Final Project

Here is the link to my final project called My Story.

http://nabidancemystory.nabidance.net/start.html

Please copy and paste the link above to access the story. This story uses a lot of music, so please use headphones or turn on the sound while playing through it.


Artist Statement

            As a disclaimer, I feel extremely grateful for my life. I grew up with a loving family who did everything they could to support me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.

This game was challenging to make, because I don’t tell my story to people. This was the first time I’ve outlined the events that took place over the past several years. I had to edit it down for the sake of clarity and time- otherwise we’d be swimming in a pool of senseless memories- but the story remains. Piecing it together helped me understand why I am the way I am a little better. Nevertheless, this story wasn’t made just for me, even though it’s all about me. Really, this story was made for anyone else who has ever felt misunderstood or alone (cue angsty teen music). I don’t think my experience is that unique, and the negative thoughts and feelings I kept inside are definitely not unique. Like my Dad always says, everyone has a sob story if you listen long enough. Ultimately, everyone, even the happiest person you know, has a story – and it’s important that these stories be told. It’s important to know that you’re not alone.

Luckily, this game gave me the opportunity to explore something I’ve never really had a chance to sit down and engage with. I’m a creative person, but I’m also somewhat reserved. I can’t talk my way through situations or feelings; I have to express it differently. Growing up, I just needed someone to listen. Building this game gave me a chance to express myself. We’ve often discussed how videogames are art in class, and I truly believe they are. This game isn’t just a diary entry about my life – it’s an interactive game. The music, links, and format of the story were all carefully selected based off of how it would contribute to the artistic style of the game. Writing out the story and putting it in a public space where anyone could read it cut the edge off of the power this story has over my life. It normalizes the story and makes it seem less scary than it does in my head.

Because this story is so personal, everything in the story from the music to the story map itself is intentional. Twine was the easiest interface to use and it gave me a lot of room to write out the story. There is one overarching storyline, but a lot happens along the way. The player can choose to either follow the main storyline, or he or she can choose to explore the different characters and memories and gain a deeper insight to what’s going on.

I. Game Design

This is meant to be an exploratory game. I want the player to explore as much as possible so that he or she can understand the point of view of the main character, me. I still don’t completely understand why I had suicidal thoughts growing up – was it because of what happened or because of how people treated me? I used to place all of the blame on that one person who hurt me when I was younger, but looking at the story now I realize that maybe it was bigger than that. The point of view of the game is crucial to the story and was admittedly a little tricky to play with. I want the player to step into my shoes and see the world from my perspective. This can be very limiting and potentially boring for the player since not everyone thinks like me or gets the same references. In order to make this already alienating game more relatable, I tried to detach myself from the little things. For example, instead of saying “You stay up until 6am reading online manga,” the story says something along the lines of, “You stay up until 6am surfing the Internet.” Another example is, “Mom makes your favorite food for dinner to lift up your spirits.” Originally, it was, “Mom makes your favorite, spaghetti, for dinner,” but not everyone likes spaghetti. I played the story and modified it over a dozen times, because I kept finding these little references and needed to broaden them up so that the player could hopefully fill in the gaps.

Although there is only one ending, there are a variety of outlets the player can choose to explore. These were constructed carefully with each outlet linking back to the main story. All of them are intentional. For example, at the beginning of the story you must choose to explore one of the family members. Dad’s profile links to both Mom and your brother, while Mom’s profile links only to Dad. I did this, because your Mom and your brother do not have enough of a relationship for that link to exist.

Additionally, there are many breaks within the story and one page can be separated into three different rows. The purpose of the breaks is to separate the story into chunks so that a player can read the first chunk, hit a link, and come back to read the second chunk and so on. I tried to craft the story so that even if the player decides not to look at any of the links, he or she will still understand the general sense of the story. Furthermore, some of the pages are extremely long while others are kept short. “The letter of recommendation” scene, for example, is drawn out because when it happened in real life, everything happened so quickly that there wasn’t enough time to think. Even though it happened so quickly, however, it still felt like an eternity, hence the long page. Likewise, the scene where Mom gets angry with you for telling your brother your story develops quickly across one page, because I wanted to mimic what the experience felt like in real time.

The ending is intentionally short, because the story is ongoing. You’re finally caught up to the present. The sudden shift in music represents the sudden shift in attitude I had. Instead of moving slowly through time, time passes quickly because you’re enjoying it!

  1. Music

I chose tracks off of the Clannad Original Soundtrack, which was arranged by Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito and Magome Togoshi. I would listen to this soundtrack almost daily during my final year of high school. It was my study music, my driving music, and my bus riding music. Music means a lot to me so I wanted it to be a main part of the game. Music is used to push the story forward; otherwise it’d just be a whole lot of reading. I tried to find tracks that fit the mood of a specific scene.

Below I have listed a brief explanation of the tracks I chose and what they mean.

1) Town, flow of time, people: this song plays at the very beginning of the game. The tone of the song makes the world seem unsettled, as if something is stirring beneath the surface. It serves as a reflective piece, and I use it to punctuate the moments in my life where everything seems calm on the outside, but a lot was going on subconsciously.

