Kuo Jeng Yang
Nara Kasbergen


An experimental art game that encourages players to rethink their own identities by having them create avatars that are only collections of sounds and energy, offering a new perspective on living life, interacting with others, and exploring the world


Creating Digital Games,Identity and Evasion

"ipse" (from the Latin word for "self") is a digital, online game for the Android mobile platform. Genre-wise, it would be considered an "art game", a game that uses its gameplay to tell a narrative that offers a commentary about life, rather than focusing on just creating a fun but shallow experience.

The idea is that unlike most digital avatars, which often resemble ourselves or are always at least represented in some sort of physical "creature" form, ipse will have its players create avatars that are collections of sounds and energy. Visualized as a sort of amorphous amoeba, each avatar will have an elliptical outline, but this serves only as a container and not to give the avatar form. Within this boundary, waves and particles represent the sounds and energy that represent the player's virtual projection of themselves, and these are fully customizable.

While avatar creation is purposely intended to be a large portion of the game, encouraging players to rethink their own identities, for the actual gameplay, players will take their avatars out into a virtual space, while is primarily just an explorative process. They will encounter "food", which can be eaten and a certain amount of food will allow players to "level up", which in this case will consist of gaining a new particle of sound that players must integrate into their identity, simulating human growth over time. They will also encounter barriers and obstacles, which will either prevent their passage or even damage them by taking away a particle, until a player has reaches a certain level or set of properties, at which point they can pass safely on by.

But perhaps the most poignant aspect is interaction with other players. When two avatars meet, they can overlay each other in the virtual space, synchronizing their individual sounds, producing a new and more powerful song. In this synchronous state, each player is given a simple choice: give one of their sound particles to the other player, take a particle from the other player, or do nothing. This simulates human interaction as a process where "particles" of information are constantly given and taken. And just like we need to integrate this information into our own worldview, each sound particle that an avatar takes or is given must be integrated into their personal song.

Because it is an art game that is meant to tell a story rather than being achievement-based, the game has no end state. There is some sense of stats and "levelling up", but this is primarily just a way to give the game some structure and the players intermediate goals to work towards. The ultimate goal, however, is to look at the world and life in a new and different way.

Although I didn't do much research perse and the game is more a product of a semester of thinking about identity and especially identity as it relates to games, as described in the previous section, I did feel inspired by the game Passage, which is the epitome of an art game: not really fun to play, but very powerful in the way it tells the story through gameplay.

I've also had to do a lot of research into developing games using Processing for Android, with the help of Matt Parker.

Gamers and non-gamers alike can play this game. The difficulty level is very low and there should be no barriers to entry; no assumptions are made about a player's experience with other games.

User Scenario
The user starts up the game and is prompted to create their avatar. They spend at least a good 10 minutes composing their "song", exploring the interface in a very tactile, explorative way. When they finally feel that they have settled on a creation they feel represents themselves, they hit "save" and take their avatar out into the world. Some basic instructions tell them about food to consume and obstacles to avoid, but otherwise they are left to explore the world alone.

But wait! -- suddenly, they encounter another avatar, another harmonious collection of sounds. The two beings swim onto one another's screens and are overlayed, producing one powerful song composed of both of their individual sounds. Filled with benevolence towards this unnamed stranger (who might be somebody standing over their phone three feet away, or someone in another city), each player decides to give the other one of their particles -- each reevaluating how this should fit into their own avatar, redefining their own identity.

Processing for Android, using the Eclipse IDE.

It's still in progress; so far I've been working on the avatar creation. Making it fully customizable is difficult, but also rewarding. I'm also trying to keep the code as simple as possible and avoiding images entirely, because I know once I put the game online, it will need fast load times.