Manchester International Festival (MIF) just announced my upcoming project "We Dwell in Possibility", a queer gardening crowd simulation in collaboration with illustrator Eleanor Davis, to be released in July 2021. It'll be free and playable in your web browser.
This commission has been interesting because I'm learning and trying a lot of work that I don't usually do, which came about as a cascading chain of design constraints:
- Mobile. My gay games are all well-suited for a mobile format, but tech platforms are increasingly sex-phobic and will block my content from their stores. But if I target a mobile browser, they can't really stop me. (This is the real reason why Apple keeps their iOS browsers so slow and broken: an open internet threatens their control over everything.)
- Not-Unity, in 2D. If I want it to run well in a mobile browser, then it probably has to avoid lots of flashy 3D. I usually work in Unity and don't get me wrong Unity's WebGL build target is a miracle, but still not quite miraculous enough, so that's why I'm learning HaxeFlixel for this project.
- Collaboration. I usually prefer to work solo and in 3D, but my 2D art skills aren't very developed. So what if... this time... I didn't... do the graphics? I've admired Eleanor Davis' work for a while now, and I'm super excited to have her here. Also I secretly hope this is just the first of many video game projects she works on.
- Producers. MIF does something a bit unusual for its commissions -- they provide producers, which is very common for live events and commercial games, but rare in an art games context. For this project, my fantastic producers Shanaz Gulzar and Steph Clarke have been key for figuring out what the heck we're making, and will be instrumental for bringing this to the finish line.
The two takeaways I want to emphasize here are:
(a) even experienced developers / artists are always learning and growing... and according to the artistic-industrial complex, I'm entering a phase known as "mid-career"? oh dear
(b) grants, commissions, and public arts funding are what gives people space and time to do that vital growth... meanwhile, commercial works and solo side projects often force us into our comfort zone, which can act as a ceiling on that growth