Out of Control or Global Warming?

We were presented with there two themes to chose between for Assignment 2; Out of control and Global Warming. During labs we had a brainstorming session to come up with as many ideas as we could think of. For out of control I had the idea of a game about out of control parents, drawing inspiration for a game idea I had some time ago. You would play as the child, and try to keep your parents in check. My original idea was about parents with mental health issues, where the child can end up taking on the grown up role and looking after their parents. This idea seemed a bit big for the scope of this module though, so we’d need to narrow that down somehow.
Across all the students in the class we had a lot of interesting ideas, including one about Trump out of control on Twitter, Out of control AI cats try to take over the world, a macabre storybook about global warming, a game about assassinating polluters, and a lot more.

Josh made a list of all the ideas, and we all chimed in with which ideas we might be interested in working with. There was a lot of interest for my out of control parents idea, though the original intent for the Out of Control theme had been for an out of control AI. Lars had approached me early on and expressed a desire to group up for the project, in addition Anastasia and Amber chimed in with interest for the idea. The original intent was for the groups to be 2-3 people, but Josh ok’d us as a group of 4. I feel like it might be a bit overkill with 4 people, but I also don’t wanna shun anyone from the group, nor do I want to make a group by myself. With good planning and delegating it should be fine!

Refining the idea

After labs we did a group skype call where we threw a lot of ideas around about what the game could be: Parents with substance abuse issues or mental health issues, playing to get either a happy ending with parents in recovery or a sad ending with protective custody. A slightly lighter theme with a kid that’s trying to get hold of a cookie, but has to cause a distraction to get the cookie, the idea started light at least but then escalated to the kid drugging mum to get the cookie. We went back and forth a lot, occationally straying quite far from the original idea. We kept circling back to the idea of substance abuse, it fit the best with the Out of Control theme. Between lectures, labs and skypecalls, each of us researched the theme and came up with ideas for how the game might work, and what our narrative would be. When we skyped on the 23rd of jan, we agreed that Anastasias ideas for a narrative was the best, and started discussing how to implement it. At this point the general idea was to have a type of flashback to the childhood of a person with alcoholic parents, using childrens drawings and some sort of interactive storybook.

Storyboarding and Twine

Making a story in Twine with some basic placeholder drawings

With our idea nailed down, we started developing the narratives and how the story might play out. I took snippet from our current narrative ideas and made a draft of it in Twine . Working with Twine was quite interesting. I struggled a bit at first to understand how the linking and stuff worked, but I ended up changing the basic code type to one that had better documentation, and in the end I was surprised by how quick and versatile it was as a tool. In future I can see myself using it for some pretty basic, but entertaining little stories. We used the Twine prototype to show Josh what our plan was for the application. While I was working on the Twine prototype, Anastasia was writing out more stories that we could use in the app. Amber and I took inspiration from Anastasia’s ideas and added potential twist and choices to them, I also wrote down some stories of my own that we could use to mix and match with. We decided that we would have two sets of drawings, one from a boy, one from a girl, ending the game with a revelation about the relationship between the two. We tasked Lars with storyboarding the narratives as we finished them.

Technical Storyboard
Amber created a technical storyboard in Slides to demonstrate how we imagine the app to work.

Choices about interactivity and story branches

The assignment obviously called for some interactivity as well as a story that had at least two different outcomes. As the idea for our story was based around an adult looking back on their childhood, it would be awkward to have two different outcomes, and we were in stread able to convince Filipe and Josh that our thoughts for outcomes made sense. Each choice presented in the story is only an illusion. We wanted to do this to highlight some things about life for children in troubled homes, and the issues these children might be faced with as adults. With  hindsight as an adult, it’s easy to assume that you could have changed your fate, that you could have fixed everything with one different choice. As an adult looking back on a troubled childhood, it’s likely to notice all the things that were completely wrong, the ways the parents were clearly out of control. These things were never as obvious from a child’s point of view. A child in a troubled home doesn’t know a different life, they don’t know how out of control their parents are, or that they shouldn’t have to worry about their parents abuse.

Our narrative presents the viewer with a choice, and each choice will have a narrative to go with it, but the final outcome will be the same in each story. We’ve chosen to do this so that the viewer is presented with some hope, the feeling of being able to change the dire situation of the child in the story. We believe though that most choices that children make in situations like this will not have a long term impact unless the adults in the situation step in and chose to change also. As our story is also a flashback of sorts, it wouldn’t make sense to be able to completely change the future. At least in this instance, it does not match with the message we want to tell.


Tweaking the narratives for interactivity

Amber, Anastasia and I spent a lot of time writing, rewriting and adapting the storylines. Several of the original narratives were based on true events, and therefore only had one outcome. Several of the narratives didn’t lend themselves well to being a series of small animations, or couldn’t be easily adapted to have a choice that would branch back on itself. We ended up with 5 polished stories with the titles; Summer Camp, Lost in the Park, Wet the Bed, The Puppy, Piggybank Robber. From those 5 we decided that the first 2 would be created for the prototype. Amber and I set about making a script with narrations and interaction. We discussed what type of interactions we would have, how we would get between stories and through each story.

Together we discussed some ideas for what interactions we would make to supplement the main story arch choices. We didn’t want to add anything that would impact the story, but instead agreed on adding small animations within each drawing for the viewer to discover. Lars would be drawing and animating Lost in the Park, while Anastasia covered Summer Camp. In the end each of them provided most of the ideas for interaction within their story, and created corresponding assets, while I took the task of implementing them in the prototype.