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TIGSource ForumsCommunityTownhallThe First Game Trekking Games
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Jordan
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« on: January 09, 2011, 08:01:09 am »

This thread used to be dedicated to the Taiwan Status Quo game, but I've recycled it to announce both my Taiwan games. The text that follows is copied mainly from the Game Trekking blog. If you're not interested in the reflection, by all means feel free to skip down to the links that will take you directly to the games!

A little while back I sold almost everything I owned and set out with my wife to do some extended traveling, with the goal of making tiny little games based on the experience of travel, and on the places that I'd visit. After more than a month spent trekking through Taiwan, after 200 miles of walking, 4000 photos, 7 blog posts, many hours at my laptop, and one monkey in my lap... the first games of the Game Trekking project are finished and available to play. I hope they are not the best games I will make for this project, but they are my best attempts so far.

One of my chief reasons for embarking on Game Trekking was the element of challenge; in that regard, the project hasn't disappointed. One of the main challenges has been attempting to sustain and nurture my enthusiasm for extended travel--for facing the unknown day after day, for the perpetual lack of routine, for the permanent homelessness--while also sustaining and nurturing the energy and capacity for creative output. I've been slower in that creative output than I would have liked, and have less to show after more time than would be my preference. But I am learning to balance these dual aspects of my new life, and am optimistic for the future.

Another great challenge has been deciding what to make my games about. While I cannot see everything there is to see of Taiwan, or Vietnam, or any other country, on my travels, it is a hundred times more evident that I cannot make games about everything there is to make games about. I can see a hundred or a thousand things, while I can make games about one thing, or two. Then there is my reading, which provides me with a vital balance to my experience in understanding the places that I visit, and also provides me with a thousand more game ideas. Should I make a game about Taiwanese pirates in the sixteenth century, or about that monkey that jumped in my lap in Kaohsiung? Should I make a game about Taiwan's political struggle with China, or about the many kind people who helped us while trekking?

I can do nothing but latch onto those things that jump out at me specially, those things that press themselves upon me, those things that make me especially happy, or especially sad, those things that seem especially important... or those things that suggest to me an interesting mechanic for play. Predictably then, the games may be more about me than they are about the places that I visit... more about my subjective position in the world, and my response to my own travels than they are about the world as it exists, or travel as an abstract concept. In seeking to make something for others, I can do nothing but make something for myself... and hope that it might be helpful or relevant to some others. But I think this is the same "dilemma" that all travel writers face, and more broadly, all creators.

I have decided not to limit myself to making "purely abstract" games or "purely concrete" games, "purely academic" or "purely experienced-based" games, because the two domains for me are too overlapping: I read because I travel, and I travel to provide context for my reading; political realities may be abstract, but they are also concrete in the lives of the people I talk to; knowledge of a place changes the way one experiences that place, while experiencing a place enriches and changes one's knowledge of it.

So my first game about Taiwan is an abstract game, a political game in circles and squares, about Taiwan's struggle with China. Because that reality was everywhere I went in Taiwan, and has been omnipresent there for fifty years. Because everyone I talked to, and everything I read kept coming back to it. When I searched for one idea to represent the country, that is the idea that came to me. Taiwan's struggle with China may be cliché as a fact about the country, but that does not mean it is an unimportant fact... I've talked to too many people who thought Taiwan was part of China, to let me think that.

Taiwan screenshot:


You can play Taiwan in your web browser at:

http://www.gametrekking.com/the-games/taiwan/taiwan/play-now

(Note that it changes a bit at 1 minute 50, if you can last that long).

Some people will ask if I needed to travel to Taiwan at all to make such an abstract game, and the answer is yes: the game would not exist without the travel that led, even if implicitly, to its creation. But still, I very much wanted to make a game that captured something of the texture of my day-to-day trekking experience while there, and that desire led to the creation of a second game: The Kindness of Strangers.

The Kindness of Strangers screenshot:


You can play The Kindness of Strangers in your web browser at:

http://www.gametrekking.com/the-games/taiwan/the-kindness-of-strangers/play-now

I won't say much more about The Kindness of Strangers, except that there is one highly experimental aspect of the game. The idea behind it is that the value of kindness can only be understood in contrast to an absence of kindness... and so the game can only be fully understood in the context of more than one play-through. Upon playing the game some people will meet with kindness, while others will meet its absence; some people will come away with a warm fuzzy feeling, while others will come away frustrated, and feeling cold. Is it unfair to deal out different experiences to different players? Certainly. But it is also one of the unique possibilities present in the interactive medium. Like I said: an experiment.

While I consider these games essentially finished at this point, I welcome any comments or suggestions, and am open to changes in response to feedback. I would especially appreciate knowing about bugs or problems with the games, so that I can promptly fix them. The source code for both games is freely available at gametrekking.com.

Special thanks to all of my Game Trekking backers who have made these games possible, as well everyone who provided valuable feedback while the games were in development.

More games about more places are on their way!
« Last Edit: January 15, 2011, 09:08:00 pm by Jordan » Logged

PlayMeTape
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2011, 09:06:16 am »

I quite enjoyed it. Simple yet challenging. Plus one for the nice presentation as well. I like the fact that the presentation (in a small way) affects the gameplay.

Keep up the good work!
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Falmil
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« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2011, 12:11:28 pm »

I definitely thought it was interesting, I started getting disoriented after about 1:50 and lost it. I can see some symbolism, but am not completely sure what is being represented.
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ithamore
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2011, 06:38:57 am »

I like how the small circle represents and the big circle represents China. I understood the message of being absorbed on my first play and shot on my second.

Thanks for the game.

Suggestions:

The width of the status quo range maybe should also be effected by time (which, if you look at the history of the 2 nations, should be widening with time but not quickly) and the number of times the small circle gets too close to one extreme or the other.

Maybe Taiwan should be represented with a different shape than China, since the two are separate but share a branching of cultural history. Also, some Chinese view Taiwan has chaotic (since it lacks the "structure" the Chinese government provides its citizens), but the Taiwanese find such views absurd or insulting while certainly agreeing they aren't the same. So, maybe an oval or ellipse would be more suitable or it could move through an animation of evolving back and forth between a circle and some other shape(s).
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Jordan
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« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2011, 09:14:58 pm »

Thank you kindly for the suggestions ithamore! Regarding the width of the status quo range, did you try playing the game past 1:50? The range starts changing dynamically at that time. I like the idea of a range that gets broader slowly with time, based on history, but looking into the future I think the main point is that the range could get smaller, or larger, and Taiwan must be able to respond to whatever change occurs; do you agree? I also think the gradual introduction of the changing range makes for more compelling gameplay than a consistent widening would do...

I also like your idea of representing Taiwan in a slightly different way than China... an ellipse may be just the thing...
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Jordan
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2011, 01:36:06 am »

@Christoffer, Falmil: Thanks! Falmil, I wrote a bit (which I hope) explains some of the symbolism in the game: http://www.gametrekking.com/about-taiwan .
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Jordan
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2011, 06:45:14 am »

Just a quick update to say that I removed the "experimental" aspect of The Kindness of Strangers (players meeting unhelpful strangers 1/4 of the time on their first playthrough). Based on feedback, and upon further consideration, I think that different start was a bit too random in nature. People can still play the game in "unhelpful mode" to see the contrast, but only after they've completed it in helpful mode.

Oh, and I forgot to mention in the main post, but the Traditional Chinese translations you see in these games is still in process... if anyone is able to help provide better translations, I will certainly update the games with them. Thanks!
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