Game developing, empathy and feminism

After a awaited Easter break, we kick of the last week of the video game-part of this course with a visit to Rain Games studio here in Bergen. This visit was made possibly by out classmate Patrick Solbue, and in substitute of the missing lectures this week, due to our teachers absence.

After a long walk and a lot of stairs, CEO Peter Meldahl welcome us in to their office. We are met with glas-walls, a small gaming loft and everything is centered around the coffee-machine (as it should). He briefly introduces himself, the company and some of his employees. Rain is one of a few independent video game developer here in Bergen, and have made games like World to the west and Teslagrad.


We were free to explore the office, as long as we didn’t open any closed doors. Up in the loft we where able to try and play their game. I only watched some of my classmates play it, but the graphic is beautiful and the characters are so cute. It was strange to “play” a game from the top down, but you got used to it after a while.

From steam:
World to the West is a pulpy, cartoony top down action adventure inspired by European adventure comics. Take control of four unique characters —Lumina the Teslamancer, Knaus the orphan, Miss Teri the mind bender and the gloriously mustachioed strongman, Lord Clonington—, each with their their own motivations, skills and interweaving storylines, as they seek to escape the dark shadow of an ancient prophecy. Travel trough corrupt colonies, lush jungles and frozen tundras, as you snoop through the secrets of a forgotten civilization.

Peter also showed us a game that is under development, a game called MesmerHe demonstrated how they made the building cast shadows, how they made the movements in the water (or the illusions of movement) and how they made the day/night cycle change by making a lamp rotate around a flat earth (it is real!). Most of the effects (like shadows and lighting) is built into the program they are using (unity game engine) so they don’t have to make everything from scratch. Peter told us that they could, if they wanted to. But it takes a lot of time, and there is no need to invent something that other people already have invented.

I thought this game sounded really interesting, and more up my alley than the “World to The West”, and he compared it to “Don’t starve” which is one of my favorite games. You are in the city of Pardam, and have to gather resources and make connections before the Great Revolution hits a couple of days later. It was really interesting to see how they make their games and to hear Peter tell about the prosess, and how to piece all the parts of a game together. How the art and code melts together into a game.


This week we were also asked to play one out of six different empathy games. I really wanted to try “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice”, but my budget wanted otherwise. I therefore ended up whit “Depression quest”, which is free on Steam.

From Steam:
Depression Quest is an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. This game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings, and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.

The game states that the play-trough is not gonna be a fun experience, but it is ment to illustrate what depression is, so people without depression can understand how it is to live with depression, and also to show people who suffers from depression that they are not alone.

The game is text-based, and the play-trough took me about 2 hours. The game consist of multiple choices and the story is effected by your choices, and there are multiple possible endings. As I have, and occasionally still do, suffered from depression – it was easy to put myself in the this persons shoes. And a lot of what I read in the introduction could easily have been me (Except that I am forever single). I think I was able to make better choices for this person, than I have been for my self. And my heart was in my throat when I decided to get a cat, terrified I was gonna neglect it.

The music is horrible, tho. I tried to have it on for as long as I could, considering it was part of the experience, but after sometime I had to turn it of. The music is depressing, but the biggest problem was the length. It is so short. And then it loops. Over and over again. The story is well written, and very personal. I was surprised over how much I got sucked in to the story, since my expectations was kind of low. The game looks terrible and it is free. I am curious tho, to how people without depression experience the game, I don’t know if they will get it.

Of course, depression is much more complex than the game is able to transmit, but I do think it paints a fair picture. Also, they are not kidding about the fun part. It is not at all fun. Like, at all. Which makes it hard to finish, especially with the short soundtrack and terrible aesthetics. But I think it is a fairly OK game, considering.

I could not write about “Depression quest” without mentioning the #GamerGate controversy and movement.

It all started when Zoe Quinn, the game developer behind “Depression quest” was trying to publish her game, which is based on her own experience with depression. She immediately started receiving threats. It all escalated when her ex-boyfriend wrote several blog post claiming she had a relationship with a journalist who wrote about her game. The hashtag #gamergate exploded on twitter, thinking they where debating journalists’ ethics in video-game coverage and defending the “gamer” identity, but they where targeting Quinn – a female, independent video-game developer and other woman. #Gamergate has been linked to sexism, misogyny, and criticism of feminism. This brought attention to the gaming culture and how woman in the video game industry are treated.

If you are interested, you can read more about it here!


– Lisa

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