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August 2016

No. 4


D E S I G N / VO J D. N ET


Game Producer (m/w) GAMES ACADEMY was the first college in any Germanspeaking country to specialize in computer and video game production. You want to take part in Game Business and Management? Join our program Game Producer, starting in october.

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Dear Humans, It has been academically supported that our IQ and our ability to walk bipedal, self-reflect, and express a complex range of emotions make us different from animals. To be clear: not better, only different. There are many qualities animals have that we can only dream of—qualities that could turn us into superheroes. As kids we are fascinated by wild animal life. We imitate their voices, the way they walk, their behavior. We learn everything there is to know about them. Animals are our cutest and most dangerous friends. How many times have we have been to the zoo, played with toy animals, and

talked to them as though they were the most important living being in the world? And there are an incalculable number of these living creatures out there. We write books like that of Animals United by Erich Kästner. We use animal metaphors, animal personas, and zoomorphy to express human characters: Playful as a dolphin, busy as a beaver, running like a gazelle, smart like an owl, drunk as a skunk, cunning as a fox, fucking like rabbits...Perhaps the world’s most famous zoomorphic metaphor is Muhammad Ali’s signature quote: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.“

There is no doubt that we love animals and that’s why we are dedicating a full edition to them. In A MAZE. Magazine No. 4, we would like to celebrate with you the glorious rise of animals in independent game and virtual reality productions. For this edition, we asked game creators, game curators, game researchers, a performance artist, a sound designer, and a journalist to engage with the topic and bring light into the savage and beautiful animal world of play. Thank you to editors Franziska Zeiner and Krystle Wong, the designers at FUK Graphic Design, this issue’s supporters UNITY, Games

Academy, Wooga, and NRW KULTURsekretariat, as well as to all the great CONTRIBUTORS who are writing for us on a volunteer basis. This will be the last issue of its kind. In the winter break we will reload the concept of this magazine. After five wonderful issues, we want to A MAZE. again. Stay A MAZED, Meow Thorsten S. Wiedemann Editor in chief

Content 4 A Tamagotchi Life A Textgame by Jerry Belich

7 Calls Of The Wild Martin Kvale

8 4 The Virtual Other Look Who’s At The Michael Straeubig Watering Hole Chloe Jensen 12 Animals As Players 6 Michelle Who Needs Westerlaken Magical Items If You Got Animals 16 Marek Plichta and Finding Wriggle Andreas Zecher Room Alexander E Duncan

18 The Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Way We Share The Spotlight With Animals On Stage Julian Kamphausen

20 When Hamsters Played Videogames Pierre Corbinais

19 World Beyond Our Senses Michael Straeubig

27 Kaleidozooscope Jonatan Van Hove

22 The Exuberance Of Play Karina Popp

The Animals Of Unite Europe

By Chloe Jensen


Title: A Tamagotchi Life Author: Jerry Belich Credits: Contact: Follow me: @j3rrytron


osted by Unity and the setting for the company’s biggest announcements each year, Unite Europe feels less like an Apple-style corporate shindig than an annual gathering of developers, designers, journalists and entrepreneurs from the game industry who come to the three-day event in Amsterdam. Once at the watering hole, they are eager, mostly, to meet each other.

Photo: Dan Taylor/ Heisenberg Media

Look Who’s At The Watering Hole


Language: eng Version: 1.0.0 Seed: 793319

[0] *BEFORE YOU BEGIN... This story requires a six-sided die to play. When indicated, roll the die to determine the course taken by your owner. The value range will be indicated on the choices.*

“Unite is a very strange place,” laughed Adriaan de Jongh, an Amsterdam-based developer. “It’s basically nerds wanting to talk to each other.” De Jongh was exhibiting in the Made With Unity showcase, where small studios and solo developers were sharing demos of the games they were working on. De Jongh was there to show off Hidden Folks, a Where’s Wally (or Waldo)like game full of sweetly animated black-and-white characters. He said Unite gave him a chance to get in-person feedback on the game, as well as technical support from the Unity team. Both Unity founders took a look at the game and his code during the event. “That’s the sort of stuff that can only happen here,” said De Jongh. Michał Wróblewski from Poland brought a prototype of his VR game to Unite for similar reasons. “I wanted to talk to all [the] Unity guys to have additional support for our games,” Wróblewski explained. His latest game, still unnamed, has one player wear a VR headset while a second player controls a panel of real buttons and knobs that cause changes in the VR world. Wróblewski plans to turn it into a real-world escape room-type game with a partner in Poland. Keila Calver, a UK-based designer, said the Women in Gaming lunch on the second day of the event provided a unique opportunity to meet other women in the game industry. She estimated that at least 40 women attended the lunch, which gave them “the opportunity to share the experience of being a woman in this industry.” While the number of women working in the game industry doubled between 2009 and 2014, according to an IGDA survey, women still made up only 22% of the industry in 2015. The range of Unity users at the event leads to connections of all sorts. David Wessman, a lecturer at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences, said he liked one of the event’s speakers so much he’ll invite him to be a guest lecturer in his class. He also met a Showcase developer he’s interested in hiring. Migration Far And Wide Ivo Sissolak, a sound designer, traveled to Unite from Cape Town both to see the tech on display at the event and to meet people. “There’s more networking here,” he said. “South Africa is good and all but there’s only so many people who are working on games, and you can count them on two hands.”

noted, “we’re not exposed to these conferences so we’re not seeing the latest tech.” Richard Baxter, another South African now based in Berlin, agreed that because events like Unite happen more often in Europe and North America, developers there have more chances to collaborate and trade ideas. Baxter said moving from South Africa to Germany, where he can attend many more game jams and industry events, definitely made a difference to his career. “Especially getting access to new tech, it helps being there,” he said. “That only happens if you’re actually meeting these people.”

“There are a lot of very high-quality games that never stand out or rise to the top,” said Mathis Björk, a Finnish developer demoing a stealth puzzler called Mr. Future Ninja. Björk hopes his game’s unique art style will help set it apart from other mobile games, as well as its unusual mix of genres. He describes Mr. Future Ninja as Lost Vikings meets Metal Gear Solid. But he doesn’t expect that to be enough to get noticed. To build an audience early, Björk and partner Tuomo Luukkanen started streaming Mr. Future Ninja’s development on Twitch in April, and plan to do a Kickstarter.

Finding Mating Partners

Some studios are trying to get an edge by beginning to develop an audience much earlier—before their game even exists. Bulut Karakaya, co-founder of Istanbul-based Pera Games, said his team worked to build an audience throughout the development of their first game, Overfall. Overfall was primarily funded by a Turkish investor, said Karakaya, but Pera still made a Kickstarter for their game, to generate publicity and build an early audience. They exhibited an early version of the game at GDC, and launched a Steam Greenlight page a few months later. And after Overfall was greenlit, it was first released through Steam Early Access, so players could be involved in the development of the final game.

“Everybody’s really open,” Daniel Helbig, a developer at Megagon Industries, said of the atmosphere at Unite. “There’s a lot of exchange of ideas.” Despite having a name worthy of an evil megacorp, Berlinbased Megagon Industries is actually only three people—Jan Bubenik, Severin Brettmeister, and Helbig. The team was demoing an upcoming iOS puzzler called Twisted Lines at the Showcase and said they had found the other Showcase exhibitors very cooperative. For example, Helbig said, other developers had shared ideas for marketing their game on an indie budget. “It’s getting easier from a tools perspective because it’s much easier to make decent games, but it’s getting much harder from a business perspective,” Helbig explained. Over two million apps are available in both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, and a large percentage of those are games. As of June 2016, games made up nearly a quarter of “active” apps in the App Store, more than twice as large a share as the next category, business apps. “We know how to make a game but we don’t know how to sell it,” agreed Guillermo Andrades, cofounder of Madrid-based Crema Games, speaking for most of his fellow exhibitors. Though his studio has already launched multiple games successfully—including 2010’s Instant Buttons and 2014’s Oh My Goat—Andrades was meeting with publishers at Unite to promote the studio’s next release, Immortal Redneck. The studio’s first PC game, Immortal Redneck, is a roguelite FPS set in Egypt, with production values that suggest a much larger company is behind it (in reality, it was created by a nineperson team over eight months). Survival Of The Fittest

A lack of big industry-sponsored events can be a disadvantage to those working outside Europe and North America—in addition to having fewer opportunities to meet others working in the space, Sissolak

Immortal Redneck wasn’t the only game in the showcase most often described as impressive, and all the participants were keenly aware of how crowded their field is getting.

