When our group first came together for the Twine project, we realized that we wanted to show the challenges that one was forced to make early in the pandemic. We had decided on using meters to illustrate the challenging task of limiting COVID risk, keeping money afloat, and maintaining a strong mental capacity without stressors. We eventually realized that in fact, we did not have the capabilities to create meters. Although we were allowed to still incorporate meters into our proposal, this moment was our first reckoning with the immense work that it takes to create a game. As I reflect on this process, I have a great deal of respect for game creators in how they are able to seamlessly incorporate a storyline into the technical mechanics of the game.
Our group soon realized that the best way to develop this game, given our limitations, was through the storyline. Through conversations, we found that our initial game plot was not engaging. Every single person has had to make difficult choices during this pandemic, so why would someone choose to play the exact same scenario? In focusing on different socioeconomic classes, we wanted players to be able to see how the pandemic disproportionally affected people of lower income. In retrospect, we were doing exactly what Ian Bogost explains is part of the micro-ecology of games: creating empathy. In talking about the game Darfur is Dying, Bogost says “those games would do well to invite us to step into the smaller, more uncomfortable shoes of the downtrodden rather than the larger, more well-heeled shoes of the powerful.” In developing the game, we did not care for our players to learn about the frivolous choices that people in the high socioeconomic class, the “well-heeled shoes of the powerful,” face. Rather, by creating low, medium, and high options that a player can choose from, we were hoping to show the contrast in decisions among these different characters and thus have the players really delve into those small, uncomfortable shoes.
An initial challenge we faced when this group came together was finding a time to meet outside of class. Mudita, Pratyush, and Rishika are 10.5 hours ahead of me, so that was a bit of a barrier. I think we found, though, that despite coming from different places we all felt similarly about the struggles that people of low socioeconomic classes faced and were thus able to use all of our experiences to develop the plot. Nevertheless, I am incredibly grateful to the three for inviting me into their already assembled podcast group and working around the time barrier.