Thursday, 26 November 2009

Interesting choices

This is from a project Leo and I worked on in about 2001 called Dilemmas. It was an interactive animated TV show about a teenager called Cathy who would often break the fourth wall by turning to ask the viewer for advice.

Dilemmas arose out of adventure games, but it always annoyed me the way those would focus on things like whether you could stack up the crates in the right order to reach the rope that you could tie to the hook... and so on. Those are the least interesting elements of any story! The interesting choices are the personal ones: white lies, temptations, keeping your promises, etc.

Not that Dilemmas was about picking the right moral path. That's just another kind of puzzle set by the designer: "You score 5 Niceness Points". Bah. Rather, you had to build a relationship with Cathy. She would almost always take your advice (unless it was really dumb) but the outcome often depended on judging the course of action that suited her character best. She was actually quite an effective liar, for example - though she didn't always feel good about it, and that would have an effect too.

Some of the outcomes might appear better or worse, but whatever you suggested for Cathy to do, you'd get a story. There was no fail-and-start-again stuff. And she remembered the advice you gave her, and whether it got her into trouble, so there was that sense of advising a friend rather than steering a puppet-like character around.

Trouble is, Dilemmas was targeted at 9-12 year old girls - not, in 2001, considered a very big potential games market. And it suited a style of play where a bunch of viewers would sit watching on the sofa, calling out suggestions or letting Cathy get increasingly impatient till she did something off her own bat.

Back then, not a chance. But in the post-Wii era, who knows?


  1. Seems like the platform of choice for that age range nowadays is the Nintendo DS, especially if there is a story involved. I can easily see it working in a one-on-one, intimate way where you get to know Cathy in quiet moments, and she becomes a secret friend you spend time with when other people are too busy. Or maybe you just want time on your own - but not quite.

    You could wrap it around a journal theme, where the two of you create a journal together, and your advice helps direct her side of the story. You could even become one of the characters in it. The DS has a perfect book format complete with stylus, and with the new DSi you could even add photos of yourself to her scrapbook.

    Loads of potential...

  2. To back up the animated show ("show"? "game"?) we did have some ideas about an ongoing phone app where Cathy would ask your fashion advice in a less story-driven, more chit-chatty way. That was back in the days of WAP and I think your idea for putting it all on DS would work much better.

    I really love the idea of a secret friend, creating a journal together, putting your own photos in, etc. Can't you get A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. to pitch a game like that? ;)

  3. The idea certainly captures my imagination - I would love to see "girl games" get past the present fashion/shopping/clique-y rubbish. I will give it some thought and make some scribbles, but I won't hold my breath. Our recent attempt at pitching our own IP fell heavily on its face, and it will probably be a while before we go out on that particular limb again. :\