My final project for Art 175 is the prototype for my BFA Show. It is a game set in the near future, when Gamification has become a significant social phenomenon. Every institution is rushing to use games, ubiquitous technology, and behavioral science to bolster their own legitimacy and control the actions of the people. Your protagonist is a humble agent in this world who plays along with the games, meets the myriad people of the world, and climbs the social ladder.
In the version of the game I have for the final, I have three areas represented: Your house (which is quite meagerly interactive) and two cafes: Starbucks and “Mort’s”. Many of the most basic mechanics of the game are completed. The game plays essentially like a point and click adventure game, but the focus of the game is not on solving puzzles. Most of the attention of the interface is given to the game’s dialogue system, which works like a combination of dialogue systems in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Ultima IV. Like in Morrowind, characters are given a number of keywords that they can talk about, and certain responses are shared between characters based on traits about those characters, such as their location or occupation. Like Ultima IV, the player has the option to type in certain keywords, which can reveal hidden conversation arcs. The narrative explanation of this system is that your smartphone has a “Conversation Starter” app, which provides you with certain contextual topics for conversation based on your interests, location, and conversation history by mining the personal information your character has put into various social networks. I’m taking care to make this as unobtuse as possible- a common problem in games with text interpreters (like many text adventure games, or Ultima IV) is that it can be difficult for the player to figure out what words they need to type in to get a response. I have a feature in place that can highlight certain keywords when characters mention them, signifying that that is a potential topic for conversation.
Currently all the non-player characters in the game are unique, in the sense that they don’t share any dialogue options. One of the ideas I’m toying with is having procedurally generated characters mill about who make more use of the dialogue response-sharing dynamic. The idea of abstracting large groups of people’s behavior according to mineable data is important to the practice of Gamification, but the characters themselves will be much more interesting if they are all unique.
The player’s journey through the world is assisted by their smartphone and the virtual assistant that lives on it, Siri. The various apps on the smartphone allow the player to move to different locations (via Google Maps) and gauge their progress in the game world (via the various implementations of Gamification. Currently the only one available is “Coffee Life”, Starbucks’ loyalty game). Eventually there will be more apps for navigating the contemporary social space, such as a Facebook app for managing your relationships with the characters in the game, a Foursquare app for telling other characters where you are (or where you want them to be), and an OKCupid application whose mechanics are based on the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
The game does not currently, and will not have a conventional, linear game structure. I would like the game to be more of a sandbox, building a narrative outwards in a way similar to Minecraft, The Sims, or Dwarf Fortress, but it might only be a game in which there are things to read and various ways to read those things.
Click here to play the game in its current form.