Game Jam Pep Talks
WRITER, ARTIST, DESIGNER
My first proper game came about because I was very, very annoyed. Specifically, I was so annoyed at Papers, Please that I wanted to throw my computer against the wall.
I could appreciate that it was well done on a conceptual and technical level, but as an immigrant who's dealt with a lot of trauma from the immigration processes of multiple countries, I frankly did not want to sympathise with the immigration agent. I don't care that your family is sick and dying - so many migrants and refugees are sick and dying too and hardly anyone sympathises with them, with us.
I wanted to make a response game - thing is, it's been so long since I've made a game. I'm talking QBasic and pre-CSS HTML era here. So the idea got thrown into the backburner, until a friend told me about GaymerX's GXDev Game Jam for LGBTQ+ game devs in San Francisco in 2015. I'd just started exploring the games industry then but I didn't think I quite counted as a game dev yet, but I figured I'd give it a shot.
First in line for the opening pitch session, I said: "Papers, Please from the point of view of the visa applicant." Immediately I was approached by a couple, Patrick and Charlotte, who had coding and design skills and wanted to make my idea a reality. Together we came up with a set of highly annoying mini-games: sluggish escort mazes, mazes with invisible walls, a slurry of humiliating questions. I worked on the writing & content (including scans of my old passport stamps!) while Patrick and Charlotte worked on the technical side.
That game, Here's Your Fuckin' Papers, changed my life. It's now a very successful fundraiser for immigration-related causes, such as passports for trans people & support for Muslims during the US Travel Ban. I got to be part of Indie Train Jam in 2017 and made a similar game (What The *(@# Do They Need Now) about the conflicting feelings of travelling during the Travel Ban. I've been invited to panels about games and immigration. I've made more inroads in the wider games industry - in fact, this week I'm managing volunteers for the Freeplay Independent Games Festival in Melbourne!
Sometimes the games industry can underestimate writers, storytellers, and people with lived experiences because our contributions are not as flashy or even obvious as coders or graphic designers. But we're the ones that provide the meat of the game, the ones that give all those skills purpose and direction. Game jams are an amazing way to bring life to your ideas, put your story into a form that can be shared and experienced by many. So connect with others in this game jam, find the meat to your bones, make something - and it may change your life too.
Creatrix Tiara writes, produces, and performs work based around identity, liminality, and community, particularly through Tiara’s experiences as a queer immigrant gender-nonconforming femme of colour with mental health issues. Tiara is very interested in the intersections of games and performance art, such as immersive experiences and escape rooms, and how they can help people understand the lives of those different than them via direct interaction and empathy. Tiara’s most recent project is Queer Lady Magician, intersecting stage magic, social justice, and autobiographical storytelling.