This week has been an ‘in the forest’ kind of week. It’s sort of comforting (in an icky, uncomfortable kind of way) because it means that we’re not just skimming the surface and coming up with the obvious stuff. We’ve also all sort of become more expert in our own specific interest area. It’s important when we’re making games that we have these different perspectives and little pockets of information because it means the games have more complexity, color and reach. But it’s not a totally fun experience.
This week I have been mostly looking at the hazard communication organization and roll out for Pinatubo in 1991. So it’s been interesting to realize the disaster planning and management that occurs (ideally) in that area and also what the issues are. Part of that is also realizing that even with excellent delineation of tasks and good planning things can go wrong, unforeseen things happen (even weeks or months after an event) and that not everyone understands things in the same way. In a great example today we heard from Adam Switzer about the term ‘higher ground’. To some people that means get to the top of the nearest mountain – when it might just mean get to the 3rd or 4th or 5th story of a building – or vice versa. It’s this kind of complexity and understanding of language and concepts that this whole project is about – but it’s such a common communications issue anyhow. I’m looking forward to working out a fun way to gamify it.
It hasn’t been the easiest week, and after last week’s blitz it was a bit jarring to slow down and wander. I think we’ve gotten really good at working through our creative process, and last week’s productivity was testament to that, but it took me until the end of this week to remember that wandering is an important part of the process too.
I’m thinking about the difference between showing a specific structure of decision-making based on a real life case study, and showing something broader.
I’m thinking about a farmer during a volcanic event asking how long will this last, and having to make awful decisions.
I’m thinking about games that aren’t fun, and how sometimes they can be very fun.
Every project has a material or a process you’ll never forget. You’ll be walking through a supermarket and see a container of toothpicks that are exactly perfect for a project you completed three years ago and think “Yahtzee!” before you remember the need has long past. This time it’s going to be origami paper and farm animal shaped pencil erasers. If you see any, let me know?
The primary goal of most design is to support and assist in communicating a concept. For this development I am creating prototype game pieces that can be picked up and played with, and that communicate a sense of location and familiarity that will help players understand the complexities of disaster evacuation. I’ve only been with the team here for a week, but the ideas are starting to take shape:
At the moment, the prototype consists of 5 interlocking tiles that serves as a kind of board which can be broken apart for gameplay in smaller groups. Although this game does not necessarily require a board to play, a board game is a familiar object to most people, and invites the players to touch and interact with the game pieces. The movable but linked tiles allow for mobile gameplay, and represent a linked ecology between the represented areas.
The materials that I am using to create the model for the prototype are also familiar ones, and the most prominent of these is paper. Paper suggests fragility and impermanence to me in a way that works well when illustrating concept of the threat of disasters. It’s also a universal material, is available in designs and patterns that evoke south-east Asian cultures, and can look both old and new depending on treatment. Paper also has the advantage of being both cheap and easy to work with, which is a plus during constant trails and errors of development.
After a week of paper and glue, the Beach Tile is rocking along, and I’ve started working on the model buildings for the City tile. I’m aiming to start the Farm by Tuesday, provided there are enough pencil eraser livestock left in Singapore.
I’m just going to second Nathan and Nikki’s comments from above about it being a slow week. But then, I sometimes want to catch myself when I think things like that, because when I say ‘I’m tired’, it becomes a bit of a narrative I tell myself. Last week was easy, this week was tough. And sure, there was a bit of that, but also, good things came through, and there were real moments of pleasure and breakthrough.
The best moments of the week for me have been small ones. I got a couple of hours on Wednesday to do a bit of scripting, and later, a sentence or two of that scripting came in handy when Nathan and Rach made a game about typhoon formation. On Thursday, Muttley pushed forward and ran a large-scales systems mapping process, and I was able to sit quietly and contribute nothing while I circled around some ideas for the most boring game I’ve ever made. (Getting to sit out of the conversation when you’re not feeling it, and it not being seen as a negative, is a really valuable feature of this collaboration – sorely missed in a lot of other settings.) And today, I wanted to write a bit about making the right decisions and getting the wrong outcome – and the exact text I needed was already there, notes from our meeting with scientist David Lallemand.
So the scraps are starting – starting – to come together. Something (sorta) exists which didn’t exist two weeks ago, that’s always a good feeling.