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A reply to a year old article


this is a reply to an article, and a sort of post mortem for Awkward Dimensions Redux. Not entirely so, since the game isn't dead. Far from it in fact, but I do feel I've put it off for long enough now and people should have more context. Because, why not?

Thank you for the article. I really enjoyed reading it. I actually read this hours after it was published. And I was a tad upset as you could imagine. However it's been a few months now, the hysteria of launching a game, the fan mail, the hate mail, the trade shows and expos, everything... it's died down. I've grown up. And you're right for the most part. This project was a teenager's attempt at validation, mutual understanding, self understanding (by means of self psychoanalyzing - bad idea, should have just got a therapist like everyone else does), to find meaning, to find "the answers". And after the game was launched I got all the kuddos I could have ever asked for and then I got used to it, sick and tired of not getting the same dopamine rush. The post launch blues as they say. The game ended up being extremely successful for what it was, heck I even got accepted into USC a week ago.

But before I get to that I want to clear a few things up. (next two paragraphs)

1) It wasn't a school project, at least not entirely. The expressionistic solo piece in the self destruct level was a theatre class project where we needed to "tell a personal truth". Mine was the story of a game of mine called Ultra Dance Murder, my first commercial game. I spent a year, did everything right, sent out hundreds of personable emails with professional presskits, went to expos, worked my ass off, etc... However, it didn't get anywhere. It was stuck in the greenlight limbo... Nobody cared. So I stopped caring. I deleted a year's worth of my work in an instant, and it felt liberating. Because gamedev became work, stopped being fun, became a todo list and deadlines... and for a while I lost sight of what making games meant to me. So I owned my art instead of my art owning me and destroyed it, told it who was the boss. And tearing up my sketchbook (full of hundreds pretty little detailed drawings) and tossing myself was my way of conveying that so that non-developers and highschool peers could understand. And they uhm, didn't. At least not entirely...

2) I don't try to rip off anyone, my inspirations are a little more nuanced than what people think (and I'm glad you didn't jump to conclusions like people sometimes do). Cheers to you for digging deeper as a reviewer! For instance, Sabotage was the etymology of the word itself, how the word originally came to be (labor shoe factory workers throwing a shoe into the machine(literally google image search shoe machine), replacing their job, to clog it up). Also self sabotaging thoughts that one can obsess over... and old rusty machines just from a relateable standpoint feel like they should be green. My machine is different than Davey's machine is what I'm saying. However, I did take inspiration from Davey Wreden's work. My message from the Beginner's guide that "you can't possibly understand someone through their work" and I wanted so badly to disprove that, because I didn't want to believe that was true. Because if that was true, then why create art at all? To find beauty? Pshhhh... So while I had worked on Awkward Dimensions before even The Stanley Parable was released (there's a 2013 7dfps prototype out there of awkward that has some of the levels, thus "Redux"), but you can imagine from my standpoint playing TBG for the first time I saw myself in Coda (creepily so), so it's obvious I feel an emotional connection and a need for an open dialog (the subtle & not so subtle hints) with Wreden (the song choice to hopefully peak his attention *I also got permission to use it from the musician, soo it wasn't illegal or anything like that*). Also being a teenager is never easy and the school system and competitive market to match don't make it any easier these days. Forcing kids like me to have no choice but to compete with the big boys. And this is how I dealt with all that anxiety,  just "put it in the game". And yeah it is far from playercentric, it isn't fun, nor is even a game by some people's definition. Though, Awkward did help me get through what was one of the most chaotic years of my life and helped a few others too and I couldn't be happier with it for that reason.

Funny thing, I actually met Wreden briefly in real life recently at SXSW. Wonderful guy, we talked a few minutes at my booth, mostly about college stuff. It was nice. I do wonder if he ever will play my game, and I wonder what he'll think of it. And you're right with the taking it to the next level thing, it's true. I put my real life into it, so the bad comments hurt a little more since they were just echos of the same self loathing and insecurity for my work seen in the self destruct level; what can I say I'm my own worst critic. It's not a good idea for someone to do that, especially someone my age. I put my personal email in the game like he did, just for that desire for genuine human connection; I was lonely, needed validation, etc... However, I swore I'd never resort to one way communication. I'd respond like a genuine human being, and I've kept that up even till today. I mean at first it was a full time job, among fixing bugs and adding more commentary notes that people mentioned or asked about after release. It was a huge learning process, but I learned what it was like to be in Davey's shoes, sort of. So I guess I did prove him wrong, at least in my mind. I understood him through his work by creating my own work as a sort of reply to his work... that sounds complicated and super meta, but it's true. All in all Awkward was more of a stream of consciousness, my subconscious personal and conscious design minds clashing for supremacy, and that's all it is really. I never knew what I was making when I was making it, so all those thoughts and ideas found their home in separate bite sized levels that normally would have been their own games, but became a personal magnum opus of mine. I'll add a small batch of levels every 5 years or so until I die. That's the plan, at least. A holistic "in their shoes" view of a person, playable.

Failing faster has always been my motto (the 30+ short weird games made before Awkward), I'm a huge fan of Extra Credits. I'm self taught, and Extra Credits is my design professor. However, I'm also an actor. So I try to fail big as well. And yes, I'm well aware of the naiveness of releasing it on steam now. People very well could not have been ready for it; it broke good game design, wasn't entirely meant to be played or understood by others, but some people did (in their minds) understand it. Yet Awkward did belong on Steam, it got greenlit fair and square and deserved to be there like the rest of them. And in the end Awkward Dimensions Redux changed my life. I learned a lot about gamedev, about myself, about the artistic process, but I'm still naive and that's okay. I suppose I'll make those socially questionable games so others don't have to.

Anyways, I do realize this is a long comment with tons of spelling and grammatical errors written in kind of the same flow state I got into when working on Awkward, but think of it as just a reply. Thank you. :)