Andrew Tran: Hi, I’m a 4th year English Major and one of the developers for the Consequences game. I like reading novels and am a self-confessed videogame addict. The mini-game that I focused on primarily for the game is “Coal Collection”.
Kathryn Frazer: I’m a 4th year double major in Sociology and Religious Studies and one of the creators of Consequences. Other than creating games in Game Maker, I like to cook and run. The mini game I worked on was “Village Watch” based on events in the Sundarbans.
Danielle Poitras: Hi, I’m Danielle and I am a third year English Major. My favorite games to play include Pacman and Tetris. I worked on “Construct-A-Dam,” a mini game based on dam construction and its effects on surrounding communities. I had no game design experience prior to this course but was eager to learn! Overall, I found the process of designing a game for social justice to be very rewarding!
Project Inspiration and Goals: We were inspired by certain issues dealing with environmental conversation and social justice at the same time. In India for example there is a conflict in the Sundarbans mangrove forests in which villagers must live in close proximity with tigers nearby. This makes for a situation in which it is difficult for both environmental conservationists and social activists to agree on what should be done. The building of hydroelectric dams have also forced many people in certain regions to relocate. Coal mining is another situation in which environmental conservationists and social activists may argue on what is correct due to the reliance of third-world countries on coal as a cheap energy source . In situations like this we often tend to forget that certain minority groups are affected negatively as a result of some environmental projects. We want to show specific situations that complicate the matter of environmental consciousness in a way that makes it so that there is no clear-cut way to approach the situations.
Theoretical Foundations: In Rob Nixon’s book Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor he states that “the environmentalism of the poor is frequently triggered when an official landscape is forcibly imposed on a vernacular one”(Nixon 17). People in certain areas often have no say in what happens to the environment surrounding them because they often do not have the power to contest these choices made by government decisions. We wanted to show in our games examples in which marginalized groups of people often have no say in what happens to their surrounding environments. In Stephen Totilo’s article “Can Social-Change Video Games Tackle Divorce, Poverty, Genocide?” he talks about how Raph Koster stated that “The problem with real-life issues…is that the crisis of Darfur and the squalor of Haiti seem insurmountable. People throw up their hands in a way they don’t with problems posed in a video game.” This thought of videogames as a way to approach difficult situations in a way that makes them manageable is also an idea that we attempted to get across in the development of our minigames.
Overall Game Idea and Mechanics:
In general, the game mechanics work towards complicating environmental decisions. At the beginning of the game, the operator will find himself/herself in a chat room where his/her friends, enviroluvR99 and voic34opprezd, will be already engaged in an intense debate about environmentalist decisions and social justice issues. The operator will click through the dialogue between the characters and be able to participate in their discussion. Each friend will incorporate facts and/or statistics found in research in order to persuade the operator to side with them. This allows our game to function primarily as a discussion of these topics. Links to the sources will be provided in Twine.The operator will then by brought to a mini game that will attempt to show them that there are consequences to thinking about these situations in a one-sided manner. There are three mini-games that explore situations in which there is tension between environmentalist decisions and social liberties. The aim of each mini game is to help the player better understand the complexities behind environmental decisions that are made. Consequences within the game will be represented by objects and feedback systems within the mini games that change based on decisions made during game play. Below are some images of the completed dialogue in Twine/A sample of how it would actually appear in game.
Platform: We used Game Maker in order to create the various mini games. The dialogue for the game was written in Twine. Given more time we would combine them in a way that allows for seamless game play. For example, in Twine we could give links to certain web pages which will host the various mini games.
Mini Games within Consequences:
Village Watch: In this game the operator is thrown in to the Sundarbans where he is a villager trying to protect his tribe. Based on true events, the player will have to sacrifice some of his livestock to feed the hungry tigers. The player will have to pick up a cow by clicking and holding it then flinging it to the tigers before they reach your village. Although the players are provided a herd of 8 cows, they shouldn’t use all of them or else they’ll have nothing to feed their village with. If I had more time I would implement something that would warn the player not to use all of the cows, but I did not want to interrupt the game with a message pop up. If I had time I would try to think of a different kind of penalty system for the player. Though the game is lighthearted, I wanted the player to feel a sense of urgency while playing the game to indicate that this is a serious situation.
