Learn more about the process of designing SenseU.
Over the past two weeks, I worked hard on polishing the game for presentation. I did not work as hard on the paper and had to cram in work at the end.The paper is now basically done, though I am waiting for the second person to review my paper (view the body of the paper here).
I didn’t focus on editing dialogue this week, but I did work on character design.
I filled out expanded character descriptions for Efe and Gaiya. This is an ongoing process that will continue after the product is launched.
I added more polish and game audio. The game now includes transitions between narrative dialogue.
Next, I’ll continue to polish the game.
Lauren submitted her feedback. She is cramming too. Let’s all cram! Huzzah!
End of Semester Deliverables
I made a Dropbox folder for the required deliverables. It will soon be full of stuff.
This whole end of semester time period makes me feel like crying and quitting. I’m going to keep at it, but I feel like I’m going to fail. Let’s see what happens.
Nearing the end
This week, I worked on polishing the game, testing, filling out character descriptions, and editing dialogue.
I modified the dialogue more based on user feedback. The feedback has been very positive so far. Over the next week, I will finish up the dialogue and focus on editing.
I began filling out the expanded character descriptions with paragraphs instead of lists. So far, so good. Much more to go, though.
The game was coming along so well that I decided to add in some polish. When a player selects a message choice, the game now waits 500 to 2000ms before showing the reply. This makes the game feel more immersive.
Next, I’ll add in other kinds of polish including more audio, music, and motion tweens.
Lauren tested my game and screenshotted her feedback. I’m excited to read her thoughts!
I created the second draft of the compiled thesis paper. It needs a lot of work. That’s all I can really say about it…
Next week, I’m working on more writing and finalizing more of my thesis paper. I’ll be on vacation from work so I can devote more time to churning out awesomeness. AHHHH.
This week, I did more testing, research, and writing for the game.
I shared my game with a fellow designer and she gave me great feedback. Based on her response, I moved the chat tutorial closer to the beginning of the game. I also reorganized the introduction to be more engaging.
The introduction is now split into 5 scenes:
- Arrival at school
- Chatbot tutorial
- Meeting Efe and going to orientation
- Test chat with Efe
- Floor meeting and party
The reception so far has been very positive. I’m excited to finalize this part of the game.
I’ve also finished two of the three conversations with NPCs: Gaiya and Jade. Next is Louis, then I’ll wrap around and edit all three conversations. More testing will follow.
I moved the character description document to Google Drive. Like my independent study professor says, I have a thing for lists. I hope that working via bookmarks in Google Drive will make me feel more comfortable with the idea of using paragraphs and sentences. Over time, the goal is for the characters to feel more like people and less like code.
Lauren ran her event! Hooray! Meanwhile, I shared my thesis paper with her and my thesis advisor.
I created the first draft of the vita, dedication, and acknowledgement sections (PDF) of my thesis this week.
Next week, I’m planning to work on more writing, polish the game, and finalize the parts of my thesis paper that need more fleshing-out.
I moved this weekend, which meant I didn’t have a lot of time for thesis work. Nonetheless, I got some things done!
I wrote the first draft of the first conversation. The conversation centers around Gaiya’s insecurity about sex before marriage.
If you review older posts, you might realize that I switched the conversation from Jade to Gaiya. Unfortunately, I wasn’t finding Jade’s conversation about looking for partners very compelling or realistic. Gaiya’s was much easier to write. I will come back to Jade’s conversation later (or completely scrap it if necessary).
I wrote more about Gaiya this week. You can look at the Evernote document to read my progress so far.
Narrative interaction design
Here is a diagram showing the interaction design for transitioning from narrative story to choices:
View a larger version to see the more in-depth details.
I advised Lauren about her project this week. Hooray for Hack the Flow!
It’s a short update this week, sorry! Until next time.
Another slow week
This week was fairly slow, although I worked on character designs and continued writing dialogue.
Based on the feedback people gave me last week, I managed to cut down on the intro dialogue by over 50%. I also added in a quick tutorial system. I’m continuing to test the game with more people – so far, people seem to like the changes I’ve made.
I wrote more information about the game’s characters. This week, I focused on Jade. Next, I’m focusing on Gaiya. See the Evernote document to read my progress so far.
I mapped out the story progression from a user flow standpoint:
View a larger version to see the more in-depth details.
Lauren helped me troubleshoot my game, which now works on her phone! She also gave me helpful feedback about the amount of intro dialogue in the game.
Next, I’ll continue building out the first conversation. Woohoo!
Writing and Editing: Building the Gold Version
I continued editing dialogue and code, made a floorplan diagram, and wrote more character information.
I playtested the game with 5 people this week. Based on their feedback, I decided to cut the game’s introduction narrative from about 40 screens on average to about 10. Next, I need to design the tutorial area.
I also continued to flesh out more information about characters in the game. Check out the Evernote document to see my progress so far.
I mapped out a floorplan diagram for students on the player’s floor:
View a larger version to see the actual rooms. The player will live in room 301.
My UX research partner shared her RA orientation book with me. You can view photos of it on Google Drive. I plan to review these documents and glean inspiration for the narrative.
Thesis advisor meeting
I met with my thesis advisor this week as well. During the meeting, I showed him the latest prototype. He was very excited about the current state of the game.
My advisor suggested I play several games:
- The beginner’s guide
- Prom week
These games contain inspiration that can be helpful for my game, as well as examples of what not to do. Additionally, he reminded me to think about game feel and polish. I can’t wait to get to that point!
Lauren is continuing to help me troubleshoot and test my game. She is planning on sending out a poll for her designathon soon.
Next week, I plan to continue modifying my paper and build out the game’s complete tutorial area. Woohoo!
Building the beta
This week, I worked on writing dialogue for the game and building the beta version for playtesting.
Once I finished building the system to support writing dialogue, I continued fleshing out dialogue for the game. After feedback from my narrative design class, I decided to incorporate the quiz into the game’s dialog rather than asking questions all at once. I’m continuing to experiment with balance and figure out how much dialog is too much. Playtesting will be very helpful!
