On Wednesday my students pitched their ideas for short games based on their personal experience. It was a really chill pitch session where we just sat in a circle and talked through our ideas. I’m pretty excited about the different ideas. All of them seem relatively well scoped and doable, and there are some legitimately interesting ideas in there. Hopefully the games match the ideas!
Before next week’s class, the students have been asked to analyse one of the games about a personal experience that was provided to them and to think about what it is about, how it is about that, and what they can learn from it for their own game.
One of the games on the list is Andi McClure’s He Never Showed Up, made for a dating sim game jam. Despite following Andi’s work for years, this is one of the few games on the list I’d never played before (a previous lecturer of Studio 2, Christy Dena, added it). It’s a simple and powerful short game about being stood up on a date. The player has a hammer and can smash apart the screens reality, knocking down buildings and the stars themselves if they want. Eventually, the player finds the elusive boy and smashes him, too—only to find out it was all a fantasy: the world was not smashed, the boy never showed up, and you were still stood up.
It’s a very simple game. A player could plausibly finish it in ten seconds if they wished. But it also possesses an emotional and expressive breadth. It is very clear what the game is about, through a combination of the title and the represented mechanics (An aside: I think my students were very interested in just how much context a game can be given by the title. A different example of this we looked at was Increpare’s Cooking, For Lovers). The presentation is very simple, but there is this great possibility of expressive play where the player can choose just how much of the world they destroy. Are you just seeking out the boy to smash him, or do you want to tear down the whole universe?
Ultimately, He Never Showed Up communicates this great sense of catharsis, of letting off steam at this outrageous and unfair situation. What I hope my students got out of playing it is a realisation of how much you can say with very little.