The year is 1997. You are a pet Tamagotchi, and you are inside a digital EGG, inside a plastic egg, like some Matryoshka perversion. - You are a JAPANESE release. (go to 21) - You are a USA release. (go to 4)

Early Birds With Early Worms Karakaya largely credits the feedback from Early Access players with the game’s smooth launch and “Very Positive” user rating on Steam. He compares their experience to that of another Turkish studio, which released a game called Monochroma on Steam in 2014. The launch version of the game was imperfect and frustrated users, Karakaya said, and early negative reviews mean Monochroma still has a “Mixed” rating. Those negative reviews could have been turned into useful feedback if the game had been released through Early Access, Karakaya argued. In addition to engaging potential players throughout the development process, Pera also made the decision to add collaborative elements to the game itself. Overfall, a fantasy role-playing game with procedurally generated environments, includes a modular story writing system so players can submit their own storylines to the Steam Workshop. Two weeks after the game’s official launch, players (including Early Access members who have been playing longer) have already submitted 18 story packs, some containing multiple stories, to Overfall’s Steam Workshop. Karakaya says he hopes someone uses the game to write another player a marriage proposal someday.

Danny Goodayle, another showcase exhibitor, may have taken audience engagement about as far as it can go—at least for now. Goodayle developed his game, EarthFall, entirely on Twitch. Tired of starting projects he never finished, the UK-based developer set himself a 30-day “dev and stream” challenge. EarthFall began as a simple building game, but after a few days of streaming his progress, Goodayle said, “It went a little viral on IMGUR.” The audience—11,000 Twitch followers at its peak—both created pressure to finish and inspired the direction of the game. EarthFall has morphed into a fairly full-featured survival game, although it retains the low-poly aesthetic popular with one-man dev teams. The supporters make him want to keep working, Goodayle says. (An early access version of EarthFall is now available for £5 if you want in on the fun.) Streaming the game’s development had other benefits too. “The Twitch stuff is great because you don’t have to do any marketing,” said Goodayle. Plus, when he ran into trouble with his code, there was also someone there to help. As Goodayle said, “It’s basically pair programming!” It’s An Animal World Of course, plenty of developers are still counting on old-fashioned product differentiation to make their games stand out. Stephan Hövelbrinks, a Berlin-based developer showing off a game called Death Trash, said he thinks his game’s uniqueness will attract players. “There are many elements that are not in other games,” he said, citing Death Trash’s pixelated visual style and “grossness” as selling points. Death Trash does feature plenty of pulsing raw flesh, puddles of blood and a location named Puke Bar—full of precisely what you’d expect. But Hövelbrinks isn’t counting on gore alone to get him noticed—he says he’ll probably do a Kickstarter later this summer, and came to Unite to find potential players as much as for feedback. There are 5.5 million Unity users in the world, he noted, and more people making games than ever. “I like this diversity, but from the point of view of making money with it, it’s a bit of a problem,” he said. “There are just not enough players.” Even so, the developers at Unite Europe were taking advantage of the opportunity for collaboration. Looking around the room at the other games on display, Björk, the developer of Mr. Future Ninja, said, “I hope they all make it... I don’t really like to see these people as competitors.”



any game genres have the concept of leveling up. Role-playing games have numerical values such as hit points, dexterity, charisma, or lock picking. By spending time in the game you increase these values and they reflect your progress. In point-andclick and action adventures, powers and special abilities are represented by items that you obtain. With Future unfolding we wanted to create an action-adventure that focuses on exploration first and foremost. We wanted puzzles and challenges, but no combat, grinding, or hunting for items. Exploring the game’s environment should be the core activity that motivates you to keep playing. We removed items and weapons completely from the game, leaving only puzzles and some dexterity challenges. We also wanted you to move around freely and discover things in a non-sequential order. this presented a design challenge to us: What happens if you don’t need to unlock the door to the next dungeon with a key? If there is no enemy blocking your way that you can only beat with a difficult-toacquire sword? How do we achieve interesting pacing and still have challenges that feel meaningful

without a traditional structure of obstacles and tools to overcome them?

solve a puzzle or beat an enemy, not because you’re missing an item in your inventory.

In modern Zelda games, items and enemies are used to restrict you to certain areas. Only when you first solve an easy area are you then granted access to more difficult areas. Independent writer tevis thompson has called these contraptions “a giant nest of interconnected locks” where “that wondrous array of items you collect is little more than a building manager’s jangly keyring.” Instead of experiencing the freedom to explore a mysterious world on your own terms, you’re funneled through a rigid, linear structure where every puzzle has one single – and very obvious – solution.

We place all abilities required to progress into the environment right next to the puzzle, instead of tying it to objects that you can pick up and take with you. Powers are bound to locations, or bound to creatures that are not in your permanent control. Instead of finding some magical jump boots, you tame a deer and use it to hop over a cliff. Instead of picking up bombs to destroy path-blocking rocks, you lure a couple of snakes your way. their acid poison that was meant for you will destroy the rocks and clear the path. Instead of buying armor at the blacksmith, you hide in a flock of sheep that will protect you from the attacks of the wolf pack.

Many action adventure games progressively make your avatar stronger, more skilled, more versatile. the avatar can do more simply because you found objects in the game world. If you start a new game, you lose all those abilities, because the avatar loses all abilities. We wanted to change that. In Future unfolding the avatar does not become more skillful, but you as the player do. You are only held back when you don’t know how to

By Marek Plichta and Andreas Zecher

the puzzle is always there and always solvable, even if not all players will know how or recognize it as a puzzle in the first place. Only as you keep exploring and observing will things slowly get more obvious, as you understand more of the internal logic and the animal inhabitants of the world. You never get stuck just because you forgot to pick up an item somewhere. Everything required to progress is always hidden in plain sight.

Who Needs Magical Items If You Got Animals [1]



you hAve A nice resT AfTer eATing, BuT Before you cAn decide whAT To do you mAke A quAinT liTTle poo! *roll 1d6* - 1—3: your owner genTly cleAns you. (go To 6) - 4—6: They medicATe you for fun. (go To 18)


oh whAT fun, iT's wonderful To plAy! you Are so pleAsed, And so is your owner. Before you know iT, some food fAlls inTo your pen! - eAT your food! (go To 3)


hen you make games, you also create the world that the game takes place in. It’s a living, breathing place that exists to serve the player. Inhabiting a world are often creatures. Depending on the genre and type of game these can be robotoids, humanoids, two-legged penguincows, dragons... All creatures sound fascinating to me. they can scream, yip, howl, snigger and stomp, roar as they attack, or whine as they run away. I am one of those animals living in a world and I make sounds. ANIMAL #1: MARtIN KVALE I often make noises when I’m in the company of someone else and both of us are silent. I hum, cough, make thinking noises, I make a quick rhythmical chattering noise we call laughter when in the company with good friends, and ahem uncomfortably when in an awkward silence. Just like every other sentient thing, I have certain ways of reacting to and interacting with the world and others. And all those sounds I need to create when I invent a new universe. ANIMAL #2: tHE CuRIOus BIRD One morning I was awoken by a cacophony of birds and animals as the world around me slowly started to wake in the Australian rainfor-

est. Having just moved here from scandinavia I was used to a quiet nature with the occasional sound, almost like the inevitable cough in a library, and moving to Australia where nature would go wild like this struck me as exhilarating. I was part of team making audio for a project called “Curious Creatures” and we had been recording birds and animals at the zoo for days. the final sound of this particular fictional bird-creature was my first interactive sound experience and it was made through the sampling of various native birds and animals. ANIMAL #3: tHE ARtIFICIAL BEAst I sometimes record at Emanuel Vigelands Museum in Oslo. It has an amazing acoustic and I can make dragging a chair across the floor sound like a wounded beast, a saxophone grunt, the squeal of a xylophant. I remember first having Pokémon Blue, and how annoyed i got at Pokémon Y for not muting the music so that I could listen to the cries of the pokémon. I remember grabbing a sm57 mic to grunt into, and a few minutes after that, hearing the sounds of monsters after slowing down the sound recording. When making the sounds for a new animal, I know it’s right when I don’t think of it as a standalone sound

to be played together with a visual cue, but as a natural reaction to the creature’s action. ANIMAL #4: YOu, ME, tHEM. When creating new worlds I take inspiration from my own. Every day I interact with creatures: my dog whines when she is happy to see me, my friend’s cat makes a throaty growl when you pet him, one of the bipedal humanoids I am working with at the moment hums when I finish a suggestion and does a slow nod as he is processing the information. My neighbour’s pugs snort and sniff loudly since their snouts are almost too short and they struggle to breathe when excited. there seem to be lessons in behaviour, personality, and traits everywhere I look for my own creaturesound creations; a creature should feel cohesive with its design in a way that corresponds to what we know from our own world. the almost too-obvious ending is talking about the sound of animals dying. sadly there’s a lot of death in videogames and as an audio designer, you also have to make sounds for that. then the creature and its whole world is gone, and the player moves on, barely noticing whatever it was he/she just shot. the world might be living and breathing, but it exists only to serve the player – not its inhabitants.