I also fleshed out more information about some of the characters in the game. This is a continuous work in progress, as I’m writing a lot! Check out the Evernote document to see my progress.
Texting interface and visual updates
I finally got the texting interface to work. Both dialogue systems are now done! I was very excited when I got everything working because I wasn’t sure I could get the interfaces done in time. I am now able to plug in dialog from Google Sheets at will – all I have to do is change the dialog type.
Next, I plan to test the design across an array of devices and continue to write. I also want to see if I can figure out a way to integrate iconography in the narrative dialog sequences. I might make it dynamic so that images show up if space is available. Hmm!
Codifying data from RA study + RA interviews
My UX research partner, Laura, helped me codify information from my survey into 4 areas:
- Tension, stress, and competition
- Positivity, gratitude
- Group, community, teamwork
- Leadership, role model
Most of the 40 RAs who filled out the survey mentioned things that fell into these categories.
During and after Laura summarized the study information for me, I interviewed her and her friend Ian about their experiences as RAs. Below are some notes from both activities.
- All RAs had to take orientation each year.
- Focused around team-building & getting to know each other
- One activity: Everyone got into a circle. People stepped into the circle if the statements read out applied to them. E.g. “you’re mixed race”, “you’re a victim of sexual assault”, “your grandparents grew up poor”
- One activity: Given a scenario, figure out if it was ethical. E.g. “Should RA’s date? If they do, should they tell their Area Directors?”
- 2 week long orientation.
- A few (2-3) 1-3 hour lectures per day, followed by team-building exercises at the end of each day, then some simulation activities on the last few days. E.g. Students would go to a door and there would be a scenario taped on it.
- Example day: Lecture, lunch, activity, lecture, dinner, lecture, exercise.
- Most of the information was useful.
- Floor meeting with all residents to introduce each other and discuss/decide on rules. Happens at beginning and end of year. Bathrooms, music, etc.
- 20 people for 1 RA.
- Group interviews
- Rigorous, competitive
- Invasive questions
- Hard skills & soft skills both required
- “Team player”
- Less qualified people get through, can cause friction
- Wanting to be in power
- Door decks required for all residents (Put your name on the door so RAs know who you are)
- Not noticing situations were happening (Rape, drugs, etc)
- Guilt for not being able to do everything
- Waking up to a scream, room break-in
Dynamics of transitioning into the role
- Friction between you and your peers (same age, different power level)
- Not being invited to parties
- Different dorms had different personalities
- Make a lot of good friends, talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to
- Power and responsibility
- New enemies made out of people you never meet (vandalism, complaints, tearing down papers, etc.)
- Personal growth
- Learn to be more assertive
- Mentoring role
- Enforce rules you disagree with
- Emotionally-draining, compassion fatigue
- RA support system
- Community events (“programs”)
- Mandatory to run a certain number of programs per semester (quota for both academic & social)
- Getting residents to join academic programs which was hard unless it was about sex (they gave out condoms)
- Study events, tea events, etc.
- Dorms would team up to run parties, but those didn’t have alcohol
- Residents would have house parties where people drank
- Open door to consult with students
- On duty 2-3x per month
- Given a phone
- Can be in charge of the building on any day of the week from 10PM to 7AM (you can’t leave)
- If someone is locked out, suffering from alcohol poisoning, needs condoms, they come to you & knock on your door, not their normal RA’s.
- “Rounds”: every 1.5-2 hours, go through all the bathrooms and check the stalls + showers to makes sure no one was dead/poisoned.
- Staff member
- Gets paid, lives in the dorm
Lauren is continuing to help me troubleshoot some bugs in my game code. I am also helping to advise her during the process of setting up her hackathon.
Thesis paper intro & body
Next week, I’ll have more of the paper written. I also plan to map out the rooms in which characters live. Wish me luck!
I spent this week working on code and building out the systems to support dialogue in the game. I also revamped the game’s aesthetics.
My writing system
The game’s code now allows me to load JSON files, which are exported from Google Sheets, and import the dialogue for immediate use. Since most of the information is determined within the Google Sheet, I can do as little repetition of code as possible. I have already started writing dialogue and am testing different ways the player can choose to respond to the game’s choices.
I drastically updated the production game’s look and feel. The interface feels much more like an app than the old version. Gladly, I was able to utilize the same color scheme, but I removed the gradients and patterns. Since the game centers around texting, the interface needed to resemble a modern mobile application.
The old version of the home screen:
The new interface design:
With a few more tweaks to the interface and a bit more code, the only thing I’ll need to focus on is writing as much dialogue as possible.
My narrative design class has been very helpful. I received very useful feedback regarding my game’s characters and conflicts. To flesh out my characters even further, I am in the process of writing in-depth details about all primary & secondary characters in the game.
Questions to answer about each character include:
- What don’t they know how to do?
- What are the things that the character has been taught by their family?
- What habits & rituals does the character have?
- Who do you know in real life that feels similar to this character?
- What is this character’s natural environment?
- What do they do for fun?
- What’s in this character’s backpack?
- What is this character afraid of?
The goal is to have characters that actually feel human rather than hollow. I also plan to map out the dorm rooms in which all characters live.
Additionally, I’m planning to integrate quiz questions into the narrative rather than asking players upfront. Not only will this prevent people from feeling intimidated by the types of questions they’re asked, but it will also ensure that players have more chances to make choices throughout narrative scenes.
Lauren has been very helpful with giving feedback regarding my thesis paper and is currently helping me troubleshoot some bugs in my game’s code that cause the game to show up as a black screen.
Thesis paper intro & body
I’m continuing to write more for my thesis paper. This week, I worked on the introduction and main sections of the paper. I added a lot more information about the characters and removed any notes about word count since the aim is quality, not quantity. The current version of the paper can be downloaded as a PDF. It’s still heavily in the works, so I hope you don’t mind unfinished sentences!
That’s all for this week. Bye bye!
Writing, diagramming, and generating
This week was all about words. I wrote the first draft of my thesis body, generated a more detailed narrative, and made lots of diagrams and charts!
