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Friday, June 9 • 5:10pm - 5:30pm
Life in the Megapocalypse: A critical making post-mortem

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In this paper presentation I provide the audience with both a theoretical discussion of critical making and a practical example of what a critical making project looks like through a brief discussion drawn from my dissertation, in which I outlined a theoretical approach for exploring queer representation in video games and created a game prototype focused on that concept. The presentation consists of two components:
  • A discussion and overview of the critical making approach I took in my dissertation project, Critical Modding: A Design Framework for Exploring Representation in Games, which is primarily drawn from one specific chapter of my dissertation.
  • An example of critical making provided through a short demonstration of Life in the Megapocalypse, the ink game prototype focused on queer representation that I created as part of my dissertation project.
During the discussion, I first briefly describe my dissertation project with a focus on the critical making elements of the project that I outline in a postmortem which comprises the final chapter of my dissertation. This postmorterm relies on research into video game design, especially Chandler’s Game Production Handbook and Hunicke, LeBlanc, and Zubek’s “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research,” both of which provide a framework for my discussion of design strategies for making games focused on representation. In addition, the chapter addresses queer video game studies, especially Ruberg’s Video Games Have Always Been Queer, Shaw’s Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture, and the Queer Game Studies collection edited by both authors. This research supports the game design research I cite, allowing me to frame my discussion of game design and representation through queer game studies.

After the discussion outlined above, I then provide an overview of the critical making approach I used to create Life in the Megapocalypse, a choice-based interactive fiction game prototype built in the inky scripting engine that I created as part of my dissertation. The game focuses on queer characters surviving in a “megapocalypse” setting in which multiple apocalyptic tropes have all played out simultaneously and is aimed at being easily modified by users new to programming so that it can be used in a variety of formal or informal educational contexts. I discuss the timeline of the project, why I chose the inky engine to create the work, some challenges I encountered while creating it, and some design strategies that others can use while engaging in their own critical making work, especially work that addresses queer representation and video games. Overall, I offer the audience an overview of the kinds of theoretical considerations that go into critical making work and argue that such elements are important to consider while engaging in critical creative practices.

During the demonstration portion of the presentation, I first show some gameplay from Life in the Megapocalypse to provide the audience with some context about the game. I also present some of the ink code that I used to create the work to offer an “under the hood” look at how the work is constructed. While I do not intend to offer a full on “workshop” discussing how to write ink code and work with the inky engine, I provide a brief introduction to both along with some further resources so that interested participants can explore ink further. The aim of the demonstration portion of the presentation is to offer an example of what a critical making project looks and to connect the practical elements that went into making the game to the theoretical concepts I outlined in the discussion portion of the presentation.


Kenton Howard

University of Central Florida

Friday June 9, 2023 5:10pm - 5:30pm EDT
Main 212