On (Snaky) Narcissism
SNAKISMS is out and about now and got a very nice reception from people, including a good write-up in Spanish over on Anait Games. One of the ideas covered in the game was narcissism, which was implemented by having a ‘mailto:’ link trigger when the player dies in the game, hopefully triggering their mail client to set up an email to me in the format in the image above – an effusive subject line followed by a writing prompt for them to tell me how great I am.
And as it happens a few people have actually sent that email to me, which has been pretty fun. Some observations:
- Sometimes people literally send the pre-written email to me, which I find kind of interesting and weird as an experience. Because at that point it feels a lot like I sent the email to myself? I made a game, which cues up and email that I wrote that someone else then facilitates getting back to me via their computer and internet connection, and then it turns up in my inbox. It’s like one of those postcards or packages that tries to “find its way” to a destination via a bunch of people.
- I have been fooled by my own email. The first time someone sent it to me, I had completely forgotten the phrasing I’d written and took the email at face value, and then felt so embarrassed when I recognised the text a bit later. I don’t know what this says about me, but probably that I’m over eager to believe people are over-the-top excited about my work. Guess it’s important to have this at some level in the lonely desert of the withering soul that is making “art”?
- Some people actually use the email popping up to write some text in along with the filler (they seem to always leave the filler in so far), and that’s been really fun to read because they often offer their thoughts on the game itself or the context in which they were playing it. That immediacy of an email sent while they are playing my game brings back that hard-to-capture feeling that somewhere in the world people are actually experiencing something I made. Most of the time it all becomes very abstract once a game is released – I can see from analytics, say, that people are playing or have played it, but it doesn’t feel like anything much. With the email I get a sense of a real, individual person engaging with the game.
- At a base level, I have to imagine this version of the game does reflect the narcissistic “craving for admiration”. I mean, I guess we always basically want people to like the things we make “for them”, but it has felt a bit awkward acknowledging it quite so overtly like this – especially since the game makes it seem like a “joke”, but then I know it’s also not quite a joke? Not entirely. I do want people to love my work, in the end, I think. Do I? Ugh.
- The idea for triggering the player to praise me comes from David Wolinsky (notably of Don’t Die), who I was discussing the game with. The earlier version of Narcissism involved the snake eating (real) praise I’ve received over the past year on Twitter etc. but it just didn’t feel right. David’s reversal of that suggested the idea of having the player tweet something about SNAKISMS itself, which is great, and eventually I went with email for the kind of “personal” element (and partly because I’ve already done a Twitter-oriented thing like that in BREAKSOUT).
Those are what we in the business call “some thoughts”.