Accountability buddy meeting
Lauren and I scheduled weekly Slack check-ins on Saturdays to make sure we can catch up every week. This week, she helped me improve my outline. You can read it as a PDF.
So far, almost 3,000 words have been written in my thesis. Feel free to have a peek at the current status on Google Drive or download it as a PDF. It’s still largely a work in progress. I even continued to modify the outline as I wrote. A lot of sections don’t have many words yet, but the content is beginning to feel more solid.
I need to nail down the actual number of words needed for the paper. Some have said it’s between 10,000 and 15,000 while others don’t know. I’m currently not sure I heard that number from my professor or read it in a book. Stress is ridiulous, y’all.
I fleshed-out the environment and characters in the game through research, wireframing, and good ol’ spreadsheets. I specifically focused on designing the environment first, knowing it’d heavily impact the characters.
The story of SenseU takes place in an imaginary town off the northwest coast of Washington with a population of about 5,500. The town consists of a rural area, a small downtown area with several shops and large mall, as well as an undergraduate college with a 30-acre campus. The town’s median age is 31.
The main character’s college is a private, secular, national-level undergraduate school called the University of Sustainable Engineering, Natural Science, and Education. The school is colloquially known as “SENSE U”. A large portion of the town’s population consists of SENSE U students.
SENSE U’s campus has 10 educational buildings and 5 dorm buildings. The ten educational buildings include a lecture hall, one building for each field of study (Sustainable Engineering, Natural Science, and Education), a library, a research center, a common building for student unions and clubs, a gymnasium, a dining hall, and a medical facility.
According to recent studies, SENSE U is the 15th-most prestigious undergraduate school in the USA. Approximately 10,000 people apply to attend the school each year. The acceptance rate is quite low at 600 freshmen per year for a total of approximately 6%.
Students attending SENSE U can choose to major in Psychology, Biology, Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Art Education, Science Education, or Mathematics Education. Because of the rigorous courses, approximately 350 students out of a 600-person class will graduate from SENSE U.
Before refining character conflicts, I created a spreadsheet containing a list of primary, secondary, and tertiary characters. The spreadsheet includes various information about characters. Some examples of included information are name, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, appearance, and biography. This exercise helped me create well-rounded characters.
The game’s primary and secondary characters are:
- You (primary character), an American sophomore from a city outside Washington. You are studying Psychology. You use grants and scholarships to pay for tuition but also work as an RA to pay for the remaining education costs.
- Efe Turay, a bisexual second-generation Nigerian sophomore. Efe was born in New York City and is studying Mathematics Education. She gets through school mostly through a scholarship but works as an RA to pay for the remaining tuition and education costs. In addition to her study, she learns Japanese and attends the Japanese culture club.
- Ahanu “Han”, a straight American freshman of Algonquian descent. Han’s family lives in Massachusetts. He plans to become an active member of a fraternity. In addition to his Civil Engineering studies, he plans to continue pursing sports after winning a scholarship for playing football.
- Gaiya Brose, a straight white American freshman from Montana. Gaiya’s parents are strict Christians. She strongly believes in waiting until marriage. Gaiya is studying Biology and actively participates in the Japanese culture club.
- Louis Hayford, a gay Trinidadian sophomore. Louis moved to the United States with his family in 1996. His family doesn’t know about his religion or sexuality. In addition to studying Mechanical Engineering, Louis is also in a jazz band.
- Jade Sepulveda, a gay freshman. Jade is a second-generation Bolivian transwoman from Virginia. Her family doesn’t know about her religion or sexuality. In addition to studying Computer Science, Jade sings for a band and organizes a monthly feminist roundtable.
- Noah Matsuoka, a bisexual freshman. Noah is a third-generation Japanese-American student from California. His family isn’t particularly religious, but they are quite well-off. In addition to his Science Education studies, Noah participates in a gaming club.
- Griffin Cooper, a pansexual freshman. Griffin is a Black-American genderqueer student from Georgia. They won a business undergratuate scholarship to attend school. In addition to studying Mechanical Engineering, they participate in the LGBTQ club and host dance parties.
- Javier Barraza, a gay freshman studying Computer Science. Javier is a third-generation Dominican transman from the New York City. He is an avid yoga practitioner and organized LGBTQ events at his high school. He hopes to find less discrimination in college and plans to continue participating in LGBTQ events.
- Rishika Pradhan, a straight sophomore. Rishika is from India and majors in Biology. Her family sent her to school in America in order for her to get “the best education”. She has previously studied in Britain, Germany, and Australia. Her family prepared enough money to send her to international schools, as they own a manufacturing company. She aims to work in the United States or London once she graduates.
- Nolann Rheem, a straight sophomore. Nolann is a bi-racial, Black-identified student from another small town in Washington. He was the constant focus of racial insults as a child and feels strongly about racial equality. He funnels events from his past into his artistic work. His parents completely fund his education. He is unsure of his future, but he wants to continue to be artistic. Nolann is studying Art Education.
Next, I created a diagram based on the list of conflicts I mentioned last week. This diagram shows character relationships as well as the conflicts they will experience.
See the larger version of the diagram for more in-depth details.
After diagramming the characters, I then proceeded to write conflict descriptions for each scene in the game.
Scene 0: Introduction
The semester is about to begin and you move in.
Scene 1: Health & Human Development
- Jade failed to find anyone to hook up with at a welcome party and is frustrated. She needs help figuring out where to go to find people.
- Louis and Noah hooked up after the welcome party. Noah disappeared afterward. Louis and isn’t sure how to deal with the situation.
- Gaiya met Han at a party and found him attractive. She is starting to question her choice to wait until marriage.
Scene 2: Neuropsychology of Behavior
- Nolann is feeling frustrated about both school and his appearance. He is finding it difficult to cope.
- Gaiya needs advice regarding ways to deal with sexual thoughts.
- Griffin wants to come out about their genderqueer identity.
- Noah wants to come out about being bisexual but is afraid of being judged.
Scene 3: Human Genetics & Biology
- Gaiya is excited because she and Han made out at a party. It got a little awkward because she isn’t the best kisser. However, he asked her on a date and she said yes. She needs advice regarding ways to get better at kissing and how to move forward with their relationship.