By Martin Kvale

Calls Of The Wild

[3] *crunch crunch* soooo good! you feel reenergised And sTrong! Before long you grow inTo A heAlThy Teen. you Are feeling... - Tired. (go To 29) - mischievous. (go To 22)


you Begin To wriggle in your dArk, BrighTly spoTTed egg. - hATch! (go To 5)


The Virtual Other

VR As A Playful Alien Experience 8

[5] You wriggle and writhe some more, taking almost five whole minutes until you feel a satisfying *crack* in the shell, bursting forth, a bouncing BABY, into a 32 x 16 pixel pen! You are alive, and you are beautiful. You are also not alone. - Cry. (go to 10) - Squish around your pen. (go to 24)

[6] Time passes, though you don't know how much. Your owner returns and you wait quietly, hoping they are in a good mood. You are so tired. So bright... - (1-3) You are given medicine. (go to 7) - (4-6) They won't turn out the light. (go to 28)

By Michael Straeubig


magine you are walking up a small path through a scenic forest, a few minutes away from where you have parked the car, almost an hour from Lancaster, right in the Lake district of North West England. Some unobtrusive objects guide you along the way. After a few minutes you arrive at a small meadow, surrounded by the trees and bushes of Grizedale Forest. You see a number of tree stumps that are inhabited by strange creatures. From the shoulders down they look human, but their heads appear strangely different. Their faces are covered with mossy spheres, cables dangling from their backs. You come closer. One of the helmets is empty, waiting for you. A strange attraction emanates from the device, drawing you towards it. Hesitantly you put it over your head and enter...

[7] After many sleepless nights you finally rest well, feeling better and better as the minutes pass. You wake up quite hungry, and before you know it, your owner's face appears! *ROLL 1d6* - (1-3) They drop some food into the pen. (go to 3) - (4-6) They just laugh and turn off the lights. (go to 32)

What Is It Like To Be A Bat? More than 40 years ago, the philosopher Thomas Nagel pondered the question: What is it like to be a bat? He then went on to provide the (unsatisfying) answer: We–in principle–cannot know. His essay argued that it is impossible to re-experience the experience of another creature. A bat, for example, primarily perceives the world through echoes from its highly sensitive sonar. Its entire sensory apparatus as well as its brain are radically different than ours; and so is the inner life of a bat. Nagel’s skepticism, while onpoint and quite influential, has not discouraged artists, scientists, and designers from exploring the

[8] Some time later your owner returns!!! *ROLL 1d6* - (1-3) But only briefly... (go to 6) - (4-6) They want to play! (go to 2)


possibilities of other sensory inputs. Human echolocation and synesthesia are widely explored phenomena in art and in cognitive neuroscience. Sensory implants have enabled people to substitute vision by tactile and auditory sensations. The growing cyborg movement, which in Berlin is even represented by a formally registered society, longs for new senses and sense prosthetics. Some artists are creating mixed reality experiences around phenomena like psychosis (Labyrinth Psychotica by Jennifer Kanary Nikolov(a)), empathy (The Machine to be Another by BeAnotherLab), and blindness (Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness by Arnaud Colinart). Then, there are audio- and videogames that play with sense modalities like Papa Sangre (Somethin’ Else), BlindSide (Aaron Rasmussen, Michael T. Astolfi) or Perception (The Deep End Games). These are just some recent examples. Our desire to be amazed has always pushed both art and technology towards immersive media and experiences.


In her seminal book Hamlet on the Holodeck, Janet Murray characterises immersion as “the sensation of being surrounded by a completely other reality, as different as water is from air that takes over all our attention, our whole perceptual apparatus.” In this sense, In The Eyes Of The Animal by Marshmallow Laser Feast is an immersive experience, opening up a completely other reality. When we put on the helmet, we enter a virtual environment that allows us to explore the perceptions of the forest’s inhabitants. However, Nagel is not defeated yet. We do get a glimpse of what it is to be an animal, but we are not confronted with a realistic experience. Whereas the modalities of the individual animals are based on sound research, the results are shaped by artistic interpretation. VR as the Half-Real Beyond the current technology-driven consumer hype, the huge creative space of VR is asking to be explored

by artistic experiments, games and environments: Disconnected by Thorsten Wiedemann and Sara Lisa Vogl, for example, in which Thorsten stayed 48 hours in VR. Projects like VR Rollercoaster where the physical sensation of a rollercoaster ride is combined with virtual experiences. Or the creepy cooperative game Taphobos that invites its players to crawl into coffins (demonstrated at A MAZE./Berlin 2015). The medium also also poses new challenges and opportunities for interactive storytelling. VR is unique in its physiological and cognitive aspects, its partially embodied experience, the limits and parameters of certain technologies, the relationship between virtual and physical environments and the specifics of multiplayer interaction and virtual social spaces. As current vendors have begun repeating the same mistakes that already plagued the adoption of VR in the 90’s, fledgling open source hardware and software projects will hopefully gain traction.

With its immersive qualities and three-dimensional interaction, VR (and its sister technology AR) has the potential to replace the smallish flat screens that we currently use to interact with the virtual. A main road into this future are games – powerful vehicles that allow us to try out new identities and take up different roles, views and perspectives. The game scholar Jesper Juul describes them as hybrids between real rules and fictional worlds. They constitute media in which we experience possible worlds through play. However, it is on us, the creators and inhabitants of these worlds, to decide and shape the realities we are going to experience. The visions of large corporations keen on selling us their latest branded outputs for entertainment? Or the creative, quirky, touching, open, experiences that connect us to a deeper meaning of what it is to be human, even if it is through the eyes of an animal?

[9] Just as the world is about to go completely dark, you feel a strange tingling. Then the sensation of your entire body turning inside out and back again! Where... what? Before you black out, the forms of others that look much like you take shape, looking quite sad. --- THE END ---

Image Courtesy of Marshmallow Laser Feast


You begin to shed tears, flying in small parabolas. You aren't sure if it's fear, hunger, or the unbearable lightness of new being. *ROLL 1d6* - (1-2) You are fed. (go to 20) - (3-4) You are punished. (go to 13) - (5-6) You are ignored. (go to 14)


Animals As Players

Rethinking Relationships With Animals In Captivity

By Michelle Westerlaken


e have always been playing with animals and they have always been playing with us. However, we rarely think of animals as players with agency or as game designers. Play design or game design for and with animals has only started to be recognised as a field in the last few years. Today, some examples include a game involving touchscreen applications for sheltered orangutans, a videogame that allows pigs and humans to play together, tablet games for cats and humans, escape-the-room challenges for ants, and interactive toys for captive zoo animals. For my PhD research at Malmö University in Sweden, I invite animals as players and co-designers to challenge the anthropocentric social practices that instrumentalise and exploit animals. Together with game


developer Alex Camilleri, I am prototyping and testing a tablet game for cats and humans called Felino. The goal of this game is to give both cat and human a relevant simultaneous role during their interaction with the game, allowing both human and cat to experiment with the mechanics. To do systematic playtesting and find ways to improve the game, we worked together with catplaytesters temporarily living in an animal shelter in the Netherlands. Another of my projects is about a species we don’t usually relate to very well—a black ant colony. I wanted to get to know these insects better and explore how we could design for and with these small animals. Could we change our relationship with ants by engaging in playful encounters together? After a few weeks in captivity, the ants started

to escape, inspiring the design of escape room challenges for ants. Over five months, we developed and tested several prototypes with an ant colony. The ants’ interactions with the escape room prototypes were broadcasted via Twitch and other streaming platforms. Interestingly, Twitch labelled it as ‘non-gaming related content’ and took down the stream. This event generated mixed feelings among viewers, who started arguing online about how society conceives of gaming as something that seems to be exclusively for humans. Indeed, game designers have generally not ventured very far beyond human-centred design practices. Yet the field of game design for animals could potentially reshape the relationships we have with other species on this planet. I hope that

