Connections

Game 1: Connections

Platform: Flash
Engine: Flashpunk
Development time: 1 week
Controls: WASD for movement, left mouse click to link.

A game about relationships and the difficulty of maintaining them throughout life.

Music by Adam Lederer.

Play it on Kongregate.

  • Chris Franklin

    As far as a systemization of meaningful human relationships goes, this blows The Marriage out of the water.  In my particular playthrough I had a bad relationship with my mother – simply based on where the enemies were spawning I spent my time on the left side of the screen defending my father and brother and let my relationship with my mother slowly fall apart.  We’d make up every once in a while – when there was a lull in my life and I could spare the energy we’d patch things up.  But it would never last – I was always more preoccupied with friends and lovers and dealing with my own problems took precedence over her.

    Then she died.

    It was a pretty profound gutpunch to realize that I had never really made things right between us, and now she was gone.  My dad died soon afterwards, and I withdrew into myself.  No longer a social butterfly I found solace in my siblings in old age before I, too, passed away full of regret.

    New games journalism aside, this is a fantastic approach to a procedural deconstruction of the maintenance of our social circles.  And best of all I’d argue it avoids falling for the trap of current definitions of procedural rhetoric as described by Miguel Sicart (http://gamestudies.org/1103/articles/sicart_ap).  The arbitrary placement of the enemies doesn’t intrinsically represent anything as a raw game mechanic – you could, perhaps, make the argument that the randomly placed enemies reflects the arbitrary conditions of our relationships but that would be in stark contrast to the thesis of the work which is that we are ultimately in control of the quality of our relationships with others.  However, the effect of the random enemy placement when *played* is that the player is forced to make dynamic decisions about the relationships he or she is engaged in – which ones are worth saving, and why?

  • Uncanny. I was talking about a concept much like this with some others, but partly about work/life balance, and the frustration of giving up one for the other, but needing both to stay sane. It stemmed from the cost involved in both time and money to travel and visit people, but your “economy” in this game is a little different. People you build a relationship become part of your life force.

    I wasn’t exactly sure what the triangles were meant to represent, but I guess that’s intentionally open to interpretation. In my head, they were the problems that life throws at us. I saw problems everywhere and I felt like I had to be very protective of everyone, rather than just enjoy their time (by spending it on them).

    That resonates with me quite a lot. I’ve found that when we open ourselves up to relationships, it’s hard to accept that we can’t take on everyone’s burdens for them, as much as we would like it.
    My parents both died quite young – possibly too young to ever know them. They were throwing support my way, and I mistook it for angry bullets – criticism and contempt. In fact, they were helping me out. Yep. That resonates a bunch.

    Perhaps I’ll play again, and this time focus on friendships, and only try to help out in people’s actual time of need – let them own their own problems for a while. Can’t live other people’s lives for them.

    Like Chris, I also found myself becoming protective of tightly packed groups, locked down to friends, less and less likely to move out and find people. I don’t know what to make of that, mostly because I’ve been going through a rather social phase. Perhaps soon, I’ll find in that splatter of relationships the people I really enjoy and stick with them more frequently? But it would be interesting to see if the people themselves physically drift apart because they’re incompatible as mutual friends – could your clique get too big and as a result, splinter? Are they rigid at the moment?

    • Anonymous

      Hey Aubrey, thanks a ton for the thoughtful comments. It definitely weighed on us how to best create a systemic approach that attempted to mirror a small aspect of relationships in a meaningful way and I’m glad it resonated a little with you.

      One thing I’m a bit sorry we didn’t have time to model is the idea of people helping others you meet through relationships, the idea that you are not just in a one-on-one relationship with people, but everyone feeds into a larger network of connections and how you approach, maintain, and cultivate that network in a large way defines who you are.

      Your idea of people being able to drift apart as they might grow distant from like friends and you needing to make conscious decisions on who to follow would have definitely been part of that. It’s an idea we might return to in the future depending on where our interests go.

  • SteveRock

    I was just gonna say, this was far more enjoyable than The Marriage 🙂 I found myself somewhat emotionally hit when my father died, and also appropriately surprised when I lost touch with my sister (“what happened to us?”). Another interesting thing also happened: When my mother was almost done for, I had the urge to “restart” because I was “losing” the game. But then I realized – not sure why – that the point wasn’t to “win” this game. It was just to experience it. I’m not sure if the game is “winnable”, ie. keep all your connections – probably not. But that’s OK. Despite “losing” in the game, I still had a great, poignant experience.

  • Anonymous

    Hey peeps – interesting concept. Small nit – on a 13″ Macbook, the game embed occupies 100% of available vertical real estate at default zoom, making it stressful to setup and keep properly aligned in browser. 

  • Finally had a chance to play through. Nice work guys!

    I’m tempted to critique specific parts of this, but I’m not sure how helpful that would be given this was simply a one week game. I guess I would like to congratulate you on making something so finished looking and pretty juicy in terms of feedback. I guess in some ways I almost consider it too finished 😛

    Hopefully I’ll be able to write up a detailed analysis at some point on meaningfulgameplay.com

    Here are some general thoughts:

    While playing it, I was reminded that the skill-based nature of the game provides its own meaning. It suggests that relationships are about skill and protection. I don’t think I like that message. But it’s nice that the game more honestly delivers that message to me, as opposed to other games that hide their messages in a more subliminal way, and also include messages I dislike even more, such that sometimes after playing I feel just a little bit taken advantage of.

    Another thing was the representation. When you create an abstract symbol, most people take that to mean that you are generalizing your depiction so that it applies to a broader subject. That means that the depiction of the system will generally be seen by players as a truth statement. In the case of this game, it suggests that what is happening is an observation of relationships in general.  You are saying “it seems like all relationships work like this in some way,” which is a truth statement. Essentially, that makes you responsible for what you’re communicating, so you should make sure you agree with it.

    Side note: A different approach would be to represent your subject more literally visually, or provide more written description, so that you’re saying “in this fictional world with these fictional characters, relationships work this way.” But that’s not what I got from this experience.

    Again, great job guys, I can’t wait to check out more of your games. 🙂

  • Armored Chocobo

    I’d say there’s one inaccuracy.

    The “people” never get links with each other.

    If I made a friend with 2 people, its highly unlikely one would not know the other ever existed.

    Also, being friends with your friend’s other friends not only helps your relationship with your friend, but his friends as well.

    Neither of those are indicated by the game.