- Rishika is unsure of how to make Nolann feel comfortable with his body. They were going to have sex after meeting after a party, but he backed out because he thought she wouldn’t like the way he looked naked. She wants to understand ways to make him feel attractive that involve the chest, back, ears, and neck.
- Jade met Griffin at a party and they hit it off instantly. Some close dancing and touching ensued before she found out that Griffin doesn’t identify as female. She’s not sure what that means and needs help.
- Javier and Louis are interested in each other after briefly meeting at a party. They plan to go on a date soon, and he knows that will probably lead to sex. Javier is nervous about being naked in front of Louis and wants advice.
- Han thinks he might have a minor lower-body STI after hooking up with someone a few weeks ago. He needs help dealing with it before things get serious with Gaiya.
Scene 4: Writing Seminar: Love and Trouble
- Gaiya was touching herself when her roommate (Rishika) came in. She feels ashamed.
- Noah and Efe started seeing each other after running into each other at the Japanese culture club. He wants advice about safe oral sex, especially after hearing about Han’s STI.
- Louis is about to have his first experience with anal sex and is nervous.
- Rishika needs advice about vaginal sex to prepare for her date with Nolann.
- Griffin needs advice regarding sexual activities they can do with Jade.
Scene 5: Language and Law
- Rishika wants to ask Nolann to have sex with her but is unsure if he’ll say yes. She needs encouragement.
- Gaiya and Han slept together. She wonders if she did the right thing.
- Nolann wasn’t in the mood to have sex. He wonders if he should’ve said yes just to please Rishika.
- Rishika asked Nolann to have sex with her. He said no. She’s unsure if she should ever ask a guy for sex again.
- Efe is unsure if she consented to sex with Noah at a party. She was very drunk.
- Louis is hurting after a sexual encounter with Javier turned violent.
- Noah is unsure if Efe consented to sex with him at a party. He was drunk and assumed she’d said yes.
Scene 6: Anthropology
- Rishika is angry because Gaiya keeps sexiling her without advance warning.
- Griffin had a negative interaction with Gaiya and wants to make her understand what identifying as genderqueer means.
- Jade decides to break up with Griffin when she can’t reconcile the fact that Griffin is sexually attracted to other people on campus. She’s not ready for a polyamorous relationship.
- Gaiya decides to reflect on her beliefs after her experiences with Han and a discussion with Griffin about gender.
- Nolann is angry because Rishika made an assumption about his sexual proclivity. She assumed he’d want to have sex because he’s Black, but he’s not interested in sex at all. He wants to break up with her and needs help figuring out how to communicate.
- Javier is furious after Jade breaks up with Griffin. He thinks it’s partially because Griffin doesn’t identify as a woman. Javier thinks Jade should know better than anyone that gender isn’t set in stone.
- Louis finds out Noah is bisexual. He doesn’t believe Noah since they slept together.
Scene 7: Ending
The semester ends.
You can see a timeline of these events below:
See the larger version of the diagram for more in-depth details.
That’s all for now. Next, I’m writing out the first conversations and putting them into the game. Peace out!
A slow week turned fast
This was initially a slow week for me, but it picked up quickly. I spent time in Toronto for a conference and therefore wasn’t able to focus much on my thesis early in the week. However, things ramped up later.
Answering important questions
Part of my time was spent answering questions that were previously unanswered:
- Can you pick your gender in the game? I’d rather the game be gender-neutral regarding the player. In an ideal world, the player’s gender wouldn’t matter.
- Will the personality quiz stay in the game? Yes, I’d still like the player to start the game with a personality quiz. This quiz will be part of their RA orientation.
Detailed written outline
I wrote a fairly detailed outline last week, so I spent this week working on refining it. It’s a bit clearer than before, I hope! You can read it as a PDF.
I updated the prototype to include a cold start, user info, and settings area. The cold start allows people to take the quiz. The user info area is where people can see their current personality type and retake the quiz at will. Click around the prototype below to see the interactions.
Thesis advisor meeting
I met with my thesis advisor, Frank Lantz. He gave me a lot of helpful feedback. Based on his feedback, I’ve decided to focus on the narrative over the game mechanics for now.
The game has a chance to positively affect a lot of people, which means it needs to be very accessible. It should feel enough like other games to attract young people while also feeling somewhat new. Frank’s suggestion was 80% familiar, 20% innovative. This also helps to reduce my workload, as I’m not doing everything from scratch.
Frank also really liked the interaction design of the prototype above. The concept of communicating with characters mostly through text messages while occasionally experiencing short narrative scenes seemed exciting to him. This and other feedback he shared made me feel very inspired!
For our next meeting, I need to have a:
- List of references and comparisons to games young people play
- Diagram of interface screens and the flow between them
- Story arc diagram
I’m working on all of these as soon as possible.
I also attended my bi-weekly narrative design independent study class. During this session, we discussed character conflict. Here are the conflicts I listed for my character and students at the school:
- Living in cramped spaces with people you don’t know
- Not knowing things required to help people with their problems
- There are so little places to go on campus
- Being in a new town
- Class differences
- College vs. town
- Being forced to learn things you don’t like or care about in required classes
- Inter-major superiority/inferiority
- Being an authority figure over your peers
- Feeling alone
- Frats and school clubs
- School parties
- Dorm parties
- Sports events
- Personality differences
- Cultural differences
- Language difference
- Education level differences
- Drugs & alcohol
- Friends with benefits
- Non-consentual touching
- Social anxiety
- Unsure of life direction
- Feeling unattractive
- Failing classes
- Impostor syndrome
- Unrequited feelings
For next class, I’ll have to flesh out details about the school itself, as well as the characters who will inhabit the school and interact with the player. I have a lot of questions to answer!
The RA questionnaire has been going well. It has 34 responses so far. I want to get 50 responses by Friday night so I can analyze the data on Saturday.
In addition to the questionnaire, I also interviewed someone in person about their experience. Their personal anecdotes were very helpful for understanding what life is like for RAs.
