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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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Thinking About People at GDC 2015

Sneak preview of work-in-progress title slide. Yes, I know the title is wrong!


I’ve been meaning to announce that I’ll be speaking at Game Developers Conference 2015 this year, with an hour-long Design Track talk entitled “Thinking About People: Designing Games for Social Simulation”.

I’m mega-honoured, and also a bit nervous; while I’ve previously been fortunate enough to speak at GDC in previous years, they’ve been microtalks and rants (two of each, to be precise), so I haven’t given a talk there for longer than five minutes at a time. I hope you can make it, though!

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A Note About Playing as ‘Asrion’ in Redshirt

It’s been almost a week since Redshirt was released, and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported the game so far. Thank you so much!

I just wanted to post a quick notice however, as this entry on tumblr was brought to my attention: “Trigger warning for anyone interested in playing the indie game Redshirt”, which relays one woman’s experience of playing as, seemingly, an Asrion character, and therefore receiving repeated unwanted attention from men, despite stating on her profile that her character is interested in only women.

The author writes that she was triggered by the experience of playing, and I am deeply sorry that there was no clearly-stated warning that this would happen when playing as an Asrion.

As the awesome Border House Blog covered Redshirt in their Bunk Bed series last week, this particular dynamic of the game was also touched upon, and I left a comment further expanding upon the way this works in Redshirt. I’ll reiterate that here, too…

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Redshirt Release Date Confirmed! 13th November 2013.

Good news, nuchachos! There’s a date next week that’s circled in red marker on my calendar. (Well, it would be if I had one; as it happens, I’ve just typed in ALL CAPS on my Google Calendar.)

That date is the official Redshirt release date, and it is 13th November 2013. (That’s November 13th to some of you.)

On that date, it’ll be available to purchase via Steam, GoG, and of course, direct download, for Windows and Mac.

After a long, long journey, it’s really exciting to have an official release date. As you can imagine, there’s lots I need to do to prepare. Thank you to our awesome pre-orderers/beta testers who’ve been so great at providing feedback. If you want to join them, you can preorder Redshirt right now, start playing the beta, and let me know your thoughts on the forums.

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Redshirt Pre-Orders Are Open! (Also, some reflections.)

I should really update this thing, shouldn’t I?

So, after two years of work, Redshirt opened up pre-orders just a few short weeks ago! Pre-ordering means you can download and start playing a beta version of the game straight away, and I’ve been blown away by all the support we’ve received so far, and so grateful to everyone who’s taken the time to provide feedback and bug reports. Seriously, thank you.

For most of those two years, it was, of course, mostly just myself staring at the game all day, with publisher Cliff of Positech Games on hand to give his usual brilliant mixture of wise-but-carefully-stern-feedback(!), but the moment that things changed drastically was when the first influx of players sat down at the computer at PC gaming show Rezzed back in June — the first time the game had been demoed publicly.


From there, it’s felt like a sort of (mostly sleepless, caffeine-fueled) whirlwind until the Redshirt beta/pre-orders launched in late August. We’ve received some very kind press coverage from outlets ranging from Gamasutra to RPS to The Escapist and beyond; and that definitely helps with motivation.

Of course, what I also meant to do during that period was also blog more and create more ‘Developer’s Logs’ videos, but that ended up not entirely working out.

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Interviews, News, and Paste’s #2 Game at GDC!

It’s finally time for a little news roundup! So a few weeks ago, I took a build of Redshirt with me to Game Developer’s Conference 2013, where for the first time, people other than myself (and of course, publisher Cliff Harris!) got a chance to play the game. This was a pretty nervewracking (though very important!) experience, not only for the very valuable feedback I got on the game, but also, on a more personal level, getting over that weird psychological barrier of showing the game to people.

I did an interview with Adam Smith of Rock, Paper Shotgun (which went online today!) and I touched on this a little bit at the beginning of the interview, before going into details of the game, veering into social justice issues, and back again! Please do check it out if you have the time.


Anyway, so whilst at GDC, in addition to my friends, some very kind journalists checked out the game, too. One of whom was Richard Clark from Paste magazine, who spent some hands-on time playing, which he wrote up in his GDC round-up feature on the magazine. The best and most surprising news of all, though, was that Paste declared Redshirt NUMBER 2 in their TEN BEST GAMES OF GDC 2013.

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