YS: Maze Shooter

Game File: 

Unzip the zip file. Open the folder. Double click the .jar file.

Arrows keys move.
WASD keys shoot.

Fill the combo meter to increase rate of fire.
Acquire stars by not dying.

Lengthy Description:

I have always been interested in concepts surrounding the mind and how we might one day share thoughts as easily as we have conversations. Its one of the reasons I really liked the movie Inception so much. It also got me thinking about how we could do something like this with a video game. More specifically the question was “Could you plant an idea in someone’s head through playing a game?” Obviously something like that would be incredibly difficult so I scaled it back a bit to “Could I evoke an specific emotion in a player without them realizing it?” I chose fear because it seemed the easiest to me and the goal was simple. Without particularly scary looking imagery or scary sounds could I give the player the impression of fear? Here is the game concept I came up with:

The setting is simple. You are a volunteer for the Pel Company (based on the Finish word pelko which means fear). You handler is Broadus (After John B. Watson for his famous study on “Little Albert”) who guides you through 13 “simulations” which you are told are helping to test a new brain-computer interface system. The game-play itself is quite simple. The area you play in is a small maze with enemies scattered around it. Your goal is to eliminate these enemies to proceed to the next level. To incorporate the fear element I themed each of the levels to be based on a simple fear. The first level is a tutorial. The enemies are cockroaches and the maze is designed to look like you are underground. The idea was to invoke the feeling of creepiness if you were to crawl underground and find a batch of bugs down there. My idea was to start with more base fears and move on to more and more abstract concepts. Here is the list of levels:

Level 2 – Snakes
Level 3 – Spiders
Level 4 – Ghosts
Level 5 – Clowns
Level 6 – Other People
Level 7 – Tornadoes
Level 8 – Intimacy
Level 9 – Commitment
Level 10 – Money
Level 11 – Public Speaking
Level 12 – Failure
Level 13 – Death

As for the motivation of the character in the game you are actually committing a sort of psychic murder. Pel Co. paints it as you doing various “simulations”, but these simulations are actually you interacting with another sentient mind. More importantly you are trying to destroy it. The text between levels is the mind attempting to communicate with you. It’s trying to tell you that you are killing it. How are you killing it you might ask? My idea was that, by confronting the fears this other mind has, you are destroying its psyche. More specifically you are getting rid of its fear of death and therefore forcing it to let itself die. For the communication sections there is actually a theme behind each stage. I chose the five stages of grief and distributed them as evenly as I could across the 13 levels. You will notice the tone of the messages changes according to this distribution:

1. Denial / Isolation (Level 1 – 4)
2. Anger (Level 5 – 7)
3. Bargaining (Level 8 – 9)
4. Depression (Level 10 – 12)
5. Acceptance (Level 13)

I ran into several limitations. Mostly to do with my artistic ability, but also what could be done in 2D web game. Although I am pretty happy with the final result when releasing it into the wild it got very negative reactions. I think this is mostly because no one actually got what I was going for here and just saw it as kind of a crappy 2D shooter. I blame myself for this failure since if no one gets what you are trying to do then obviously you have done it wrong. I would like to explore this concept deeper, but I think I would need to work closely with an artist to really get the visual design I am looking for.

Zeke Swepson
Made For: 
Pirate Kart 2