Interesting points from the interview
- Everyone had to live on campus for at least 3 years at their school.
- RA deeds were: walking duty, desk duty, community-building.
- RAs in the same building met weekly.
- All RAs met monthly for dinner, events, and training.
- New RAs were mentored by either staff or more senior RAs in order to prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed.
- RAs were often the first person new students would consult at school.
- Information from orientations and trainings immensely helped RAs to resolve problems.
- RAs usually resolve problems by getting people to make their own decisions, while helping to make them feel like they’re in a safe space.
- Some RAs didn’t see emotional assistance as part of their job and would refuse to advise.
I plan to conduct at least one more interview this week.
That’s what I’ve been up to this week. Phew! Until next time.
Why, what if, how, and what else?
This week, I answered some questions, outlined my thesis, met with my advisor, and designed conflicts based on my game’s curriculum.
Why, What if, and How
I listened to an episode of Unmistakeable Creative Podcast called “Asking A More Beautiful Question With Warren Berger”. Afterward, I answered some important questions. My answers were all quite blunt, to be honest. I didn’t find myself inspired to change the project, but the exercise was still helpful.
Why… is your focus a problem?
It’s a problem because people are being poorly equipped for adulthood.
Why… are you solving the challenge this way?
I’m solving it this way because games are a fun way to educate people.
What if… you tried solving it in other ways?
Many other ways already exist. There are sex-positive, educational podcasts. I know of several blogs and webcomics that cover the topic well. Sex-positive events (a la Slut Walk) exist across the country. However, good games about sex are still quite rare.
The only other things I could think of are maybe a web series or conference.
How… do you make it real?
Get help from others, continue researching and working to build the game.
If I went with a web series, I’d probably make a little animated series using Adobe Premiere.
A conference could go wrong in so many ways, but I’d focus on organizing the event as a set of roundtables about sex, religion, and society.
In the end, I still want to make a game about the subject, but a web series or conference could be interesting in the future.
Thesis statement, outline, & mind map
I updated my thesis statement link but forgot to post it here. Here it is!
You’ve seen the curriculum for my game before:
I created an outline based on the above and my previous thesis paper drafts. The short version is below. You can read the full, expanded version as a PDF.
- Religion, society, and sex
- Sex-positive sex education through games
- The game - structure, characters, and levels
Each topic will have contain several subtopics. I’ll expand on that next week.
I also updated my mind map, as suggested by my thesis professor:
My calendar now has 3 meetings with Frank Lantz’s name on it for the next few months! Hurrah! That was easier than expected.
RA Survey & information-gathering
I’m running a survey for RAs since my game is centered around the life of an RA. At this time, 31 people have responded to it. I’m hoping to get that to fifty by Friday. Synthesized data to come soon!
I’ll also be meeting with a few people to question them more in-depth about their experiences. The plan is to get enough qualitative information to create stories that are plausible. In addition, I’ve been poking at #RAlife and #RAproblems on Twitter. Funny stuff.
Character + game design ideation
I spent time fleshing out the conflicts characters will have in the game. In addition, I attached it some important pieces of game design. Here are my notes, grabbed straight from Evernote! I’m still working on labeling the characters’ conflicts as environmental, interpersonal, or personal.
Class 1: Health & Human Development (benefits & safe sex)
3 characters, 26 cards with 1 symbol
- sexual frustration (personal)
- hookups (interpersonal)
- unsure of whether or not to have sex (interpersonal)
Class 2: Neuropsychology of Behavior (mind)
4 characters, 26 cards with 2 symbols
- low self-esteem and body image (personal)
- dealing with thoughts about sex (personal)
- gender identity (personal)
- sexuality (personal)
Class 3: Human Genetics & Biology (body & safe sex)
5 characters, 52 cards with 2 symbols
Class 4:Writing Seminar: Love and Trouble (kinds)
6 characters, 52 cards with 3 symbols
- masturbation - finding a place (environmental)
- masturbation - partner’s frustration
- oral sex
- anal sex
- vaginal sex
- other kinds of sex
Class 5: Language and Law (consent)
7 characters, 52 cards with 3 symbols
- asking for sex (interpersonal)
- saying yes to sex (interpersonal)
- being comfortable saying no (personal)
- dealing with rejection (personal)
- drinking & consent (interpersonal)
- sexual assault (interpersonal)
- nonverbal consent (interpersonal)
Class 6: Anthropology (society) - taken from here
7 characters, 52 cards with 4 symbols
- respecting someone else’s sexual values
- getting “sexiled” (interpersonal)
- respecting someone’s gender identity
- respecting someone’s sexuality
- the media & religion’s effects
- racial stereotypes
- gender stereotypes
- sexuality stereotypes
Milestone definition and prototyping
I spent time this week defining milestones and designing a mechanic for SenseU.
I broke the game design and development down into parts and steps, then prioritized them.
I previously wanted to have the game exist in another world and for players to be guided by a mysterious being. However, instead of continuing to focus on the story without having defined a mechanic for the game, I decided to step back and figure out the game’s functionality instead.
I used a set of ideation worksheets I designed for a game development workshop to write down as many ideas as possible. After writing down 8 ideas, I expanded upon one of them
I did the ideation process twice. The “x” marks are over ideas that didn’t seem interesting or possible.
After deciding on the idea of solitaire for conversations, I did some sketches to figure out what the interface could look like.
Next, I created a basic interactive prototype using InVision.
My next step is to build the mechanic into the game. Wish me luck!
I created a mind map of my paper using Omnigraffle.
Finally, I created a mind map of the story for the game. Instead of the old story I mentioned above, you play as a resident advisor in college, supervising the students in your classes who also live in the dorm. Part of an RA’s job is to resolve conflicts between students in their dorm. This will fit well with the goal of my game.
That’s all for this week! Until next time.
Longform survey data tallied
I spent some time tallying longform data from the survey to get an idea of common sentiments people expressed. The following is an ordered list of sentiments gathered from 100 survey responses.
- I enjoy sex.
- I feel ok/good about my body.
- I don’t like the way my body looks.
- My religion made me feel guilty about sex & masturbation.