[11] You have a lovely sleep, dreaming of a group of dancing Sekitoritchi. When you awake, breakfast is already waiting! After munching away you feel stronger, and notice you've grown more lately. You're an ADULT! But, you notice your owner has also gotten older. *ROLL 1d6* - (1-3) They give you to their younger sibling. (go to 16) - (4-6) They show off for their friends, and smash you with a hammer. (go to 23)

this text will inspire more of us to think further about the animal as a player and also about some of the critical ethical questions that we should consider. Animal Agency We face two competing narratives: Animals are either a lot more like humans, or humans are a lot more like animals than we have dared to think in the past. The more we research the complexity of animals, the more we learn about their sentience, subjectivity, and unique capabilities. They experience emotions, they suffer, and they like to live enjoyable lives. These discoveries form the basis for a change in our relationships with animals. They invite us to further investigate the ways in which animals experience pleasure and positive experiences. They nudge us to consider the design of playful interactions in which they can take part. In this setting, we can provide the animal with a space to act independently, to appropriate playful interactions, to make decisions within a game, and to respond to changes in the environment. In other words, we design a space in which the animal has agency. The concept of animal agency has often been ignored throughout history. In philosophical traditions, this ignorance was largely based on animals’ presumed incapability of reasoning: animals cannot reason, therefore they are inferior (Aristotle); animals have instrumental but no intrinsic value (Aquinas), animals are not members of the moral community because they are machine-like, lack the ability to speak, reason, and act autonomously (Descartes). Even today, we often talk about animals as voiceless creatures: we like to say that we have to speak for the animal, because they cannot speak for themselves. We disregard the animal’s own capability to act. However, if we focus on the activity of animals being playful or enjoying something, it becomes clear that animals are actually very good at communicating and showing us what they like—we just have to be attentive and responsive. A dog bringing her toy to you, a cat showing affection, a sunbathing monkey, or a bird splashing around in the water, are all easily recognisable examples of animals displaying pleasure or enjoyment. If we want to move towards a society in which animals are invited to have fun, how do we design for it? If we wish to engage in the design of playful interactions and games that involve animals, we are deliberately taking stances and responsibilities regarding the way we treat animals in our design work. This will have implications for society. No matter

what personal values we uphold— from veganism and critical animal studies to meat-eating and animal exploitation—our design decisions will raise ethical questions and cause heated discussions. However, our work could serve as a starting point for reflections and speculations about the playful futures we envision for the animals with whom we share our planet.

Interestingly, while this project started out in collaboration with two monkeys, two toucans showed a great interest in the prototypes and invited themselves to become a part of the design process. The researcher welcomed this idea and started to develop playful artefacts for the birds as well.

Inviting Animals To Play

Besides game development for pets, insects, and zoo animals, there is another perhaps more discomforting setting in which animals can be invited to play: farming. One example of this includes the Playing with Pigs project carried out by the Utrecht School of the Arts in collaboration with Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Here the complex relationships between pigs and humans are researched through game design with the aim to find ways to provide pigs with their natural need to play, experience the cognitive capabilities of both human and pig, and facilitate new relations between species.

At home, numerous applications of playful technology are being developed to keep your pet busy, such as commercial devices that entertains your cat with laser lights or interactive robot toys for dogs. Additionally, the implementation of playful artefacts for captive animals, such as those living in shelters or zoos, aims to prevent problems related to boredom or lack of physical activity. One of these is the on-going TOUCH project, carried out at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University by Hanna Wirman and Ida Jörgensen. TOUCH aims to provide environment-enrichment in the form of touch-screen games to enhance the wellbeing of captive orangutans living in a shelter in Borneo, Indonesia, who cannot be reintroduced to their natural environment. After researching the orangutan’s preferences in terms of their use of technology, custom-made games with touch interfaces are now being prototyped and tested for two male orangutans named Iso and Bento. In evaluating their prototypes, the researchers discovered a range of creative behaviour that the orangutans displayed in their interactions with the games. Throwing items at touchscreens, licking the screen, smearing the screen with bodily fluids, pulling cables, and banging the touchscreen with a fist are just a few of the possibilities that could inspire new mechanics for orangutan games. Similarly, at the Melbourne Zoo in Australia, researchers are prototyping technology with Microsoft Kinect interfaces as part of their environment enrichment program for orangutans. They’re hoping to develop games, painting applications, and hidden food puzzles in order to provide mental stimulation to the apes. In other zoos and animal shelters, playful technologically mediated interactions for animals has been tried out, for example, with penguins and tablet games at the Long Beach Pacific Aquarium in California, where aviculturist Sara Mandel allows the birds to interact with tablet games. In Vienna, playful food foraging environments are developed by Katharina Gollonitsch together with white-faced saki monkeys in Haus des Meeres, a zoo in the city.

[12] You are so tired, and ache all over, but your owner just won't let you sleep. Every time you try to lay down they poke and prod, giggling as you complain. "Wake up! I want to PLAY!" they cry. - If you are the JAPANESE release... (go to 26) - If you are the US release... (go to 9)

To The Slaughterhouse

The goal of the game is to move the pig towards a specific area. This is done by showing light-bulbs on a glass wall that the pigs can follow with their nose. The players are in control of moving the light-bulbs and gain more points if they succeed in bringing the pig to the target area. The purpose of this game on the human side is to trigger questions. All pigs with which the player is allowed to play eventually go to the slaughterhouse and it is left open to the player on how to cope with this. Will it provoke a change in behaviour? Will the meat taste better with pigs that have played this game? Should the score of the game can be displayed on the packaging of the meat? These types of bold questions and speculations allow us to get closer to the reality of pig farming and could potentially help us to rethink our relationship with the animals we eat. I think all these examples illustrate the promising potential of (digital) technology and games that are specifically designed for animals in captivity. They teach us more about the preferences of animals and raise new questions about our responsibilities in ensuring the wellbeing of animals in society. Our ongoing discoveries on animal subjectivity and their unique ways of being in the world provide great opportunities for the field of game and play design. It allows us to move towards the design of playful interactions and games that are meaningful for both the animals and humans that are involved. And who knows, next time you encounter an animal, you might feel inspired to think about him or her as a playful individual that you can design for.

[13] Struck by your owner's hand you stop crying instantly, stunned. Emotions whirl, but there is one thing you know for sure... Crying is for the weak, or the stupid. You focus on keeping your tears in while eating the remnants of your shell absentmindedly. It isn't great food, but you grow into a CHILD. - Crawl into a corner. (go to 6)


Wiener dog wants your love by Jonathan Hau-Yon



Finding Wriggle Room: How I Made A Maggot Simulator By Alexander E Duncan


espite the rabble of dozens of people playing games at the same time, the high-pitched whine coming from my laptop is beginning to draw attention. My playtester isn’t exactly enjoying her proximity to the speakers, and others are beginning to wonder where the sound is coming from. I can feel myself sweating as I look on, wishing she could figure out where to go. Or how to move. Or what the fuck she is looking at. But she’s just no good at being a maggot. Or, much more likely, I just did a lousy job of making a maggot simulator.

It’s early March. In May, it’ll be the New York University Game Center’s annual end-of-year show, where I’ll be expected to present my MFA thesis. And for that thesis, I decided to make a maggot simulator. Well, technically it’s a maggot, mayfly, and trout simulator, but so far no one can get past the maggot bit. At one point, making this game seemed like a good idea. I only have myself to blame. After all, this is kind of what I set out to make: A game that is disorienting – check. With an unfamiliar control scheme – check. Where players struggle to understand 3D space – double check. I just didn’t think that playing it would look – or sound – like this. You might reasonably ask what I was expecting, given those design goals. Or why I even had those goals in the first place. My answer to the first question is: God only knows. Answering the second will take a little more time. Too Familiar, Too Easy In most games with non-human animal avatars, the world seems pretty familiar. In Shelter, I have no problem navigating the 3D space


as a badger. In Dishonored, I can switch between human, rat, fish, and wolf hound perspectives almost seamlessly. In Spore, I can make a bunch of weird-looking creatures, but they all feel pretty much the same to play. And there are many more examples where playing as an animal feels very…well, human. There are good reasons for this. Perhaps most importantly, it allows people to easily play the games. With a bit of games literacy, you can easily control the badger in Shelter with the conventional WASD and mouse input scheme. In Dishonored, aside from a tinge of green, minor warping effects, and a lower camera, you can run around as a digital rat just as easily as you could as a digital human. Making it easy to control your avatar means you can undistractedly enjoy other aspects of the game. It is the cost of this ease-of-embodiment that I find concerning. Rats and badgers have very different perceptual frameworks, behaviors, and bodies from human beings. We can only speculate as to what they experience, but it is safe to say that seeing the world from a rat’s perspective would be weird, alien, disorienting. In making it easy, the designers of these games de-emphasise — to the point of effacing — the differences in the experiences of the animals they depict. Animal bodies become easily controlled vessels for the human player. The idea of a human manipulating an animal body, and how this process is so easy that I barely think about it, is something that always bothered me. Even more disconcerting, this manipulation is often just a means to achieve in-game goals or to enjoy other aspects of the game. Thoughtlessly using animal bodies as a means to an end parallels very closely a paradigm that has led to some terrible treatment of these bodies in the real world — from factory farming to scientific experimentation to mass extinction.