2) Snowfield – This song plays whenever you feel stuck. I chose this song mainly because of its title, which evokes the images of stillness, isolation, and death. This is the moment where negative thoughts blanket your mind like snow. You can’t move forward and feel stuck in the vast field of ice. You need to find warmth, shelter.

3) The Place Where Wishes Come True – this song plays when you choose to explore “childhood.” It represents lost innocence. The childlike ambience of the song intentionally collides with the heavy topic being expressed- suicide. Childhood is supposed to be innocent, but these sinister thoughts impede upon that innocence.

4) Nagisa – This song plays when you decide to explain your story to Mom. It represents acceptance and evokes the feeling of a mother’s warmth. The song also grows more powerful the longer you let it play, which is meant to represent the deeper relationship I was able to make with my mother at this moment. The song ends quietly, suggesting tranquility. This song plays again towards the end when the main character has an epiphany and decides to change her outlook on life.

5) Shining in the Sky – this song plays when you and your brother finally understand each other. It only plays once throughout the story, and is admittedly a bit cheesy. It represents understanding and seeing the light.

6) Roaring Tides/Roaring Tides IIRoaring Tides is used to push the story along. It appears during moments of conflict within the story. For example, it plays when Mom finds you and your brother crying in the living room. Roaring Tides II plays only once. It plays when you choose to explore the “letter of recommendation”. Originally, I was going to cut all music from this scene out of respect for the teacher who passed away. Then, I remembered this song. This scene is sad, slow, and quiet. The music reflects that.

7) She’s Leaving Home by the Beatles (Not from the Clannad Soundtrack!) – Originally, this song was placed at the beginning of the story, but there wasn’t enough character development to make it fit. I also tried moving it to the end of the story, but it didn’t match the hopeful tone I wanted to convey. It fit best towards the middle of the story, because the player (hopefully) is able to connect it to the main character and her family.I included some of the lyrics of the song for the player to read to get the point across more fully since this song captures a lot of the main themes of the story.

8) Her Determination – This is the closing song to the story. I had several other songs lined up, but decided to stick with this upbeat one since it was so much different from everything else already in the game. It marks the tone of a new chapter of life and doesn’t match any other song before. I was worried it would seem too cheesy, but the ending is meant to be sappy anyways.

Some scenes are intentionally quiet, because music didn’t make sense at that particular moment or I wanted to dramatise a moment. For example, two spots that don’t have music are “You suck it up” and “Everything goes wrong.” I cut the music from the “You suck it up” scene because the music is meant to be in tune with the character. The sudden taking away of music is meant to be the main character “snapping out of it,” only to be hit even harder in the next scene with more dramatic music. I cut the music from the “Everything goes wrong” scene for dramatic effect.

III. Conclusion

The point of this game is to inspire people who have a tough story, like I did, and help them realize that they can choose to make a new story at any moment. Attitude makes all the difference in how you interact with the world, and life is a lot more enjoyable when you take control of yourself and live life the way you’re meant to – happily. In the words of one of my favourite novels, Stephen Chobsky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “So, I guess we are who we are for alot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”


One last thing…

Huge shout out to Alec Custer! Without him, this project would have not been uploaded onto this server. Thanks for everything!! 🙂

It’s all about the little things

Portal is heavily invested in the little things. Although the storyline is relatively simple, the attention to detail is unbelievable. The gameplay almost depends more on the details of the game design than on the actual storyline. Sure, the storyline drives it all forward, but what makes it all worthwhile are the little things. Let’s use the final level as an example.

I didn’t notice all of the details that went into GladOs’ personality until Alec activated the subtitles. I recognised when her voice changed when I played the level before, but I didn’t realize that it was an intentional part of game design for her voice to sound a specific way at a particular moment. For example, when you destroy the (incredibly adorable) first orb GladOs’ voice becomes “seductive” since she is trying to lure you in and kill you. Her voice immediately changes after the incineration of the first orb, which she claims held together her sanity, from the normal robotic voice to a confident voice convinced your death is near. That was pretty freaky! The orbs themselves were each given distinct aspects of GladOs’ personality since they make up GladOs. I was somewhat amazed when the subtitles were activated and the blue orb was citing a cake recipe! Why do they promise cake? What’s Chell’s backstory? Who knows, but hey at least they commit to the cake theme. In fact, the line, “the cake is a lie,” most likely exploded on the internet due to the player constantly running across the line throughout the game. This recurring theme is one of the most memorable aspects of the game – yes, it has to do with the storyline, but honestly just seeing it written EVERYWHERE is enough to make the player remember it. The emphasis on building the narrative into the game rather than neatly handing it to the player as a storyline allows players to piece his or her own storyline together. We never receive a clear storyline or backstory for any character nor the facility, but that didn’t really matter in the end. What mattered was the fact that you recognised that the cake was a lie and escaped the Aperture Testing facility.

The little things – the writing on the walls, the easter egg rooms, the ending cut scene – these all add to the gaming experience. The storyline is present, but it’s the little things – the attention to details -that make Portal memorable.