HK-2048: what is the future of Hong Kong?

Project Concept

The past two months, I’ve been working on a tiny game, HK-2048, about the current direction of politics in Hong Kong.

I live in Hong Kong, a former British colony and a Special Administrative Region of China. Since the central government’s refusal to offer any concessions on political reform after the Umbrella Revolution of 2014, things seem to be sliding downhill faster and faster. Missing booksellers, legislators disqualified and arrested at the behest of China, and apathy about the very idea of protesting give very few people hope for Hong Kong beyond 2047, when the protections on our ‘capitalist way of life’ run out.

I may be naïve, but I believe there is yet hope for Hong Kong. How to give others hope, is still something I’m working on.

Themes

HK-2048 is more of an interactive museum looking into one possible future of Hong Kong than a true game. From the start, I wanted to describe some of the following current trends while simultaneously bringing them to absurd conclusions in the year 2048.

  • promotion of Mandarin & simplified Chinese over Cantonese & traditional
  • population importation
  • banned words and phrases
  • economic growth of China eclipsing western investment
  • election manipulation & political apathy
  • environmental pollution

Influences

The independent film 10 Years gave me the initial drive to make something in the same vein. This was also not the first time I have artistically commented on Hong Kong’s politics. During the Umbrella Revolution in 2014, I animated a few short explainer animations that were picked up by some online media outlets and a film festival back in 2014.

Although I knew I would be too late to enter, seeing all the talent at the #ResistJam definitely inspired me to keep moving forward with my concept.

Design

The game is structured as a very simple discovery/collection game. The player must investigate the 5 different objects in the room before they can conclude the game with a essentially meaningless choice of whether there is still hope for Hong Kong.

Player Character: Winter Tsoi

Winter has been a (not entirely original) character of mine for some time. I based February’s 3D modelling project around her, though the original concept of an conflict mediator is pulled from the (sadly discontinued) game Dysfunctional Systems. Winter exists solely as a space-travelling player proxy in this future Hong Kong.

Visual Setting

Influences: Matheus Bitencourt, Michael B. Myers Jr., Oleg Miller, Beat Cop

Though Hong Kong’s 50 years of ‘unchanged way of life’ are set to end in 2047, there is presently no plan as to what happens next. This future is dominated by mainland Chinese influence and a dystopian cyberpunk style (loved Ghost in the Shell’s visuals), done up in a pixel art style I’m still working on. Nothing’s clean, but everything’s bright and saturated.

Development

Full disclosure: I’m not a developer and if you are, I hope you don’t look at the source code of this game, as it is horrible. Huge chunks of copied code, nested if-statements, no input on mobile. However, this project stretched on for far longer than I expected, so by the end, my goal was more to have a playable concept than to have any semblance of clean code. Mission accomplished.

I’d also be remiss if I said I coded this whole thing from scratch. In addition to a lot of Stack Overflow searches, I used Matt Hackett’s tutorial, How to make a simple HTML5 Canvas game as my jumping-off point

Music?

In my very ambitious plan for March, I had laid out a week to try my hand at some chiptune music. Although I’ve done some terrible audio experiments in the past, I simply didn’t have the time or drive to work on any music once all the art and code was finished.

Post Mortem

This project honestly stressed me out way more than it should have. Although I set out to make one project per month, I need to learn to be more flexible.

I need to be able to make decisions like, “Is it worth taking another month to finish this or should I just stop here and document my progress?”

Also, this is a pretty sad and bleak view of the future if my original goal was to inspire hope for the future of Hong Kong. Media like 10 Years can extrapolate upon the everyday and manifest negative consequences in order to galvanize people to fight against such a future. However, there should also be room for the portrayal of positive futures. How to make such a future without a pair of rose-coloured glasses may be a question for another month.

Play HK-2048 here.

These articles document monthly projects I am doing to expand my knowledge across the wide range of disciplines that can be loosely associated with ‘design’. Previous works here: aja5174.cias.rit.edu & amicidesigns.tumblr.com