[14] Eventually you stop crying. Your owner doesn't seem to care, so maybe it's best to keep your feelings inside. Maybe crying is a stupid thing for babies to do. You get hungry but instead of whining you eat the remnants of your shell. It's awful, but allows you to grow into a CHILD. - Crawl into a corner. (go to 6)

I can do better, I thought. What if I made a game that doesn’t try to efface the differences of animal bodies, but emphasises them? Where the embodiment of an animal isn’t a means to an end, but is the entire focus of the game? I liked the sound of that. Like I said: at one point, this seemed like a good idea. “Seeing” Things Anew It started, for me, with sight. Or, really, with the over-emphasis of sight in games like Shelter, Spore, and Dishonored. In all these games, navigating the simulated 3D space relies primarily on the visual, with sound contributing its share. And by visual, I really mean normativelyhumanly visual, with a light spectrum that ranges from red to violet. For other animals, senses like smell are vital, and the visual sense doesn’t always match the red to violet spectrum. Not that I wanted to make an olfacto-game instead of a videogame (although that would be pretty cool). But if I was going to make a game that gives due respect to the specificity of animal bodies, I did feel that it was important to more faithfully depict sensory perception. I wasn’t the first to have this idea, so there was a lot of source material to draw on. One of the most famous examples is a PlayStation 2 game called Dog’s Life that has a visual mode called “smellovision.” Smells, in this mode, are represented as brightly colored vapors, while the rest of the world is washed out. I liked this and decided to lock players of my game in a permanent state of smellovision. This was taken to the extreme in the maggot phase: maggots don’t have eyes, so navigation involves almost exclusively following vapour trails. In the other stages, where the creatures do have eyes, I tried to represent the differ-

[15] In order to calm you down, your owner injects you with something. Medication? You aren't even sick! But the world starts to blur. A sedative? AHH! You are injected again, and AGAIN, but... you don't care as much anymore. - If you are the JAPANESE release... (go to 26) - If you are the US release... (go to 9)

ence in the way they see, altering the colour palette and field-of-view — in the case of the mayfly, making it a 360º perspective. Bodies Playing Bodies Visually simulating other senses seemed to be a good first step. But it also seemed superficial. After all, our experience of the world is more than just perception. If I was going to make a game about animal bodies, I was going to need to pay attention to the physicality of the play experience. There’s a prominent rhetoric in the way games are discussed, in both design and scholarship, that skips over the physical bodies at play. Much writing on immersion tend to describe playing videogames as though it is a relationship between the human mind and software. Evangelists of virtual reality seem to feel that strapping screens to your face will allow you to enter a new world; conventional game design wisdom preaches “intuitive” control schemes. In all of these examples, physical bodies – whether the player’s body or the hardware – are given secondary importance, if not viewed as outright impediments to meaningful play experiences. Clearly, there’s a connection between this rhetoric and the lack of interest in the specificities of animal bodies in games that feature them as avatars. In order to make a game that would get players thinking about how different animal bodies are from their own, I needed to make my game feel weird. I needed to get them thinking about their body, their avatar’s body, and how they’re not the same. I needed my control scheme to create reflective distance from what is going on in terms of software. Here, I was lucky enough to have source material very close to home. I can’t think of a videogame that is closer to the kind of weird physicality I’m describing than QWOP, a game developed by one of my professors, Bennett Foddy. In QWOP, you have to make a sprinter run 100 meters by using the Q and W keys to control his thighs, and the O and P keys his calves. This is not easy, to say the least. The main challenge of QWOP is figuring out how to control the avatar’s body. And the control scheme — strange both in terms of the unconventional keys used and the mapping of inputs to the avatar’s body — means that what I’m doing with my own body is at the forefront of my mind while I play. I thought using a similar technique would work well in my game. It really, really didn’t. In QWOP, when you can’t figure out how the hell to move your avatar, you fall on your head and it’s hilarious. In my game, you just sit there. Not hilarious. Not even interesting. Just bad.

So I tried to take the distancing effect I liked in QWOP and simplify it down, so that it was interesting and weird without being incomprehensible. I put all of the inputs onto the mouse, and tried to match it to the animal avatars’ forms of locomotion: moving the mouse left to right flaps the fish’s tail; clicking the mouse buttons flaps the mayfly’s wings; moving the mouse back and forth shimmies the maggot along.

are exposed to light. And they don’t like that. So I tried to make the player not like going off the path I wanted them on. At that, at least, I was successful.

To the extent to which most players could now actually move in my game, this was a success. But what would they be moving towards? What could they do in the game world?

It’s late May, and the end of year show is here. Two people are standing with their backs to me, playing a game called Every Creeping Thing. They are in a makeshift room made of purple curtains and are wearing headphones, an arrangement designed with the intention of creating an intimate, secluded experience. Despite the noise of hundreds of people playing dozens of games, it seems to be working.

Man Versus Nature There are many games that center gameplay on a conflict between humans and the environment. As part of the promotion for Rise of the Tomb Raider, the developers created a video-series titled “Woman versus Wild” that riffs off the classic trope of man versus nature. In the first episode, called “Harsh Environments,” the landscape is characterised as a threat that needs to be wrestled, overcome, and eventually dominated. Typically, animals figure prominently in this wilderness that needs domination. But in most games with animal avatars, the environment-asthreat structure remains intact, and the avatar is the proxy by which this threat is overcome. In Shelter, for example, the game world is basically an obstacle course: cross the river, run away from the fire, hide from the eagle. If using animals as a means to an end was politically suspect, making that end be dominating the environment is even worse. And so I knew that, for my game, I would need a different approach. I wanted understanding the environment to be a challenge, but beyond this I didn’t want the game to have strict goals or win/lose states. What I did want were some things to be appealing. After all, animals do stuff: they eat, they mate. So I tried to make things visually striking to guide the player towards them and to avoid strict objective-based ways of doing so. I had Proteus on my mind at this point, a game in which you walk around an island and melodies play depending on where you are and what’s around you. Proteus does such a good job of rewarding players through the sheer pleasure of being in the space, of seeing a new thing, of hearing a new melody. There are no points or goals, but there are rewards. This is where we get, at last, to that high-pitched whine. Maggots don’t have eyes, but they do have photoreceptors that indicate when they

[16] After a few more weeks of time with each other off and on, your owner smiles and says quietly: "It's almost time." At first you are confused, but then you feel it too. You've had your time, and there is one more step before there can be a new owner. - You rest in your owner's hand. (go to 17)

And there, more or less, you have my thesis. Proteus meets QWOP meets Dog’s Life. What could go wrong? The Grand Reveal

The player on the left looks at his hand moving the mouse from side to side. He glances over his shoulder at me, a puzzled look on his face, as though he can’t quite believe that this is actually what he should be doing. I try to smile reassuringly and take a healthy sip of beer. At least the open bar helps with the nerves. The player on the right doesn’t look back. He doesn’t look at his hand either, but he does play with it. He shakes the mouse quickly from side to side. Then slowly. Then he moves it forward, tilting the trout upwards, towards the surface of the water. A few more movements side to side, and his avatar jumps out of the water. He pauses as the digital fish splashes back into the digital lake, and shifts his weight on his feet. After a few minutes, the man on the left takes off the headphones. He smiles politely at me and says thank you before getting the hell away from my thesis. But the man on the right is still there, making the fish jump out of the water. Now he’s noticed the flies just above the surface, and he’s aiming for them. After a few more attempts, he catches one. I think I’m more surprised than he is. He continues in this manner for some time, now as the trout, now the mayfly, now the maggot. Experimenting with the mouse. Figuring out how to move through the space. Figuring out what the fuck he’s looking at. Eventually, he takes off the headphones. He smiles and tells me my game is really cool. That he loves the idea. He asks me when it’ll be released, and I tell him I’m not really sure. Not for a while. There’s a lot of work to be done. He takes one of my business cards and leaves. Definitely a lot of work to be done. But it seems like a good idea.



