GDC 2011: One Falls for Each of Us: The Prototyping of Tragedy

Brenda Brathwaite
-          Ian Schriber informed her that she was a “black box designer” (she has a mysterious process)
-          “Mechanic is the Message” series of games (all physical, non-digital games)
o   The New World
§  Game about slavery boat ride
§  Created to teach her daughter about the slave trade
o   Síochán leat (aka “The Irish Game”)
§ Cromwellian invasion  taking of Irish lands by English
§  Inspired a lot by family, background
·         “What’s the point in being Irish if the world doesn’t break your heart”
·         Always this feeling that things will go wrong
§  Grew up Irish Catholic
o   Train
§  Game is to pack a train – turns out to be for the Holocaust
§  The game is about regret, complicity
o   Mexican Kitchen Workers
§  In prototype
§  Kind of broken right now – “maybe it’s done?”
o   Cité Soliel
§  In prototype
§  Same board, 2 games being played
§  During the daytime you make your moves, during the nighttime your people are being used as resources for a gang
o   One Falls for Each of Us
§  About the Trail of Tears/The “Indian Removal Act”
o   Games were never intended to be shown or shared with the world
§  Game design challenges - accidentally released
-          Why tragedy?
o   Inspired by photographer Zig Jackson, who decided not to take a picture of a place where a massacre happened
o   Question of “do you take the picture or not?”
o   So, do you make the game or not?
o   What kinds of games could we make?
o   Tragedy is a topic, it’s not in game
o   Unfortunately she gets comments from her friends like “Brenda likes to make people cry” J This is not the aim!
-          Personal Process
o   Very different to make such personal games by yourself
o   The industry is steeped in the idea that games need to be fun
o   She believes that the game already exists, she just has to find it – it will reveal itself
o   Inspiration in process:
§  Richard Serra’s work (large scale sculptures). His sculptures have odd properties,  they change your physical space, which has an effect on you
§  Jackson Pollack’s process of circling the canvas, trying to figure out where to start. She has this with ‘circling the game’
-          Process for this game
o   During a road trip, started thinking: what would it mean to leave my home, my ancestors’ home for someone else?
o   In general, in cases where there is human on human tragedy, there is a system (which can be used to create a game)
o   Started by studying maps
§  How did they try to remove them? How did people respond?
§  Understanding that history/research aren’t accurate
o   Andrew Jackson – architect of act
§  Decided that she wanted players to plays as white men (she has been accused of ‘appropriating other people’s cultures’ for her games – so this was sort of in response to that)
o   Should the board be a map of the USA? Debated for 4 months
o   Her other games make you feel complicit. In this case, she wanted that, as well as wanting you to realize that this act was absurd
-          The game so far
o   4 players, (play as white men) have to remove Indians
o   In the game you have resources, which you can spend on the Indians to help them, or to grow your own country
o   Winner = accumulates the most progress
o   The indian figures: 50,000 figures!!!!
§  Deliberate sense of scale!
§  1 to 1 of how many people were really moved on the Trail of Tears
§  There is no convenient way of moving that many game pieces
·         It shouldn’t be convenient!
-          More process
o   Doesn’t like to make games with anyone around
o   Individually dying the pieces
§  Putting them down on newspaper in the kitchen
§  Haiti in the news, so putting pieces down on terrible photos – sense of interconnectedness
o   Design process: try to feel what they feel
-          Didn’t finish game in time for GDC because had to crunch for project. Feels regret for this
-          Why tragedy?
o   Brenda was personally attacked in 2006
o   Horrific – feels as though brain has been halved
o   Made a game in her imagination to help her cope with it: experienced what happened as a system to come to terms with it
o   The game “The Path” was also helpful in dealing with tragedy, gave great release
§  Games can do anything, they are a magic medium

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