The Ugly Monster
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The Ugly Monster

Playing Every Game in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality

PEGBRJE: ‘Interactive Portraits: Trans People In Japan’ and ‘Rulent Tower VR’

Interviews and Sandboxes.

Damn, same.

Interactive Portraits: Trans People In Japan is a small interactive media piece by Zoyander Street, a solo indie dev based in Great Britain. Created using the works of the Creator Ikusei project, players will read through twelve interviews of different Trans and non-binary individuals within the different aspects of Japanese life.

Stylized as adorable tamogatchi-like entities, players will select one of the twelve individuals and read through the interviews that were conducted by Zoyander back in 2018. Players are given two choices that can direct the flow of the interview, going in to details on their lives and how they view themselves, their society, and the lives that go on around them.

Zoyander utilizes different techniques to help facilitate the conversation, such as open-ended interviewing — a way of asking questions that allows the interviewee to go in to more details without the interviewer needing to ask pinpoint-exact questions. It gives agency to the interviewee, and in turn allows them to give more personal answers to dive more in to how they feel. And when interviewing about a topic as personal as trans-life in Japan, comfort and safety are key.

This is not as easy as it may appear. Zoyander went to great lengths to ensure that the interviews would foster an inclusive and safe environment. They mention utilizing participant observation and the research in to ethnography to ensure that their speech and style would assist in the process. To paraphrase a quote even, “[…]if you’d interviewed me just like all the other interviews by people who are like ‘what is a transgender?’ I would have had to lie.”

I focus so much on the techniques to create such a fantastic atmosphere for interviewing because this game is all about those ‘normal’ moments that they all willingly discuss. It truly feels like a conversation with a friend that you may have, not a dissecting interview on what being ‘trans’ means. PICO-8 helps to give that game-like feeling, almost juxtaposing the seriousness of the conversations with the cute 8-bit motions of the creatures. It’s a fantastic set of interviews, and if you want to see a look in to the Japanese culture that is not showcased often in Western media, then give this a look.

I too question everything.

Rulent Tower VR is a VR prototype created by Setsune, a solo indie developer. Originally a GB Studio parody project, players will explore an apartment complex in the virtual reality as if they are within an old Gameboy game. All for April Fools.

The pixelated building is the dream of anyone who ever wished to get magically transported in to their GBA, as they can maneuver through the building to talk with anyone around and interact with any object. Movement even feels like the player is in an old game, sliding between each cube for movement in a retro style way. Anything that can be grabbed will be, and then whipped around and thrown in any direction if the player so chooses to destroy this lovely space.

Interactions with other people give way to cute bubbles above their head along with a sound cue to indicate their conversation. If players go to the apartment section, they can see names above the doors to indicate the Patreon supporters, who have actual dialogue upon a knock at their door.

With all of the sound effects and music to bolster that GBA feeling, Rulent Tower VR is truly the ‘I am now stuck in a retro game’ that you may have dreamed of as a kid. It is not necessarily a game in the traditional sense, more of a sandbox prototype to showcase how 2D pixel characters can exist in a 3D space, but it was also an April Fool’s joke that became a legitimate project.

For those of us without consistent access to any kind of VR, unfortunately it cannot be played on a ‘flat screen’. But you can use the Quest on Android! So it evens itself out. If you love VR spaces and just want to play around, this is a good game to try out.

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Jacob Vorstenbosch

Jacob Vorstenbosch

Just a Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.