- I learned what I know from the internet/porn.
- I want to know how to make sex better and/or do more with my partner.
- I want to learn more about my body and how sex affects my health.
- I want to let go and be less stressed about my body during sex.
- People are awkward about discussing sex.
- Sex education in schools is inadequate.
These sentiments are helping me come up with quiz questions. Next is game mechanics. This is the hardest part.
After reviewing more of the survey data, I built a working prototype of the game over the past week.
Before jumping into code, I created an updated mockup of the game based on the images in my Pinterest board. Here’s the home screen.
After creating a mockup, I did some research into popular mobile screen sizes and decided on two of the most popular aspect ratios, 16:9 and 4:3. Next, I created a new GitHub repo and got to work using Phaser.
Here’s an animation showing the game’s interactions so far. I’m proud of how positive (and hopefully welcoming) the game looks.
Currently, the only working parts of the prototype are routing between game states. I’m going to continue working on reviewing survey data so I can begin building a sample quiz and interactive scene. Wish me luck!
Personal Research + Game Curriculum Planning
This week, I created a survey to help determine the direction of the game. Using my own data as well as resources from sites such as Planned Parenthood, I moved forward with designing a curriculum.
Over 150 wonderful people responded to my anonymous survey. Thanks to all of you, whoever you are! This survey helped me to contextualize my research and think about where the game should fit into people’s lives.
160 people responded to the survey. Here are some interesting bits of data.
48.8% of survey respondents were female. 44.4% were male, 5.6% had a custom gender identity, and 1.3% preferred not to say.
53.1% of survey respondents identified as not at all religious. 24.4% indentified as not much, 16.3% identified as somewhat religious, and 6.3% were very religious.
Most respondents (76.9%) either have never visited a house of worship or haven’t gone in a long time. 13.1% went less than once every month. 10% went once per month or more.
I did not ask which religion respondents were a part of, though some people mentioned their religion later in the survey.
60% of respondents knew a lot about their body. 36.3% knew some, 3.1% didn’t know much, and 0.6% knew nothing.
Most respondents (47.5%) masturbated at least once per week, and many others (30.6%) did so at least once per day. 18.1% of respondents rarely masturbated and/or hadn’t done so in a long time. 3.8% of respondents never masturbated.
39.4% of respondents had sex at least once per week. Surprisingly (to me, at least), only 1.9% of people had sex once or more per day. 18.8% of respondents had sex at least once per month, 11.3% did so at least once per year, and 15% hadn’t done so in a long time. 13.8% never had sex.
According to initial data from the survey, I think the goal of this project should be to help people be more comfortable with their bodies, sexuality, and sensuality. Many people are nervous about sex and their bodies due to lack of education, societal pressure, or religious rules. Additionally, I would like to discuss different types of sex as well as sexual and emotional intimacy.
I will be clustering long-form responses from the survey in the near future – expect that in another post!
Sex-positive documents and websites such as the following help me create a general idea of what works from an educational perspective.
Some of the values listed in the guidelines that I want to communicate through SenseU:
- Every person has dignity and self worth.
- Sexuality is a natural and healthy part of living. All persons are sexual.
- Sexuality includes physical, ethical, social, spiritual, psychological, and emotional dimensions.
- Individuals can express their sexuality in varied ways.
- Sexual relationships should be reciprocal, based on respect, and should never be coercive or exploitative.
- Young people explore their sexuality as a natural process in achieving sexual maturity.
Some of the topics from FLASH that I’d like to cover in SenseU:
- Gender Identification
- Non-Verbal Communication
- Asking for What You Want
- Sexual Health & Hygiene
- Sexual Decision-Making
Useful key concepts and values from FLASH:
- People’s bodies can look very different from each other, but still be normal and healthy.
- Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
- Birth control is very safe.
- There are 3 main kinds of sex: oral, anal and vaginal.
- Everyone has the right to say who touches their body and how.
- You can’t make someone gay or make them straight.
- There is lots of diversity in people’s bodies.
- There are important ways to show respect to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender.
Game topics & timeline
Based on the survey data, quidelines, and other research, here is a gameplay timeline that I think would work:
I’m still waffling regarding the game mechanics. I definitely want the game to have relatable characters, but I think it would be interesting to mix mechanics from different types of games rather than just stick to visual novel mechanics.
Below is how I think the game should be laid out.
Next, I will be prototyping the project. Expect a link soon!
Progress so far
I’m currently designing the logic behind the game and figuring out how people would play it.
General user flow
1) Quiz to learn about who you are as a player, generate character
- Select gender (female, male, custom, none)
- How religious are you?
- How often do you go to your house of worship?
- How much do you know about your body?
- How often do you explore your own body?
- How many times have you had sex of any kind with another person?
- How do you feel about sex?
2) Village of people who are ignorant about different things, help them through mini games. Grades?
3) Each section of the village concludes with a final test/quiz thing
4) Over time, you level up by getting good final scores
5) Final boss/test?
I added 30 more pins to my Pinterest board, found research papers and books, as well as wrote initial versions of my artistic statement for the project.
Planned Parenthood of America, “The Health Benefits of Sexual Expression”, Katharine Dexter McCormick Library, 2007. Web.
This paper discusses the common perception of sex in contrast to benefits of sexual activity. Despite the negative connotation sex has, it’s actually quite good for humans. When you prepare appropriately for the risks, sex can improve physical and mental wellness.
Yip, A. K. T., Keenan, M. and Page, S. Religion, “Youth and Sexuality: Selected Key Findings from a Multi-faith Exploration”. Nottingham: University of Nottingham, 2011. Web.
This paper reports findings about attitudes toward sexuality in religious young adults. Considering that the target audience for my thesis project is young adults who are/were religious, I believe this paper is quite relevant.
Ray, Darrel. “Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality”. IPC Press, 2012. Book.
This book discusses the perception of sex when it comes to religious people, as well as how religion affects sexuality. My project is targeting people who have been affected by religion and are interested in learning about sex, so I believe it will be a good reference.
Ryan, Christopher. “Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships”. Harper Perennial, 2012. Book.