n traditional theatre is a rule: a performer can never succeed when a child or an animal is on stage. Children and animals act with unbroken authenticity, compromising the performed illusion the actor creates. But this is theatre folklore. I will get into three lines of thought, pointing out how imaginations of animals on stages have started to fill a vacuum, illustrating our desire for unpredictability and wonder in a rationalised world. The Almost Über-Human Emotional Companion “For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.” – Charles M. Schulz

By Julian Kamphausen

Puppets are an exceptional tool for telling stories with animals on stage. By bringing dead matter to life, this form of theatre use the imaginative powers of the audience to invest in the characters. The puppet animal seems alive, like an animal, but is under absolute control. This enables a depth of narration that is only comparable to animated or computer-generated animals in movies and games. They mirror our emotions, expand relationships, and sometimes they even talk. A fascinating example are the horse puppets in “Warhorse,” a successful musical adaptation of a British children’s book. The effect of a massively relatable and lovable horse dying on stage is unparalleled in entertaining theatre. Since it is only alive in the imagination of the audience it is really dead when it dies on stage. This usually leaves large parts of the audience sobbing.

The Dream of Domestication and Taming “I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry The domestication and taming of animals is a cultural technique as old as humans and key to our evolution and survival. The success of the Tamagotchi in the 90’s was obviously borne by the echoes of these learnings: You breed and raise an “animal” and that itself is rewarding enough to create addictive patterns. Now that has shifted to our very selves: Fitbits and other tools use similar low-tech mechanics like the tamagotchi (plus a GPS module) to allow us to domesticate our animalistic side, i.e. the body, as something to be tamed and fed. We experience satisfaction when everything is taken care of and immense guilt when we don’t press the buttons at the right time, or run our weekly minimum, and a cute animal perishes (Tamagotchi) or you get fat (Fitbit). The deeply rooted joy that we experience when the procedure is successful is also an archetype for animal stage performances, i.e. animal shows in circuses and varieties. Such performances are a ritually reassuring triumph of the most sophisticated mammal over lesser animals. Playing with animals on stage is only possible within that power structure: the animal is captured, tamed or even domesticated, and only then can we start to play with it. The Longing for Intimate Strangeness Being an animal or being at least very close to an animal state prom-

ises unbound willpower, a life following only instinct and lust. The foxes and images of foxes that regularly appear in performances and plays usually represent an independent position outside society: observing the humans while following its own poetic path. And there are many, many more examples for using or needing animals in these narratives. When we interlock this observation into even bigger themes of our times – reconnecting with nature, longing for a simple life, etc. – we can expect more and more stories in this field. Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality and 360º technology will be a key to this development. I have never felt as close to a big animal (and totally overwhelmed) as when I was watching “American Bison” by Danfung Dennis, a prizewinning 360º film. A new generation of animal documentaries will be an immense new industry for VR and 360º developers. Because we really want to experience that. We want to dive with a great white shark and devour seals, we want to swing from tree to tree with lemurs in Madagascar, we want to fly with seagulls around Icelandic cliffs. And this is just ground work for the even bigger field of possible performative immersion in animal bodies. Soon we will be able to act like animals and interact with them, to hunt in a tightly woven pack of wolves instead of in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, to party excessively with a gang of baboons, or to have territorial turf wars as alpha lions in an augmented world like Pokémon Go.

The Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Way We Share The Spotlight With Animals On Stage 18

[17] Like a shadow disappearing from a passing cloud, you feel the world slip from you. But it's okay. As you pass, an egg you weren't even aware was growing inside you releases; it's where most of your energy must have been going these last few days. As darkness covers you like a warm blanket, you look at the egg and smile. "I love you, and may you be loved", you think, and then you think nothing at all. --- THE END ---

World Beyond Our Senses An Interview with Barney Steel and Ersin Han Ersin By Michael Straeubig


arshmallow Laser Feast is a creative studio that explores technology which reinterprets the idea of human perception. Barney Steel and Ersin Han Ersin’s work spans kinetic sculpture, film, live performance, and virtual reality. In The Eyes Of The Animal is a playful exploration of the world beyond our senses through VR. It lets the audience experience various perceptions of animals in the forest. While other VR-designers are pushing towards realism, MLF has chosen a different aesthetic route. To visualise the forest, they utilise LIDAR, the same technology that is used in self-driving cars to scan their environment in real-time. This results in the unique aesthetics of the piece that is experienced through VR headsets, binaural sound and tactile bass wearables. How did you develop In the Eyes of the Animal? Ersin: In the Eyes of the Animal was commissioned by the Abandon Normal Devices festival and the Grizedale Forestry Commission. Grizedale forest is famous for their sculpture park, and they asked us for a site specific installation. After visiting the forest with virtual reality in mind, we developed the idea to construct a story from the perspective of its inhabitants. We studied animal perception while thinking about how to create a narrative that takes place in VR. We then came up with the idea of being part of a food chain involving different species. In your work, the experience of the food chain is the vehicle for storytelling. This is not quite the usual hero’s journey. Ersin: That’s right. At the moment there is no established “best way” to tell a story in VR. There is a lot of experimentation going on. The food chain is a good example of this, and there are similar ideas that we want

[18] You didn't feel sick before, but you definitely do now. You vomit, making even more of a mess than there already was. - If you are the JAPANESE release... (go to 26) - If you are the US release... (go to 9)

to expand based on our experience with the process. Currently, game designers, interaction designers, and artists are developing new experiences in VR every day, which is great. Barney: Games are special in the way that they often tell stories through their world, through environmental storytelling. This is especially important for VR, where we have a strong focus on the relationship between the space and the player. Yet in VR we can tell stories differently and challenge established game conventions about the progression within the experience, the sequence of events, and about new ways of interaction. In addition to providing new ways of storytelling, VR is currently seen as the ultimate medium for immersion. Ersin: First, the technological development has been breathtaking. We can now almost substitute eyes, ears and room-sized movement in VR. Game engines have become very powerful instruments as well. People who experience VR for the first time are usually blown away by it. Now the question is: how do we make good use of these developments? Barney: At Marshmallow Laser Feast, we have always been focusing on immersive environments. We have done a number of projects that explored this concept in very different ways. This was the motivation to go into VR and we have found it to be very powerful. I think it can connect you back to the physical world, which sounds a little bit paradoxical. But when you are in the forest and you are experiencing the perception of the animals in VR, you can get a strong connection to nature in a profound and unexpected way.

The modes of perception you are showing in In the Eyes of the Animal are based on scientific research. How far does the realism go? Ersin: Each of the animals has a different, fascinating way of sensing the world. Dragonflies, for example, see 300 frames per second and they also see a much wider color spectrum. There is no way a human can experience these modalities directly. When we talked to specialists quite early on in the project, we realised we had to translate these abstract scientific facts into a compelling VR experience. So there is artistic freedom in these translations. To come back to Thomas Nagel’s question, how close can we come to the experience of the bat? Ersin: We are actually working on a project that involves the bat. So hopefully we will know soon (laughs). In the Eyes of the Animal has four animals, and now we are looking into the sensing apparatus of a bat which will heavily involve auditive elements. Virtual and also Augmented Reality will become more and more powerful when we think about the other senses like taste, smell, and touch. Ultimately we are talking about the realm of cyborgs here, where we augment our hardware, so to say. Who knows? Our brain is incredibly powerful in adapting to the environment. Barney: We are now on an ongoing journey to research and explore the world beyond our senses. In the Eyes of the Animal was just the beginning, and this will be continued in our next projects. Currently we are preparing Treehugger, a VR experience that involves the ecosystem of a rainforest tree. Ultimately we hope that people will realise how rich and beautiful our world is and think about who we are and the impact of what we are doing.