Coal Collection: In this minigame the operator is placed into the role of a coal-miner within an unnamed third world country. On the initial start screen, the operator is able to move the character around and talk to other Non-player characters who will comment on the coal-mining situation. After moving to the end of the level there will be a character which takes the player to a different room in which they can start collecting coal. There is a forty-five second timer and a message telling you to collect as much coal as possible before time runs out. As the player collects more coal, there are changes in the environment which change to reflect the amount of coal collected. The changing environment(which often changes for the worse) should cause the player to think about whether or not the use of coal as an energy source is justified when the environmental damage suffered is huge. When the timer runs out, two different messages will appear depending on whether or not the player collected enough coal or not. Below are some images of the game in action.
The dam construction mini game has been completed! Sprites have been created to represent the homes of communities surrounding a river, people within those communities, a tool representing dam construction and a flowing river. The dam construction object, the people sprites surrounding the river, the homes of the people and the river itself have all been programmed to interact with other objects within the game space. The dam construction tool is capable of moving up, down, left, and right (controlled by the operator through the corresponding arrow keys), making aligning with the river in order to stop river flow and harness hydropower possible. The river works its way down the screen and bounces outwards into the surrounding communities if a collision with the dam object occurs. This will represent the consequences involved with the dam construction process. If there are homes and people in the pathway of this bounce, the home sprites will be overturned and the people will run away from the river. A lime colored health bar representing the wellbeing of the communities, will turn red if any of the homes surrounding the river are hit by the overflow. It is possible to create a dam without harming the surrounding homes but you must be mindful of their positions and construct the dam in an area where the bounce will not collide with any homes. This process gets more difficult every second as more and more homes spawn in the surrounding areas.
The goal of our game is not to make an outright stance on any of these issues, but to illustrate complexity. We hope to explore the questions and issues surrounding each topic through the dialogue portion before each mini game. The dialogue section of the game will include facts and statistics found on each issue during our research in order to get the operator thinking about which view he/she would side with. The dialogue also serves as a way to explore if the actions the player chooses during game are justified, by presenting a counter side to each issue. By crafting the game in this fashion we wanted the game to function as a discussion of complex issues in a way that makes it easier for the operator or player to understand. We do want to show how environmental choices can negatively affect social liberties, but we do not want to produce a feeling of hopelessness, that there is no potential for good solutions, in the operator. Instead we would like to inspire conversations from our exploration of these issues in hopes of finding compromises that satisfy both sides of the argument. We believe that we succeeded in trying to create a game that will inspire conversation about topics that would otherwise be difficult to begin to think about.
Link To Game:
To play our game you will need both Gamemaker/Twine. Links are provided below for each.
Overmars, Mark. “Game Maker Tutorial: Designing Good Games.” Yoyo Games Ltd. 23 December 2009. Web. 12 May 2013.
“Critical habitat zone set up for Sundarbans tigers.” Big Cat Rescue. 25 July 2012. Web. <www.bigcatrescue.org>
Jalais, Annu. “Dwelling on Morichjhanpi: When Tigers Became ‘Citizens,’ Refugees ‘Tiger-Food.” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40, No. 17. 23 April 2005. Web. 10 May 2013.
Laskas, Jeanne Marie. Underworld. GQ Magazine, 2007. Print.
World Wildlife Fund. “The Cost of Coal on the Environment.” ScienceDaily, 6 May 2007. Web. 14 May 2013.
Vanderhoef, John. “Odd Partners: Videogames and Environmentalism”. Gameranx, 17th Jan, 2012.
Totilo, Stephen. “Can Social-Change Video Games Tackle Divorce, Poverty, Genocide?”. MTV. June 29, 2006.
Rob Nixon. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Harvrd University Press 2011.
“The Damned” PBS.org. THIRTEEN, 18 Sep 2003. Web. 15 May 2013. .
Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited: A Wholly Owned Government Gujarat Undertaking. Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd., 13 05 2013. Web. 15 May 2013. .
“An Uncertain Future.” Scientific American Presents (1999): 22-23. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 May 2013
Schmidt, Jeremy, and Ted Wood. “China’s Coming Flood.” International Wildlife 26.5 (1996): 34. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 May 2013
Takesada, Varuhiko, Jagath Maratunge, and Indika Lakschman Herath. “Resettler Choices and Long-term Consequences of Involuntary Resettlement Caused by Construction of Kotmale Dam in Sri Lanka.” Lakes & Reservoirs: Research & Management 13.3 (2008):245-254. Academic Search Complete. Web.