This book not only talks about modern sex, but also discusses mainstream science’s view of science over the years. It targets common misunderstandings and explains how our bodies and sexuality work. I believe this book will help debunk stereotypes and false information people might have learned before interacting with my project.
Synopsis of initial readings
The perception of sex in comparison to the reality is quite different. Despite the fact that sexual activity has many benefits (including lower risk of mortality), people are terrified or completely ignorant about sex. This fear and ignorance is caused by a lack of positive information about sex in schools and online. Most textbooks that discuss sex cover the mortifying risks more than the positives.
Religion heavily affects the way people think about sex. Many religious young people reference religious texts to form their attitudes about sex, and many religious texts have a negative or nonexistant opinion about sex. Religious people often find the relationship between sex and religion to be one filled with tension, and some even compartmentalize the two subjects in order to lead a fulfilling life.
Religion can cause people to throttle their own sexuality. For example, some Christians report feeling shame and guilt instead of pleasure during sexual moments. This is caused by years of learning that sex is negative and dangerous. Some religious people practice celibacy due to the fact that they think of it as more fulfilling and believe that partners who truly love them will wait. However, they’re often missing out on chances to learn more about their identity.
Our complicated relationship with sex is caused by centuries of man-created ideologies and rules. Through unpacking these theories and misconceptions, we can improve our relationship with sex, and in turn improve our health. This process will probably feel awkward and scary – sex will feel unnatural, or even wrong, to people who are new and/or inexperienced, but with practice and self-exploration it becomes more normal and eventually beneficial.
The clash between sex and religion makes me curious. As a person who grew up quite religious and afraid of my sexuality, I have always wanted to express my feelings about the subject. My project will help others who have had the same experience and encourage parents to provide their children with a more positive sex education.
My project will people who know nothing about sex and/or are afraid of having sex due to misinformation. Across the world, people are not taught about sex or are only taught the risks of having sex. Part of growing up to be a healthy human being in our modern society includes having a positive relationship with sex. Through this project, people will learn to understand their own sexuality.
As a woman who grew up in a religious family, sex has always been portrayed in a negative light. However, when I became an adult I was suddenly expected to view sex in a different way. I hope my project will teach people that sex can be positive and that self-understanding is the most important part of sex.
Artistic/creative merit of proposed idea
Sex is a topic many people are afraid to discuss. In the United States, there is currently a movement toward less sex education despite the clear proof that more sex education keeps young people from having early, unwanted pregnancies. This is especially true in heavily religious parts of the country.
Unfortunately, most forms of media that discuss sex are either sterile and scientific or in-your-face with the intention of being shocking. My goal with this project is to approach sex from a positive standpoint and not as if it’s a taboo. By the end of the project, I hope people will have an open, honest resource to use and learn about sex.
Why my idea is a meaningful contribution to the field of digital media
There are only a few interactive forms of media that have covered sex from a sterile or non-taboo perspective. I believe that this project will inspire people to think differently about sex and how they use it in their work. In the future, perhaps people won’t stick to the common idea that “sex sells” because sex will just be normal.
Catt is a game maker, product designer, and developer who is currently working with SoundCloud. She has done design work for companies of all sizes including Bedrocket, NASDAQ OMX, and Scholastic. She started coding interactive dress-up dolls at the age of 12, began designing at the age of 15, and graduated from SVA with a BFA in Graphic Design in 2011.
Catt makes video games with the intention of pushing the medium forward and encouraging empathy as well as self-understanding. She covers a range of topics including but not limited to race, gender, and sexuality.
In her spare time, Catt organizes events for Tech Under Thirty; teaches game development with The Code Liberation Foundation; and draws comics. She is currently completing an MS in Integrated Digital Media at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.
You can follow her @cattsmall on Twitter and read her blog at www.cattsmall.com.
Project subjects & timeline
As my project came together, I found it easy to define subjects the project will cover and put together an historical timeline of events.
Sex and religion, innocence, purity, and gender.
- July 4, 343 C.E.: Constantius II Decrees that Only Christians Can Own Prostitutes
- June 21, 390 C.E.: Emperors Ban Women With Shaved Heads From Entering Churches
- May 15, 1871: Paragraph 175 of German Criminal Code Criminalizes Sex Acts Between Men
- November 1, 1896: National Geographic Includes Picture of Bare-Breasted Woman for First TimeNational Geographic Includes Picture of Bare-Breasted Woman for First Time
- January 8, 1904: Pope Pius X Bans Low-Cut Dresses
- March 9, 1907: Indiana Passes First Eugenic Sterilization Law in U.S.
- October 16, 1916: First Family Planning Center Established in New York City by Margaret Sanger
- October 25, 1916: Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Clinic is Raided and Closed in New York City
- June 4, 1919: U.S. Senate Finally Passes 19th Amendment for Women’s Suffrage
- April 5, 1922: American Birth Control League is Incorporated in New York
- March 20, 1931: Church of Christ Sanctions Birth Control; Catholic Church Calls it Moral Bankruptcy
- January 28, 1935: Iceland First to Legalize Abortion
- September 14, 1953: Alfred C. Kinsey Publishes Controversial Book ‘Sexual Behavior in the Human Female’
- April 28, 1960: Southern Presbyterian Church: Sex in Marriage Without Intent to Conceive is Not a Sin
- June 7, 1965: Griswold v. Connecticut: Ban on Dispensing Contraceptives to Married Couples Struck Down
- March 18, 1970: New York State Senate Allows Abortion Without Restrictions
- March 22, 1972: Eisentadt v. Baird: Supreme Court Rules Unmarried Couples Have Right to Contraceptives
- April 12, 1997 Judge James Leon Holmes: Feminism Leads to Abortion, Homosexuality, Culture of Death
- January 29, 1998: Women’s Clinic Bombed in Alabama
- October 12, 2000: Williams v. Pryor: Court Rules Alabama Can Ban the Sale of ‘Sex Toys’
- March 12, 2004: Utah Woman Refuses Caesarean Section, Charged With Murder After a Twin Dies
- May 7, 2004: FDA Bows to Political Pressure, Requires Prescription for Morning-After Pill
- July 31, 2004: Feminism Denounced by the Vatican
- March 15, 2011: Rep. Kathleen Passidomo: Children Who are Gang Raped are Responsible if their Clothing is Slutty
- October 28, 2011: Amanda Marcotte, a conservative Christian, says “The HPV vaccine will increase promiscuity by allowing girls believe it’s okay to have sex.”
