Designing game with academic papers as a starting point:
This is the first time I have to create a game inspired by academic paper, and it was interesting. I didn’t start to make games until after college which I spent six years doing research in sociology and gender studies (worked various jobs as a research assistant, as well as published my own research on porn and online dating). Even now I still read regularly since it is my primary hobby (especially after video game became a profession). So a lot of my game designs are inspired by the books I have read. That being said, it is still very different from what I did for this project.
Upon getting the request, I got stuck in a loop. Every time I finish a paper, I have a set of ideas about what I can do and what I should avoid. That being said, with so many rules in mind I wasn’t able to even start the project because I cannot find the “perfect idea” that I can apply everything I have learned. In addition, I was also scared that what I have learned in class would disapprove of my current ideas and I will have to restart again. As a result, I find myself procrastinate much more than I used to. For some reason, personally, this approach of game design just activates all my imposter syndrome inside out. The deadline was the only reason I finished the game, and the end result is actually closer to what I imagined the game would be at the beginning of the semester.
The game idea started as a joke. After adopted my first cat Zero last year, I became a full-on cat lady. I start making and collecting all things cats, including playing a lot of cat theme videogame. My partner also likes to “voiceover” whenever my cat starts to do weird things (like always). As an introvert, I genuinely feel related to cats a lot of times. I have been making cat games before (https://monicattie.itch.io/caterdate) and found that people feel a lot more comfortable with touchy topics under the disguise of cats’ images. In addition, it allows me to write more freely without feeling the burden of writing about actual humans. I choose to make the game in Renpy, which I wrote about in a separate post so I will not elaborate here. I think it is a good choice for the topic and genre of the game.
Also during the planning stage, I was very tempted to make the game playable in VR. Because I was playing a visual novel in Oculus Quest and was just amazed by the fact that everyone looks like they are 10 feet tall. I thought it would be fun to have a fluffy giant cat looking at you. However this turns out to be a lot more than I thought, not only do I need to learn VR development and 3D animation, I also have to deal with optimization issues with fur animation (I will not give up the fur). Since I only have less than 8 weeks to do this on top of my 50 hrs a week work, I decide to be realistic and just make a simple visual novel.
Another major inspiration for me is the youtube channel Greystillplays. Grey does not a lot what scholar would call a queer play to small low budget indie games that are mostly an expansion of game jam projects. In addition, he is also known for creating elaborate background stories of the games he plays based on simple random information. I want my game to be something that gives the player ways to explore the game and makeup gaps with their own imagination.
I don’t want my game to be just something out of nowhere, so I spent a lot of hours doing research to make sure my portrayal of the casting couch is accurate and effective. So I played numerous sex games I can find and watched A LOT of porn in the casting coach genre.
I played many porn games in my inventory as well as watching gameplay videos of other games that I do not have the energy to play. This is an ongoing project so I will probably post more on this topic in the future. I will summarize my thoughts related to this project. I notice some things that stand out to me. First, most sex games on the steam market are tailor to the straight male gaze. Usually, there is a lot of women who DTF anytime and always ready to please when receiving the correct gift. As a bisexual woman, these kinds of writing is a lot more comical than erotic, since a lot of characters are designed without queer women in mind. I want to mimic the style to add a comical effect in my game, but I have to make up everything in my mind since I have zero real-life experience that can be used as a reference. I also binged all the episode of the podcast My Dad Wrote a Prono trying to understand sex fantasies from the perspective of a straight guy.
In addition to research on games and writings, I also go straight to the source of inspiration: casting couch porn. Despite my years of research and consume pornography in various genre, I actually know very little about casting couch porn for a simple reason: it is boring. It usually consists of an amateur actor sitting in a plane looking set doing villain sex acts. Since it is a common knowledge that most of them are fake, to me it just feels like a lazily made product to coup money. For this project, I view hundreds of casting coach porn on major free porn websites in both straight (where the interviewee is always a woman) and gay (where an interviewee is a man) genre. I focus my attention on what type of questions are usually asked, how the actors have behaved and what is the role of interviewers in the films.
My finding is that the interviewer (who also call themselves male talent) is always anonymous. The official reason is that so they can keep lure more innocent people, but I suspect it also helps the viewers to imagine themselves in the role of the interviewer. Secondly, the interviewee is almost always nervous and doing a bad job when being told to show off themselves, despite their previous experience being performer. This is a lot more fun to me in gay porn than in straight porn due to the contrast of hypersexual males common in porn. In addition, the questions are divided into two kinds: asking about personal info of the interviewees, and persuade the interviewees to perform sex acts on camera. Some brands like to persuade more than others to increase the sense of domination. Others like to skip over the question parts asap and go straight to actions.
What I would do differently:
During the production, I made all the art assets before I wrote my first paragraph. The good thing is I can focus all my attention on writing at a later stage. However, the problem of leave writing to last is that I have to deal with certain constraints with what I have at the time since I do not have unlimited time to redo all the assets. I will probably try to do the writing first in the future so I will have more direction and freedom when making art assets. I also would like to have more playtesting and research in the future ideally. In this project, I wasn’t able to playtest until two weeks before the deadline. While I did get a lot of great feedback, I was not able to do too much major change mechanically. I wish I would have more conversations with people about my projects since that is how most of my ideas come from. Another thing I would add to my project is that I will probably use more sound and music. I chose to keep my game silent because I believe it is better than using random preset sound cues. I thought about using a generic meowing in the game but decided against it in the end because it does not add anything.