GLOSSY — The Future We Deserve

Premise

With a small bottle of Glossy’s bestselling spray, you no longer need to panic for being upset or bored in front of your boss, colleague, friends, classmates, and everyone around you. No more upset facial expressions. To become CALM, CONFIDENT, and HAPPY, 30 seconds of showering in GLOSSY spray is all you need. — Introduction of GLOSSY Spray

The plot unfolds around a society where people are extremely obsessed with emotional regulation. When everyone tries hard to improve or at least maintain positive personal image in social circle, a product like GLOSSY Spray and a system of evaluating emotional wellness & stability come handy. Emotional Index (EI) is the new measure that will be taken into account throughout a citizen’s entire life, from college application to promotion in workplace. The National EI is a steady 0.9 out of 1. Those who are far below the National EI, have been taken “good” care of.

Player will play the role of Olivia, a sixteen-year-old girl. Player will witness how Olivia’s life collapses as she tries to get rid of the loop of emotional suppression. The goal of the game is to raise awareness of mental health, and the value of taking care of families and friends. Additionally, the game attempts to unveil the danger of losing own judgement and following the social norm (in another word, collective will).

//Characters

Olivia: She is not the most popular kid in school, but at least she has her best friend, Amy. Recently Olivia sensed something unusual going on with her friend Amy.

Bob: Olivia’s father, a writer and popular blogger who has published lots of articles about parenting and mental health.

Amy: Olivia’s best friend. Quiet and reserved are the words people come up with when thinking about Amy. She might be more brave than you could have imagined.

Mrs. Lew: Olivia’s teacher. She routinely checks on students’ Emotional Index.

//Locations

Olivia’s home, school and the clinic are major scenes.
  • Home: home, sweet home. You can browse online, chat with friends, talk with parents, or sleep.
  • Forest and mountain: you are warned not go into the forest, though you are curious about what is out there beyond the forest and the mountain.
  • Amy’s home: Amy occasionally invites you to come over.
  • Clinic: diagnose illness and prescribe medicines. Who needs help from the Clinic?
  • School: not your favorite place, but have to go anyways.
  • Shopping center: You pass by the shopping center on the way to and back from school. A mixture for good memory and terrible reality.

Inspiration

Mini Inspiration Cloud

The initial inspiration of GLOSSY came from a experimental concept of my previous science fiction drawing project. I imagined that there would be a facial “spray” product in future that precisely inject Botox to difference areas of face to lift muscles and smooth out wrinkles. The idea of the spray was rooted in the emotional suppression perspective and “smiling depression” symptoms.

I used to work on a research project involving depressive teens and their families and have always been interested in the underlying mechanism of depressive symptoms. The game is a good opportunity to spotlight the impact of parenting and social interactions upon psychological well-being. Hopefully after playing the game, people would be more willing and patient to support their friends and families.


Process

#1 Prototype

I had the rough idea of using GLOSSY spray as central element of my game. But I was unsure about how to fill up the rest of the story. The lack of gaming experience pushed me to play more Interactive Fiction (IF) games, such as Walking Dead and Gone Home. As a result, I realized how important visuals were to me. Having a hard time to immerse myself in pure-text-based IF games, I decided to include a fair amount of images in my own game. So I started with drawing characters and scenes! Visuals did helped me develop some lines and dots of my story, though some of the scenes were still waiting for me to connect them together.

Sketched scenes for GLOSSY

At this stage, my idea was to have a story about how Olivia investigates the cause of her friend Amy’s suicide and discovers the risk of overusing GLOSSY spray. The problem was how to end the story. I almost gave Olivia an epic death for fighting against GLOSSY, but I changed my mind after reading the plot to my friend. Death should have its purpose rather than being a way to force the story ends; if your potential player laughed out loud or had no empathy when characters died, you’d better think carefully about your characters’ fate.

#2 Prototype

I was debating between starting the story with Amy’s death and starting with Olivia’s school day. Best friend’s death would be an intense hook attracting player’s curiosity, while a school day could lead to a nice flow of diving into the story. I chose to begin the story with Olivia’s school day as I considered it to be “safe choice”. Soon the story upset me as it sounded like a terrible cliché. It got even worse when I figured that I had zero clue of how to wrap up the story. There were too many branches as I tried to give players multiple choices for each scenario.

I tested what I got so far with my friend Zen, a graduate student in Psychology. He commented that he was not sure where the choices were leading to, and he did not feel that he had to be serious about his decisions in the game. The story scenes were a bit scattered to him, and he also told me “they[events in the game] all happened too fast… maybe add some transitions?”.

Trying to pull the strings together, I revisited the chapter fifteen of The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. I followed the “string of pearls” method, cut out some unnecessary scenes, and crafted out a main line of my story. At the end I added few branches around the main storyline.

The unsolved problem was how to make players engage in decision-making, and how to connect players with the game characters emotionally.

#3 Prototype

Based on Zen’s feedback, I planed to explore strategies to make 1) the environment and 2) the characters more convincing.

After talking with Christina, I decided to extend the concept of emotional regulation products to a bigger scale and more intense level. I added new elements and designed game characters’s routine activities to permeate the sense of emotional suppression into all perspectives of game characters’ daily life.

Original element:

  • Trendy GLOSSY spray. People use it before going to class, work and meeting.

New elements:

  • Emotional Index: measured by devices everyday. Kept in personal record. When hitting below a certain value, characters will be sent to Clinic (or somewhere worse?).
  • Overprescription of clinical GLOSSY spray and other medical procedures (like overprescription of antidepressants and lobotomy surgery)
  • Mist (similar to sedative and tranquilizer): used when group of people rebel.
  • The rest of the world: the society where Olivia lives claims to be “civil and peaceful”. What about the rest of the world? The “civil” society prohibits citizens from discussing the rest of the world, and labels it as “evil and violent”.

In order to flesh out my characters, I tried to define some of their routine activities, personalities, attitudes and relationships with others:

Give characters persona
  • Olivia’s father, Bob, wrote articles about parenting and mental health such as “7 Strategies to Help Your Children Regulate Emotion”, but had no deep conversation with Olivia.
  • Bob always watched TV and attended workshops that taught healthy life style.
  • Amy did not get along with her parents. Her emotional needs were constantly neglected.

#4 Prototype

I tested my game with Yuan, a graduate student in Informatics, and Jane, a graduate student in Psychology. They both enjoyed the dystopian concept of the game, but thought the game was “too plain” and pace was slow. “Just like voyaging along the river — there was no epic growth or fall”, Yuan suggested to add some struggles or conflicts for Olivia. Jane asked if I could spread out the text more evenly, since some passages were so heavy in text that she had to scroll down to read. Additionally, Yuan loved the drawings in the game, but wished they were more polished. Due to the time frame, I will probably have to work on the drawings later.

I examined what was missing in my story architecture and compared with the archetypal plots in The Shape of Story. I ended up intensifying the struggle and obstacle Olivia was facing when trying to support her friend and escape from the Clinic and the “civil” society.