Game developer of many hats. MFA Thesis student. Part-time vocal synthesis guru.

Thesis Blog

Warning: not all blogging is directly related to thesis, although most of it is.

"Inertia": Genre Overview

(It’s 4 AM, I have to be at work at 9, and my anxiety won’t let me sleep (via heart palpitations, this time) because I didn’t do what I said I was going to do and write on this blog. It’s these kinds of experiences I want to capture in this game: the day-to-day ups and downs, the experience of feeling like you don’t have any control over your own actions no matter how much you tell yourself you’ll do better next time, and that you have a plan, and that things will be fine if you just do x, but then you don’t.)

Well, I’m awake, so I may as well talk about my thesis visual component a little: namely, what kind of game it is and why.

At first, I wanted to make a fantasy game with a strong narrative—the kind of game I prefer playing myself, and the kind of story I like to write. A story about human connection, but with a bit of magic and mystery around it… that was my original game concept. Truth be told, it was an idea I had years ago, just re-purposed to seemingly fit my thesis.

That game is called “paraLLels”, and I’ll make it one day separate from my thesis: a puzzle-platformer about two children in parallel realities who have never seen their own reflections because they, despite being different, are each other’s mirror image. They complete each other, and each is somewhat lacking without the other’s support, and has always been lonely before they finally saw one another. It’s a lovely idea, but it’s not what this project needs. It was pointed out to me well by a member of my graduate review committee that the idea seemed like a metaphor for split personalities—I realized that the metaphor was lacking, even if the story was nice. It couldn’t just be a story; everything had to work together.

So, I took the idea apart and started over. What did I need? A good metaphor? A fantasy story, to keep myself interested in it? What was I truly trying to show?

The answer is simple: the day-to-day is what I want to show. The mundanity and normalcy of mental illness—specifically, of the depression and anxiety which I experience myself—and how that experience impacts a normal life.

So, it only makes sense that my game, with the working title “Inertia”, would be a life simulation, with a core of resource-management. A game about trying to balance and cope with low energy, high stress, and the ever-present march of time against one another, all while trying to find some semblance of happiness. The game didn’t need a story—not a deep, arcing narrative like I tend to think, at least. As raw as it feels for me to say so, the story is my own, and that of so many of my friends and peers. It’s simply the story of living, and of life. It doesn’t need any fantastical elements… just to be honest.

That said, I’m a sucker for metaphor, so there is one major metaphor I’m still tossing around how to keep: the concept of a single, never-ending boss fight against a “monster” which permeates every aspect of your life. I’ll get into that in another post, when I’m digging a little more deeply into the game’s design. Perhaps I’ll also write a post about parraLLels and what it was, versus what it became for my thesis, and ultimately all of the more nuanced reasons that I scrapped it… well, it’s 4:30 am now, so I should just let this lie and get some sleep for the time being.

thesisLou Carrolldesign