I haven’t been writing on this blog that much recently. It’s mostly because I was busy working on another project (The Talk). But it’s also because I’ve realized that my project is too ambitious. I’m trying to rethink how to make it more manageable, which is difficult for me because I like thinking BIG. Usually too big. I think it can overwhelm potential collaborators. Like my 11 year old son. I might have freaked him out with my “epic” plan for our video game about The Farm. I am hopeful that, if I can rein myself in, we can create something to share with others this summer.
I was reminded of my grand video game plans this morning when I came across an article for Sundance, Future is Now: 5 Things Pushing the Art and Form of Storytelling. One of those things is Games! Video games and board games. I like the idea of imagining my Farm game as both a Zelda-esque video game and as a board game. Part of the fun of this project is exploring and learning all about the different possible forms for storytelling. My academic/nerd self loves to do the research and learn more about it. As I was writing this second paragraph, I realized that I just made my project more, instead of less, ambitious by suggesting that it should be both a video and a board game. Ugh! Maybe it’s going to be harder to rein myself in than I thought? Oh well.
High Tech Push Has Board Games Rolling Again
While researching Finnish women’s experiences living in the UP, I came across “Marys in Pants” or housu maijat. Here’s a description, found in the great book, Women Who Dared: The History of Finnish American Women:
A small number of women choose to use America as an opportunity to live independently in the woods. These women build their own log cabins and live off the land, hunting, fishing, and trapping….The Finnish American community refers to them as housu maijat, and develop legends about their independence, bravery, and kindness. The legends suggest that while the Finnish American community admired these women, they define them basically as freaks, not considering their behavior could be a form of self-improvement.
K. Marianne Wargelin
I want to make a NPC (non-player character) woman that lives out in the woods. Maybe I’ll name her Maria Keranen (known locally as Loukus-Maiji). The real Keranen lived in the woods and “had a colorful reputation” in the UP in the early 1900s. People often visited her and wrote about her (37).
Cool! Here’s a map of the farm section (1910-?) that STA/Room 34 just created:
Compare it to the google map of the actual land:
As part of The Farm story experiment, I’ve been working with my son fwathegamer (who turned 11 last week) on a video game inspired by stories from Finnish Americans, like my great grandparents Elias and Johanna, living in the UP in the 1890s-early 1900s. While some of the stories come from my grandmother’s memoirs + scrapbooks, much of them come from researching the history of Finnish immigrants. I’ve really enjoyed reading/hearing the stories and figuring out ways to organize them into a video game. But, I’ve had less fun trying to collaborate with my son on the project. I think neither of us had any idea that creating a video game could be so complicated and time-consuming. It’s taking all the SISU and Puotinen persistence that I have to continue
nagging encouraging him to work on the project with me.
One monumental task for this video game is crafting the UP, including the farm world, in pixel form. Thanks to a fabulous micro grant (from Tweet Small Change), fwathegamer and I got a subscription to Pickle and we’ve been playing around/struggling with it in the hopes of creating cool tile sets and backgrounds for the game. This morning, inspired by a featured game on Stencyl, the platform that we’re using, I had the idea of using the aerial view of the farm land as a guide. In less than a minute, I was able to zoom in on google maps to find it.
Pretty cool! Now, we just need to convert it to something like these:
At the end of a level or stage in a video game, you frequently have to fight a extra powerful enemy called a boss. I’m hoping to have at least 3 bosses in the video game that my son FWA and I (with some help from STA) are creating. All of the bosses are inspired by historical events/true stories in the lives of Finnish American immigrants from the UP.
Yesterday, FWA designed an Alpha version of a Lightning-wielding Tree Boss that the player faces at the end of the farming stage. This tree is inspired by a true story from my dad about a bad lightning storm in the back 40 field that electrocuted a prized cow. Here’s FWA’s vision of the boss (he will eventually shoot lightning bolts out of his eyes/limbs):
And here’s the story from my dad (2 minutes 37 seconds in):