Sunday, October 4, 2015

Not a manifesto; on game development as cultural work

So I've made quite a few sex games that have "gone viral" over the past year, and I'd like to talk a little bit about my experiences / practices. I would hesitate to apply these ideas to anyone else's situation, but it's what works for me, so here it goes:

Games are primarily conceptual / performance art; games are culture; it's more important to witness a game than to play it.

Most people haven't played most games. Conversations about games often start with "oh yeah I've heard about it" or "I haven't played that yet." Thinking about the vast intergalactic politics of EVE Online is so much more interesting than trying to play it, and watching high-level Starcraft play is much more interesting than drilling on a specific build yourself.

To "consume" a game, it is no longer necessary to play it. Rather, the most important thing about a game is that it exists, because that means you can think about it. (Or maybe, games don't even have to exist? Consider the endless press previews and unreleased games that engross so many people. These are purely hypothetical games that are often better than playing the actual finished product.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

On my games being twice banned by Twitch

My newest game, Rinse and Repeat, was banned from all broadcast on Twitch about 4 days after it was released. It joins my previous game, Cobra Club, which was banned shortly after its release as well. I am currently one of the most banned developers on Twitch.

On one hand, it is extremely validating as an artist to be acknowledged as "dangerous" -- thanks, Twitch. On the other hand, the Twitch policy about sex and nudity is shitty and I'm going to complain about why I hate it and feel it's unfair, and also really unhealthy for video games as an artform.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

NO QUARTER, 9 October 2015 in Brooklyn, NY

this amazing poster is by the incomparable Eleanor Davis
No Quarter is an annual games exhibition in NYC that commissions original works from designers. This year, I am stepping up as curator, and we will be featuring some exciting new games by Nina Freeman, Ramsey Nasser, Loren Schmidt, and Leah Gilliam.

Come join us on October 9th from 7-11 PM in DUMBO, Brooklyn at The Dumbo Loft, 155 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

If you'll be around New York at that time, please RSVP so I can get NYU to buy us even more beer. Thanks and see you there!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rinse and Repeat as cup runneth over

This is a post detailing my process and intent in making Rinse and Repeat. It discusses in detail how some of the game systems work and what happens in the end, and IT SPOILS THE GAME. You are heavily encouraged to play the game and draw your own conclusions before reading what I think.


It started with Le1f's music video for "Soda." In it, two hunks spray themselves with gushing fluids, suggestively shooting up from the bottom of the frame.

The scene begins as a sort of aggressive competition of machismo and staring down each other, but then one hunk can't help but submit and opens his mouth to try to swallow some of the frothy fluid. I think what makes this "funny-sexy" is how the soda gets everywhere and how messy it seems. It's pretty brilliant and got me thinking about how sexy a fluid dynamics simulation can be, and how I could put such technology to use.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Attend the 2015 Queerness And Games Conference at UC Berkeley, October 17-18

QGCon 2015 at UC Berkeley has just put up their list of speakers and sessions. If you'll be around the Bay Area that weekend (in about a month!) then I highly recommend attending, it's a compelling mix of game developers and academic theorists, and there's no other games conference quite like it. Here's some interesting-sounding sessions:
  • “Soft-Skinned, Hard-Coded: Straight/White/Washing in Video Games”
  • “Witches and Wardrobes: Femme Play in Games and the Development of Be Witching”
  • “Games of Death: Playing Bruce Lee”
  • “Sex Appeal, Shirtless Men, and Social Justice: Diversity in Desire and Fanservice in Games”
  • “Queer Avatar Construction Leads to Homonormative Play”
  • “Affection Games in a World That Needs Them”
  • “Masculinity in Late Final Fantasy”
  • “Infinite Play in Games of Love, Sex and Romance”
  • “Degamification”
  • “Writing and Selling Queer Bots: Sext Adventure Design Post Mortem”
  • (... and so many more!)
Registration is free and open to the public, and they also accept donations in the form of "sponsor tickets" -- please support the communities and institutions you want to see in games!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Scripting the Unity Editor to automatically build to Windows / OSX / Linux and packaging the files in ZIP files.

I'm getting ready to release my next gay sex game, which means a lot of builds and testing. This game, in particular, has a lot of particular framework and infrastructure that involves copying over specific files directly into the built data folder. I don't want to have to copy over the files manually over and over, so I bit the bullet and decided to write an editor script that automatically does all this stuff for me, for all 3 desktop platforms that I'm targeting. This is really nice because it saves me a lot of time when making builds, and it also makes it more the whole process more foolproof since it prevents me from forgetting any files -- Unity is automated to include them for me!

Here are the main snippets + explanations of those parts of the pipeline, with the full script at the end of this post...

Thursday, August 27, 2015

On "The Loch" and anti-busybody small open world games

The Loch is a 2013 Scottish fishing RPG by Mitch Alexander. In it, you "fight" fish in turn-based JRPG battles symbolizing the experience of fishing. There's a variety of biomes to explore, each with different species of fish to catch, and it all takes place over a series of days with variable weather / variable NPC behaviors based on the weather.

It's pretty rough around the edges, partly due to short development time constraints (it was originally made for a 7 day Fishing Game jam) and partly due to the limitations of reskinning RPG Maker. There's very little tutorializing, and many core interactions don't feel very intuitive. No one really tells you you're supposed to go all the way south to advance to the next day and heal up, or that you have to equip X and then use skill Y to do Z... in this way, it departs a great deal from typical JRPG or RPGMaker game conventions.

But that departure from convention is also refreshing. Though "open world" carries connotations of large expensive 3D worlds, I'd like to expand the bounds of that genre and discuss The Loch as a "small open world" game. What marks an open world game is the repeated traversal of a space, and reflecting on how that space (or the player) changes over time. In this case, the world is a small Scottish lakeside village where everyone speaks in charming accents and encourages you to kick back and slow down.