Mood Board Creation + Board Members
Based on my project idea, I created a Pinterest-based mood board. I also chose ten people who would help to shape my project in an ideal world.
My ten board members
After all her success in the agency world, Gallop resigned as chairman of BBH in 2005 to do something different.Today, she continues to work in branding and advertising as a consultant, but is also tending some fascinating projects of her own. She launched MakeLoveNotPorn at TED2009, in an attempt to squash the myths of hardcore pornography and to begin a dialog around how real people have sex. In January 2010, Gallop will officially launch IfWeRanTheWorld, a simple, web platform designed to bring together human good intentions and corporate good intentions, and turn them into collective action.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a Japanese model and singer. Her public image is associated with Japan’s kawaisa and decora culture centered in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo.
Megumi Igarashi, who uses the pseudonym Rokudenashiko, is a Japanese sculptor and manga artist who has received public attention for her work featuring female genitalia.
Eve Ensler is an American playwright, performer, feminist, and activist, best known for her play The Vagina Monologues.
Takashi Murakami is an internationally prolific contemporary Japanese artist. He works in fine arts media—such as painting and sculpture—as well as what is conventionally considered commercial media.
Sandra Kim is the Founding CEO & Co-Publisher of Everyday Feminism. Since its launch two years ago, Sandra has led Everyday Feminism to become one of the largest independent feminist media sites in the world, with 4.5 million visitors per month from over 200 countries.
President of GaymerX, an annual convention focused on games – Video Games, Tabletop Games, Card Games and creating a fun and safe space for gamers and gaymers of all identities to have fun and hang out with like minded folks.
Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK. She is also the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, and Hunger, forthcoming from Harper in 2016.
Cara Ellison is a Scottish writer and game critic. She has written for The Guardian, VICE and the New Statesman, writes the best-named column in the world, S.EXE, at Rock Paper Shotgun, and has a regular opinion column at Eurogamer. She was also co-writer on Charlie Brooker’s How Videogames Changed The World for Channel Four television in the UK. Her writing and game narrative work has been featured in The New York Times and Wired, and she was one of The Guardian’s Top Ten Young People In Digital Media 2014.
Inculcated by waves of Saturday morning cartoons, characters portrayed in comic book literature, and videogame culture, Tina Lugo became instantly infatuated with the bright colors of the animated world. As she grew up, the social and sexual undertones of these cartoons unbridled themselves from the confines of her childhood memory. Tina began to realize that the sexual and often tongue-in- cheek humor she expressed had stemmed from what she had watched on early 90’s television and only fueled her passion to uncover the subversive and controversial qualities in the pop culture of yesteryear. The use of enamel and plexiglas in her work is to suggest that the smooth, hyper-gloss finishing of a world that allures us will always be beneath a transparent barrier we can touch but never enter-a replication of the voyeuristic qualities we all posses. Her style references and pays homage to her variety of modern influences which include: Takashi Murakami, Toshio Saeki, Hanna Barbera, Japanese animation, and Henry Darger.
Questions and initial project description
I came up with an initial description of my project in addition to 10 questions I would like to answer through/about my project.
10 questions related to my idea
- How can sex and religion be discussed without making people feel defensive?
- How do people who were brought up in religious families feel about their upbringing?
- How have others found their sexuality after being brought up in a religious setting?
- Who should this project be targeted at?
- Will men be able to use this project?
- How can this project be differentiated from existing projects about sexuality?
- Does religion always negatively impact people’s views of sex?
- Why is sex fun for some people, and how can it become fun for others?
- Is there a way to be spiritual and sexual?
- What are ways people can discover their sexuality without feeling awkward?
Description of idea
I am interested in this idea because the clash between sex and religion makes me curious. As a person who grew up quite religious and afraid of my sexuality, I have always wanted to express my feelings about the subject. I hope my project will help others who have had the same experience and possibly encourage parents to provide their children with a more positive sex education. My idea might be best as a game on a website that could eventually be used in schools. It might be best as an educational game or an interactive choose-your-own-adventure project.
Card Sort Ideation
In the first assignment, we were instructed to find 15 projects that inspire us. I found projects from the art world, TV, the web, and video games.
The projects that inspire me:
- Tumblr (website, app)
- Dots (game)
- That Dragon, Cancer (game)
- Crypt of the Necrodancer + DDR Mat (game)
- Monument Valley (game)
- SpellTower (game)
- Parable of the Polygons (website, game)
- Sailor Moon Crystal (anime)
- STEAMrole (website)
- Porco Rosso (anime)
- Lumino City (game)
- Slack (website, app)
- Fitbit (website, app)
- Takashi Murakami (show)
- MAGFest (event)
#Mixing all the cards up!
Grouping the cards:
Final ideas, in ranked order:
- Exploration of sexual identity through puzzles. Innocent, yet sexual. Could cover religion and slut-shaming as well. Abstract, creepy-cute design. Would use a touchscreen.
- Celebrating my ridiculous family through an interactive game. Exploring photography and learning about how my family got so big and why we’re so messed-up. Honest and personal.
- Revival through communication. Heal a dead planet/area by talking to regrow life. Ideally would be a game several people play together. Concentrates heavily on words – are there good ones and bad ones?
- Learn about a family by exploring their life through photos. What happened to them is a mystery that the player/reader must uncover.
- Magical fantasy game set in a bright, colorful location. Being brave and finding success while fighting harassment. Changing perspective allows the player to win.
- Fight an earthling invasion – aliens trying to save their own planet from human. Brains vs. brawn with a down-to-earth setting. Comic book aesthetic – involves a lot of dialogue. The goal: to convince humans that you are sentient beings who deserve to keep your home.