I recently had the privilege of taking part in the annual Global Game Jam
; It was the first year San Francisco has ever hosted a location for the worldwide event, thanks to the organizational efforts of Jane McGonigal’s new gaming startup, Social Chocolate
. The theme for this year was “Extinction,” a topic not normally known for its romantic undertones.
And yet in just 48 hours, fellow SF Jammers Chelsea Howe
and Mike Molinari
conceived, designed, and COMPLETED a game that tells a concise story of connection and intimacy: It’s called THE END OF US
, and it’s pretty darn brilliant, and quite relevant to what we all intend on discussing here.
From the dual meaning of its title, to the lovable, at-times-frustrating, and downright playful AI, The End of Us is as romantic a game as one could make, and is all the more astounding for having been made in less than 2 days (Molinari cites the total productive work time as 31.5 hours).
Not to say that the quality of this game is in any way surprising. Chelsea was formerly a game designer on Zynga’s massively successful Farmville, and is now Director of Design at Social Chocolate. And Mike (aka: “Bean”), is well-known in the indie games community, having developed games like But That Was [Yesterday]
. Both developers (co-designers on The End of Us
), understand not just games, but the connections between people as well. It’s no accident that they came away with such a pitch-perfect Romantic game.
After all, what are the required components of a good Romance story? We need our characters. We need to understand what brings them together. We need to watch their relationship go through its hurdles — both the highs and the lows. We need to witness the outside forces that threaten to tear them apart, and we always need that one last and final guarantee: the grandiose action that solidifies and confirms what their relationship means, to us as players/viewers/readers, and perhaps to the characters as well.
Anyone interested in exploring romance in video games (and that’s presumably anyone writing or reading this blog), should play this game
. And take notes.