[19] Oh what fun, it's wonderful to play! You are so pleased, and so is your owner. Before you know it, some food falls into your pen! - Eat your treat! (go to 20)


When Hamsters Played Videogames 20

[20] *NOM NOM NOM* Ahhh! Delicious! Just what you needed to grow from a baby blob and enter playful youth! You are now a CHILD. You waddle around and stare at the tiny world, babbling to yourself occasionally. You start to feel... - Bored. (go to 8) - Sick. (go to 25) - Messy. (go to 1)

[21] You begin to wriggle in your bright, darkly spotted egg. - Hatch! (go to 5)

An Interview With Colonel Fluffy

By Pierre Corbinais

When Hamsters Ruled The Earth (Quand les Hamsters Regnaient sur la Terre in French) is an inter-species multiplayer game installation in which humans and hamsters play against each other. We managed to get in touch with its most notorious player: Colonel Fluffy. Athlete, gamer, performer, and hamster extraordinaire.


i Colonel Fluffy, thanks for receiving us. Let’s start with the elephant in the room: You’re a real hamster, right? Not some kind of toy, robot, or tiny kid in a hamster costume? Yup. Just a regular Russian winter white dwarf hamster. Or Phodopus sungorus, if you prefer. Could you explain to our readers the principle of When Hamsters Ruled The Earth? Its creator Florent Deloison (editor’s note: human) could probably tell you more about it, but let’s say it’s kind of like a Track & Field faceoff between a hamster running in a wheel connected to an Arduino and a human running on a Wii Dance Mat. Of course, there’s a story behind it: In the year 2012, we hamsters took over the world à la Planet of the Apes, reduced humans to slaves, and made them run against us in an inter-species Olympics for our own amusement. I played the role of the hamster dictator as well as one of the contestants. When Hamsters Ruled The Earth is your very first videogame performance. How did you prepare for the role? I did a lot of research. I re-read Georges Orwell’s Animal Farm, but my main inspirations were Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia, and Georges Perec’s W, or the Memory of Childhood. I like how these two works express the links between the cult of the body in the Olympics and fascist ideology. This was something I was aiming for. By turning the table, I think this performance raised a lot of questions about human cruelty toward animals and institutional speciesism.

It did, and if I remember correctly, Florent Deloison had some troubles with animal welfare associations... Yes. Some reproached him for objectifying animals, others for animal abuse. Now I don’t know about objectification, but I can say me and my two pals were treated very well. As well as can be for caged hamsters anyway... What was a typical day like during the When Hamsters Ruled The Earth exhibition? Honestly? My fellow hamsters and I spent most of our days eating and sleeping at the Olympic Village. The cage was cleaned every morning and, in the afternoon, every one of us spent an hour or so in the stadium competing against humans. We weren’t forced to run or anything, humans had to wait for us to get into the wheel to start a game. We were the Player One, really. So, yeah, days were pretty relaxed. Nights were something else, though! We spent them training in the Village’s wheel to stay in shape and keeping our teeth sharp in case some human kid had the silly idea to put their finger between the bars. Wasn’t the competition a bit unfair? Not really, no. Florent calibrated the wheel and mat in order to give the humans a chance to win. Something like 4 or 5 human steps for one spin of the wheel. I heard fish entered the competition as well… We hamsters only competed against humans, but yes, Florent also set up a swimming event between

[22] Your owner tries to turn out the lights for bed, but you are having none of it! You manage to hop high enough to click it back on every time. *ROLL 1d6* - (1-3) You are gently disciplined! (go to 30) - (4-6) You are medicated. (go to 15)

humans and fish. It wasn’t as much interesting to watch, though. I’m not speciesist, but between us: fish are so boring! Except Aquarius and Robert from FishPlayStreetFighter of course – those are cool. What’s your take on videogame accessibility for animals? Let’s face it: it’s terrible. Not much is done for us. And even when some installations like When Hamsters Ruled The Earth let us play aside humans, they face many difficulties. Did you know When Hamsters Ruled The Earth was turned down by several video game events just because animals weren’t allowed inside? Can you believe that? And don’t get me started on controllers...I can’t really complain, being a hamster I’m still able to push some buttons, but have you ever tried to hold a Xbox controller with, let’s say, hooves? What about animal representation? It’s not much better, and I’m afraid it’s getting worse. I mean: I’ve only been here for three years, but I’ve heard stories about the 90’s, passed down from generation to generation. They say videogames were all about animals back then! Sonic the hedgehog, Conquer the squirrel, Banjo the bear, Donkey the ape, Jim the earthworm… I even heard about games with hundreds of hamsters in it, burrowing into the ground using dynamite... You mean Lemmings? Yeah! They were actually lemmings… Oh… What about the one with the bazookas and the ninja ropes?

Worms? Yes! That’s the one! Wait...let me guess: they were worms, right? Sorry... It’s okay. Anyway, animals used to be the stars! Nowadays videogames are all about photo-realistic humans. Oh, and dogs. Fuck dogs, they always get all the attention. There must have been videogames you enjoyed… I kinda liked Goat Simulator. Even with my tiny legs on the keyboard, I didn’t have the impression of doing worse than any human player. Tokyo Jungle was nice too; still waiting for the hamster DLC. But what interests me the most is this new trend of alternative controllers. It’s like humans are finally realising one can play videogames with something other than two five-fingered hands with opposable thumbs. Of course, the best way to fix all this would be to have more animals working in the industry... What about you? You’ve already got a foot – sorry – leg in the door. Why don’t you make your own videogames? Me? Oh no no no. I’m too old for this. Three years is like 90 years in human time; it’s a bit late to learn programming. I’m retired now, spending my old days with a nice family. But I really count on the younger generation to embrace the medium and make it better for everyone. Every little step counts. Even a hamster step! Well, thank you for your time Colonel Fluffy. I hope everybody – humans and animals – will get the message.


The Exuberance Of Play:

An Interview With Kevin Cancienne 22

[23] People can be so terribly cruel. They forget love easily, especially when it's virtually unconditional. It's not how you would have chosen to have it end, but, you suppose, you have made it this far. First, there is loud laughter. Then, a deafening silence. Finally, a sharp light. - If you are the JAPANESE release... (go to 26) - If you are the US release... (go to 9)

[24] You hear laughter, and it delights you. *ROLL 1d6* - (1-2) You are fed. (go to 20) - (3-4) You play a game. (go to 27) - (5-6) You are ignored. (go to 14)

By Karina Popp


n an alien city, a dog fends for herself. It is up to her to find food, friends, and shelter. In Home Free, playing as a dog means existing in a world that wasn’t quite made for you. Home Free is about loneliness and survival as much as it is about the exuberance of play or the pleasure of finding a greasy slice of dumpster pizza. Home Free successfully completed its Kickstarter campaign in October 2015, but it has been in development for some time. Between Home Free and its sister game, Dog Park, created for No Quarter, an annual event in New York City, you can tell just how much time Kevin Cancienne has spent thinking about dogs. In the dog-days of summer, my own pup and I sat down with Kevin and the real-life inspiration for Home Free – Princes – for a playdate and to find out more about the design, research, and joy that is going into making Home Free. Karina: What specifically about watching Princess or other dogs play inspired you to create Home Free and Dog Park? Kevin: Watching the dynamics of how dog play often self-balances. As a game designer, when I see dogs

[25] Your blobby tummy doesn't feel so good, but your owner loves you, and will take care of you, right? You squeak pathetically when your owner arrives. *ROLL 1d6* - (1-3) Your plea is heard! (go to 6) - (4-6) They want to play! (go to 27)

that are playing happily, it seems like it’s not anthropomorphisation to realize that they’re trying to preserve play, you know? When you see dogs in chase, you’ll often see the dog that’s being chased slow down to allow the dog that’s chasing it to catch up. I think that’s beautiful: watching dogs negotiate rules, modifying their own behavior in response to what other dogs are doing in order to keep the play going. It was a big inspiration. Dog Park was made for No Quarter and a couple of the things that No Quarter is about is local multiplayer games and experiments. I wanted to see if I could make a game that had similar tropes as a multiplayer brawling game, like Power Stone on the Dreamcast or Smash Brothers, where you have this chaotic four-player game in which you’re jumping on each other, but where the goal isn’t depleting someone’s health bar – the goal is this eruption of play. I don’t feel like it was a successful experiment in that regard. The context of playing a video game is different from the context of having unstructured fun. Karina: With Home Free, how are you bridging that gap be-

tween the way we think about videogames and the way that dogs play? Kevin: I feel like there’s a lot of stuff on my mind and I haven’t solved it yet. It’s along the same axis, in terms of how goal-oriented a thing should be, how much feedback I give you. I’m interested in doing experimental work, but I want to land in a spot that’s between it being an experimental art game and being a fairly consumable videogame. I need to be more willing to bend to videogame conventions with Home Free than I was with Dog Park. It would be easy to say: “This is a simulation of being a dog and dogs can’t read or write so the game must have no words in it.” There’s a purity in thinking that way that’s appealing, but it’s inflexible. Withholding information to immerse you more in the material is not always the right decision that will actually immerse you in the material. I need to be open to the game being able to fulfill that end of my vision in ways that I’m not in control of. I don’t think you’re ever going to go to a wise old dog and get missions. But there might be instruction text on the screen sometimes, even though dogs can’t read. That’s on my mind

