ARIC and Bloom Digital Media Make Games for a Cause
Previously, we showed you ARIC’s involvement in creating video games for varying demographics, and addressing varying social issues. Another such effort occurred when ARIC partnered with Bloom Digital Media. The goal of the collaboration was to help teenagers learn about safe relationships and dating, in a format they’d engage in, without talking down to them. The result was the creation and release of LongStory, a video game about navigating issues facing modern teens.
Described by the developers as being about “surviving your teen years,” the game is a visual novel, an interactive story with an emphasis on choices. It deals with issues that aren’t really touched on in media aimed at teens, including online dating, mental illness, social anxiety, and questioning your sexuality. You’re the new girl in school, trying to fit in, dealing with bullying and love. There’s also a mystery about the previous occupant of your locker, and what became of her, but the primary focus is on the very real issues your character faces, and how you deal with them. As per the developer’s goal of making the game inclusive, you can choose to date either boys or girls.
According to Miriam Verburg, Industry Partner from Bloom Digital Media, ARIC set them up with the resources and manpower to put the project together. “The script was written by myself and Renee Vrantsidis,” she explains. “Coding was done by Miguel Martinez, and some of the art was done by a student, Yi Pan.” The whole affair was managed by Principal Investigator JP Stringham.
Aside from generating manpower, ARIC also helped test the game, along with other partners including Planned Parenthood Canada. The game also received test-runs at Fan Expo Canada, Dames Making Games Toronto and WordPlay. “It was much more work than we could have imagined,” Verburg admits.
The culmination of these efforts was the release of the first episode of the game in May 2014, available free for PC, Mac, Android and iOS [link] “We decided to do a 'soft' launch for the first episode,” Verburg explains, “meaning we released it only via social media and without a press release or any other large-scale publicity efforts. The first episode has been made available for free, and has been publicized largely through our tumblr and twitter.”
As for the future of the project, the next episode will be released this fall. Continuing with the theme of inclusivity, subsequent episodes will allow for you to play with a male avatar, and give you the ability to pick both physical gender and the gender your character identifies as.
Meanwhile, the development team have a chance to do a panel at SXSW Interactive 2015, outlining the process of making the game. Entitled “but where's the market for that?!” the panel will also talk about the role of community in helping unique titles find their audience, as well as an analysis of market-driven innovation. SXSW Interactive has a novel feature where you vote for which panels will be featured at the show. Help the one of our more unique projects out, and vote here.
Trailer for the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnSVOXovXcM