kind of like a Let’s Play version of Throwback Thursday, except I’m either too late or too early for Thursday. Oh well.
Anyway. Cubert Badbone, P.I. was, much like its later and way more popular successor Dominique Pamplemousse, a sillier, floofier version of a noir detective story, and it was interesting to play this game again for the first time in many years, while documenting the process. Some general insights I noticed were as follows:
Last week was my seventh year attending the annual Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.  I’ve been around long enough to notice that a lot of thingshave changed since then, to the point that this year, it felt like there were actually two conferences happening. There was the one where people were apparently really excited about VR, to which I didn’t really pay all that much attention. And then there was the one about the real world we live in, in which that-gate-that-shan’t-be-named and those complicit have been, and still are, destroying our community, and what do we do now?
As game makers, we think in systems, and the problem many of us are trying to solve right now is, how do we fix this so that we can go back to happily making games without fear of harassment? But there’s no easy solution, and in fact, there are even deeper problems. Marginalised gamedevs have being harassed and ostracised since way before 2014, not just from the outside, but from the inside, too. Even those of us who are ideologically similar in that we want game-making and game-playing to be accessible to everyone can be horrifyingly quick to turn on one another over the most trivial of slights. We talk a big game about inclusivity, but as soon as we feel included, very few of us actively continue to lend a hand to those still trapped in the margins.
I’ve been going since 2007, but skipped a couple of years in ’09/’10 because, ironically, I had a game industry job that didn’t give me enough vacation days to go, and then got laid off the next year and couldn’t afford to go. ↩
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This coming weekend, I’ll be attending IndieCade East! I will be running a performance of Coffee: A Misunderstanding at Night Games from 7-8:30 PM, and am also showing Quing’s Quest as part of the Horizons exhibit.
From March 2-6, I will be attending GDC. On Monday from 11:15-11:40 AM, I’ll be on a panel called “Increasing Gender Diversity in Game Development Programs”. I will also be running sessions of Coffee during the IGDA Networking Event on Tuesday from 6-9 PM. Finally, I’ve stepped up as a co-organizer of the 3rd annual Lost Levels unconference, which is happening on Wednesday afternoon!
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This weekend, I participated in the Global Game Jam for the first time ever. I decided to make a game wherein the player and a fictionalised version of myself re-enact the “36 questions to fall in love with anyone” experiment.  Moreover, since the game jam theme was “What do we do now?”, I decided to have the story take place as the world is about to end.
Play it here. I should note that the game asks for player responses, but doesn’t record said responses in any way. The in-story reason for this is that you are talking to a fictionalised future version of me, so to present-day me, the conversation hasn’t actually taken place yet. The more practical reason is, I didn’t want to deal with abuse and spam. So, consider this exercise to be something akin to writing a letter but never sending it. Alternatively, if for some reason you want to violate the spacetime continuum and share your answers with present-day me, feel free to email me screencaps.
Complete with a 4-minute Youtube video of just my eyes at the end. ↩
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Mx. Deirdra "Squinky" Kiai is a writer, programmer, musician, and visual artist who creates games and playable experiences about gender identity, social awkwardness, and miscellaneous silliness. They were recently recognized as part of Forbes’s “30 under 30 in Games” and just completed an MFA in Digital Arts and New Media at UC Santa Cruz.
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A stop motion musical detective adventure game.
Coffee: A Misunderstanding
A queer and socially awkward mobile device-assisted interactive play.
Games, interactive fiction, and other playable things.