Things I Dig: Radiator Blog

I’m always on the lookout for good game development blogs.  I love to read about how game creators imagine how to tell stories or investigate political issues via game mechanics.  I am especially happy when I find a game development blog with an interesting writing voice to go along with the interesting gaming discussions.

Let me introduce you to a new favorite: Radiator Blog by Robert Yang.

Here is just a taste.

Yang’s latest game, Cobra Club, is a “photo studio game about body image, privacy, and dick pics. Take pictures, pose your junk, chat with fellow members”

Here are a couple of awesomely tantalizing quotes about the making of this game:

A lot of dick pics are used to project power and harass people. A lot of dick pics are also about exposure, shame, or fear. Robert Frost might ask us to ponder the dick pic not taken. In this way, perhaps dick pics are about the vulnerability of possibility.

***

As I see it, there are three play strategies in Cobra Club: (1) make a really weird “funny” dick, (2) make a “good” dick pic, (3) recreate your “actual” dick (if you have one) as faithfully as possible. People who play in public will likely go for option 1 to diffuse awkwardness, but without an audience that’ll probably get kind of boring. Even option 2 is surprisingly intimate, it forces you to visualize and articulate what your “ideal” dick looks like, to expose your supposed fantasy.

And, because I recently wrote about the addition of different races to Rust for Al Jazeera America, I was excited to see that Yang brings a discussion of the race of his dick pic dudes into the mix!

Interfaces have default settings, and default settings imply ideals. This is a heavy concern with “character creators” in most video games; who are the default Commander Shepards or default Bloodborne hunters of the world? (The answer is left as an exercise for the reader.) But the most epic trainwrecks in interfaces and representation are outside of games, like Apple’s emoji specification, or the poor East Asian language support in Unicode. Those debacles are about defaults and limitations built into specifications by some very human designers.

My dick creator is no different, it is an interface with politics, and I’ve tried to address that. The skin color palette order is randomized every playthrough, and every player’s starting skin color and default dick specs are randomized at initialization, and first-time players will have to wait a few minutes to learn how to unlock advanced dick controls.

This is vaguely similar to Facepunch Studios’ multiplayer open world game Rust, which assigns players an unchangeable skin color, but that still doesn’t seem quite right to me. That implementation treats race as some sort of immutable trait or fact, when ideas of whiteness / blackness / bodies are artificial constructs subject to societal norms (etc.)… that said, race isn’t exactly interchangeable like color swatches, right? These are all fantasies about how race works, or how penises work.

Seriously, go check out his blog and his work.  It is awesome.

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