A bitter End

What I really like about Berlin’s culture is the level of diversity one can find when attending events and meeting new people. At almost every meetup I’ve been to I’ve discovered artists, programmers, musicians, sound designers, writers, entrepreneurs… I thought I had exhausted the list after a point. But yesterday I was once again surprised. The event I went to, the Civic Game Jam, managed to bring together developers and activists in an attempt to combine their talents and create more meaningful games.

The theme of the game jam was “nature”, and the spirit of the jam was to create a game that could communicate to players the state of the environment. In a more broad sense, it was to make a game with a greater sense of purpose through raising awareness about nature. Of course, jammers were at liberty to do as they pleased, though everyone clearly made an effort to follow this theme!

I ended up in a group of 4: Again with Emily and Luis, and with an artist called Nomi. We decided to make a game showing the difficulties involved with protecting the environment due to our personal drive to continuously make our own lives better. You would play as a man in his mid thirties who recently became the CEO of a mining facility. He has a family: a wife, a son and a daughter. During the game the player can move around his office and interact with certain objects to find out more about his life.

Eventually the player receives a phone call from his secretary and he is told he must decide whether he wants to expand his mining facility.

If he chooses to do so, the wildlife in the area will be at risk due to the site being located near a river and forest. However, the mining facility’s profits will soar and Mr. Dave Stones (the name of the player’s character) will get the chance to send his children to good schools. The player is taken 10 years in the future and can see the consequences of their choice by again interacting with the objects in the room.

A similar choice is then posed to the player. This occurs a total of 3 times, giving the potential for 8 different endings. Of course, it being an 8 hour jam, we weren’t able to fully flesh out all of these! Currently the game has 2 complete endings, one being where the player chooses all for personal and the other all for environmental. The basic message the game gives is that in today’s society we are so focussed on achieving personal goals we forget the greater forces in play which also change due to our actions. It was really interesting making the game as it is very different to all other games I’ve ever made.

Again there’s a fairly long list of things we weren’t able to implement! We didn’t have time to implement all the animations and were only able to put the forward idle animation. We didn’t add a sense of time progression throughout the scene by changing the visuals of specific items in the office (for example, making the potted plant wither). We weren’t able to add all endings, only 2 of 8, as the content was so much. I would say for sure that the main challenge was managing everything: we had several pieces of dialogue per scene, and a total of 7 scenes, plus 8 possible endings branching from those scenes. I believe as a programmer I have to work on making it easier for content creators to quickly add things and be able to change things more easily. Often I found when we wanted to make one small change we had to go back to every scene and change the same thing 7 times!

I really enjoyed this jam and I appreciated the emphasis on story that the games created here had. I hope to attend more similar to this one. I’m also a strong believer that games have a lot of power to communicate and educate people. It is the only medium which allows people to become involved with a story through interactivity, and I think that has a lot of power to make people invested in the experience.

Head over to the Civic Jam website to find out more about it!