[26] You feel cold, and sad. Every moment that passes is a step closer to death, but it would be more welcome than the life you've had. You release a final sigh, like a quiet breath in cool air, somehow visible. --- THE END ---


and is one of the bigger design challenges I’ve been grappling with. Karina: There are several similarities between Dog Park and Home Free. There are the evocative animations, that spirit of play you spoke about, but there are also a lot of differences. As you said, Dog Park is multiplayer. What has been lost or carried over between the two and why? Kevin: I thought of both games at the same time, but never thought I was going to be able to take it all the way to Home Free. For me it’s a continuum. They’re exploring different portions of some of what I love about dogs. The multiplayer thing, giving people a chance to play with each other while exploring different types of play is at the forefront of Dog Park in a way that will never be in Home Free because Home Free is a single-player experience. I hope Home Free gives more opportunities for reflecting on and contemplating the role of how animals fit in the world. I’m excited by this idea of an animal that’s adapted to being around us and figuring out where it fits in in that ecosystem. That’s the underlying stuff that’s in Home Free and obviously Dog Park doesn’t touch any of that. Dog Park is like: “I want to see if I can hump that person.”


Karina: Are you still designing around dogs having that same kind of difference in personality in Home Free? Kevin: Definitely. One of the biggest things that makes dogs so important to us is their social lives. I’m hoping that I can capture some of that reality. Some dogs get along with each other, some don’t. When they see a dog display aggression to them, some dogs show their bellies and some dogs respond with aggression. I think it’s interesting to have that texture present in the game. Having done the Kickstarter and having been making this thing semipublic for as long as I have been, I think that I need to maintain my vision, but also think about what the game is that other people are imagining. I find that a useful star to navigate toward. It seems clear, people are going to expect that you’re going to walk up to a dog and sniff it. Then there will be some kind of ritual, like when you see dogs really do that. Sometimes that’s going to go well and sometimes it’s not. Karina: Between your PRACTICE talk last year and your vines of Home Free, it’s clear you’re paying attention to the physicality of being a dog. Are there any small details of being a dog that you’re thinking about?

Kevin: A lightbulb went off in my head when I moved the third-person camera down. It’s a literal interpretation of “seeing the world from a different perspective.” I think that the physicality you mentioned is about verisimilitude, making it look like it is a dog that you’re controlling on the screen. It’s also my interpretation of what it’s like to be a dog in the world. When you watch a dog engage with stuff, it does seem like it’s a lot more physical than how we engage with stuff. If a dog sees something interesting it’s going to get next to that thing and nudge it with its nose. The way that they engage with the world seems to be headfirst. I want to get some of that feel in there. Imagine what a human looks like from a dog’s perspective: this big, gangly thing with arms all over it. When a dog sees a hand coming down like that, is it to pet him, to give him food, to grab him? If I were making a game about a human protagonist, I don’t think I would be thinking about filling the world with NPCs that are sometimes monsters and sometimes friends, which I think that, as dog navigating a city, is how it would look like to you. Looking at the world from a dog’s perspective has led me in that direction.

[27] Your owner wants to play! It feels so warm to have the attention. A funny thought pops into your fresh mind. What if you surprise your owner by jumping left or right, and they guess which way it will be? Delightful! *ROLL 1d6* - (1-3) They guess the same direction you jump! (go to 19) - (4-6) They guess the other way. (go to 31)

Image Courtesy of Kevin Cancienne

[At this point in the interview, Princess tries to play with my dog, Maggie. She jumps around, wiggling her tail; Maggie stands straight, avoiding eye contact. When it’s clear that Maggie isn’t interested, Princess trots over to Kevin.] Kevin: There was this long-term study that animal behaviorists did about pairs of dog playmates. They looked at several generations of dogs in one-on-one play. One of the most interesting things about that study is that never did two dogs put in a play situation end up fighting with each other. Two dogs locked in a room together might play a lot, might play aggressively, might not play at all, but they never fight. Like I said, they’re good at negotiating these social rules with each other. Just now, Princess wasn’t being aggressive, but she was being in your face that she wanted to play. Maggie was saying with her body language: “This is freaking me out, I’m scared of this.” After a while, Princess gets what that means and decides to back off. That’s what happens with healthy, normal dogs. That’s interesting to me. Karina: How much are you relying on that kind of scientific research? Kevin: I’m wary of veering into simulation territory. I want this to be,

[28] You feel awful. Ignored, unloved, tortured even. You curl into a ball and weep silently. - If you are the JAPANESE release... (go to 26) - If you are the US release... (go to 9)

as pretentious as it sounds, a piece of art. I hope it will give you the chance to reflect on reality or maybe see glimpses of a different reality, but I never want to purport that it’s real. But I do read that stuff and I think about it a lot. Reading some of the more recent dog behavioral stuff that cuts against the theories about how dogs are all about displays of dominance has given me freedom to say that dog interaction in a game can be more freeform and doesn’t always have to be about this antagonistic relationship that I think some people might expect. The stuff does inspire my thinking, but it’s not always a straight line. Karina: What does it mean to you to be making a game about dogs or where a player plays as a dog? Kevin: There’s a thought I have a lot of the time as I’m working on an intense dog animation, trying to get foot placement right as it walks in a circle to lay down. It’s painstaking work, but I’m sitting there watching dog videos. I think about how lucky I am. I think about all the other game developers out there, they’re looking at gaping wounds or how an AK-47 reloads. But I get to look at cute puppies running around.

The fact that I get to spend time staring at dogs makes me so happy. I do think there’s something worshipful about making a game that’s about being a dog. We have this relationship with this other species that’s lasted for tens of thousands of years. The way that we seem to be able to understand each other in spite of or because of the fact that we don’t share a language is beautiful to me. Making this is my chance to reflect on that. I try to capture some of that reflection in an interactive format that hopefully other people will get to have some of the same insights. I hope you’re going to catch yourself thinking: “Oh! Maybe that’s why a dog does that,” or “That’s what it would be like in this situation.” I hope it doesn’t feel like a space marine that looks like a dog. It’s a chance to capture and explore what is so interesting about these animals that we spend so much time with and who occupy our world and help make our world. Human civilisation wouldn’t have turned out the way it did if these animals weren’t here and I think that’s interesting. The game and the process of making the game is an ongoing reflection of that.

Game design is not nearly as fun as playing games. It can be tedious.

[29] It's been a great day, but you can't wait to curl up and nap! You yawn loudly, looking up at your owner. *ROLL 1d6* - (1-3) The lights click right off. (go to 11) - (4-6) They want to play! (go to 12)


Stellar Molusc by El Huervo

Publisher A MAZE. GmbH Brunnenstr. 153 DE 10115 Berlin Germany Editor in chief Thorsten S. Wiedemann @ST0RN0 Editors Franziska Zeiner @herecomesfran Krystle Wong @krysoberyl


[30] Your owner chastises you for acting out, but somehow you love them more for it. You feel warm with affection. Lights are put out and you sleep soundly. - You dream... (go to 11)

Design / Layout

A MAZE. Magazine © A MAZE. GmbH

Cover PHOTO Jens Keiner


Sale Johnny Säil

Thanks to all the contributors, partners, friends and family. This magazine is for everyone who sees games not only as a product and believes in a playful future where technology is used for artistic expression.

Picture editing Laura Byld

[31] Oh... You thought your owner might understand you better, but I guess you can lose games too. A single tear animates down your cheek. *ROLL 1d6* - (1-3) Frustrated, your owner punishes you. (go to 13) - (4-6) Your owner praises you for playing, and gives you a treat! (go to 20)

[32] Without any light, time is impossible to keep track of. You only get hungrier. You hear something drop into the pen much later... Food? A toy? A trick? So young, and so confused, it's too much to bear. It's too late, and it's easier to just not eat at all. - If you are the JAPANESE release... (go to 26) - If you are the US release... (go to 9)


A MAZE. Magazine No.4 - Edition: Animals  

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