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Thinking In Play Symposium: Visual Design & Modding Passage

As you may have seen through various press reporting, the inimitable Jason Rohrer’s work has been the focus of a solo exhibition at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College for the past couple of months, culminating in a reception and a symposium around his work, entitled “Thinking in Play”. I was invited, along with the wonderful Leigh Alexander (who joined remotely) to be on a panel specifically about the visual design of Jason Rohrer’s work. The day then followed with subsequent panels featuring the also-wonderful Robin Hunicke and others reflecting on the game mechanics of his work.

It was an unusual format, certainly, but if you’re interested, here is the presentation I gave.
The Visual Design of Jason Rohrer's Games

PPTX (with notes) | PDF

The key part is that in the context of 9-years-ago games history, Passage and Gravitation were, along with things like Rod Humble’s Marriage, heralded as games whose minimalist visual aesthetics were discussed in certain circles as being a marker of the idea that they contained some ‘universality’ and ‘truth’. Certainly, they reflected parts of real, human experiences for real people, but at the same time, the games heralded as being part of this movement told the ‘truths’ of a narrow demographic; namely the interpersonal struggles of cisgender white men and their heteronormative relationships.

And yet, at the time, Passage did mean something to a younger version of myself; the idea of conflict and mortality is certainly a universal one, though perhaps not with the particular ‘skin’ that the game comes with by default. Not everyone has the privilege of having one of their central struggles as being around balancing relationships with creative goals, for instance (though this was, at one point my own experience, to an extent).

So, as a tiny experiment for the above talk, I did a quick (and I mean very quick) mod of Passage. It took me less than 10 minutes.



You can download it here:

Passage_ThinkingInPlay_Win || Passage_ThinkingInPlay_Mac

I did this for (at least**) three reasons:

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Actually, It’s About…

This morning, I woke up to this email in my inbox, from someone called William Usher writing for a site called Gaming Blend:

Having spoken a few times about the way in which Positech Games ‘indie-published’ Redshirt (including a talk at Develop Conference), I started putting together a very quick reply explaining briefly how Redshirt’s marketing had worked. As the publisher, Positech had effectively handled all the marketing for the game, in terms of promoted posts, banner ads, arranging for exhibiting Redshirt at various expos (EGX, Rezzed, MCM Comic Con, etc.), and also handling press releases when the game was launched. The point being, so I could get on with development — for my first game, it worked very well. Though, as the developer, I’d made devlogs, did all the subsequent interviews about the game, as well as the obvious tweeting-about-my-game-to-the-point-of-obnoxiousness and talking about it to anyone who’d listen.

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Provocation and Meta-Provocation

Today, I attended the launch of the the DiGRA UK chapter in Bristol, which was a fantastic event. Although I had to leave early, I was incredibly honoured to be invited to give one of the featured ‘provocations’. I’ve been wearing my academia hat lately, working on finally inching my otherwise-neglected PhD thesis towards submission. I decided, given the context, to do a mostly-academically-grounded talk, and hastily wrote some thoughts last night (text in light pink, thanks to my ink-waning printer.)

So, all ready to give my talk, I began listening to the preceding two provocations, the latter of which asked about our responsibility to players. I reflected privately about how, through my work in developing Redshirt, I’d learned some lessons about this. I reflected on how lately, I’m sort of wearing my academic hat only reluctantly. Then, as I made my way to the front for my talk, I decided this was more important than the thoughts I’d prepared, and, thus, my ‘provocation’ became this:


Torn-Up Provocation


I tore up the ‘academic’ talk I’d prepared, and spoke instead briefly about the lessons I’d learned as a developer. A sort of meta-provocation, about how I’d grown more personally, and learned more about games and play through my work as a developer, than in my capacity as an academic thus far. It’s not that games academia is without value, of course, but in a personal capacity, my work as a developer has been more important to me. There is probably a reason for that. I’d learned more about challenging existing conventions in games, and about caring about players. So, I tore up my talk. This was my provocation for DIGRA UK.


For anyone interested (and because I said I would), here is the text of my original, planned, more academic talk about game studies, epistemology, and pluralism, after the break.

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My GDC 2014 Microtalk

I’ve uploaded a version of the microtalk I delivered at Game Developer’s Conference 2014, during the session GDC Microtalks 2014: One Hour, Ten Speakers, a Panoply of Game Thinking! I’ve embedded the video below.

The full text is also below, for those of you interested. Thanks again to the ever-brilliant Richard Lemarchand for inviting me to speak!

Edit: Ah, happily, only a few hours after I blogged this, the official recording of the GDC microtalks went up live on the GDC Vault, for free, so you could also watch it here. The bonus being, you can see the other nine (far more worthy) talks too!

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New Website!

Welcome to the new and improved The Tiniest Shark website, which has also merged both my personal blog and development blogs, so that I am no longer seized by indecision on where to post, and end up posting to neither…

Thank you to the brilliant Fully Illustrated for helping us add all these new fancy new pixels everywhere, and especially for the new TTS logo, who has now increased in resolution significantly.



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On The Tiniest Shark blog: Redshirt Reflections

In case you missed it, I recently wrote some reflections on having worked on Redshirt so far; the game has been available to preorder (and download a beta version) for just over a month now, and so, it’s busy times (as usual).

You can read the post here:

In other news, yes, it was brought to my attention that I was in severe danger of not having updated this blog for a year! So, I thought I would fix that. I’ll soon be posting a round-up of various recent happenings, though (spoilers!) highlights include: continuing to work on Redshirt, being invited to rant at GDC, and, of course, far more recently, marrying the wonderful George Khandaker-Kokoris!)

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