Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Giant Robot Blues

I am releasing a piece of interactive fiction. It is called "The Giant Robot Blues." You can play it here.

It's a comedic sci-fi tale about a test pilot trapped inside of a giant robot suit that is about to explode. It is also about other things: 70's rock and roll, mass media, secrets, hallucinations, mistakes, laughter, futility, and regret. 

Twine's inception, and the interactive fiction renaissance that followed, have dismantled a lot of my preconceptions about interactive art and how interactive systems can be compelling outside of overcoming challenges, completing objectives, or winning "games." One of the few elements that IF - a medium of text and hyperlinks - shares with conventional videogames is choice. By removing the mechanic of player choice from the tropes of games, and evoking the tropes of literature, I think that IF causes developers and players to re-imagine what kind of experiences digital interactive art can provide.

I've also long admired interactive fictions' accessibility. Contemporary IF can be played on nearly any device with internet access, by nearly anyone who can read, regardless of previous experience with games. This is my first mobile game! The more I make games, the more I am interested in their development into a broadly accessible and artistically diverse medium. So, naturally, I've long been interested in finding inspiration to write a piece of IF with Twine myself. While I previously made a tiny game in an hour with a professor, it was time for me to undergo a serious project. 

The chance came during Artscape last when, when Steven Thomas and I decided to create games for the winners of a high score contest we held during the festival. The winner of the Bloodjak high score contest asked for a text-based comedy about a person trapped inside of a mech, among other criteria.  I was pretty excited about the prompt.

I wanted to be able to evoke the tension that comes with the play of a conventional game, but I didn't want to bring along the skill ceiling that typically accompanies it. I don't want to spoil the experience, but I think was able to achieve this with the systems I put in place.

Despite being a game made for another person, "The Giant Robot Blues" eventually grew into one of the most personal games I've ever made. Inside jokes, previously unrealized project ideas, and experiences and places from Baltimore city all find their way into this little story. I hope you enjoy it!