As a Senior undergraduate I was required to take Senior Project classes which provided a capstone experience for the major and then culminated in the Senior Show in June. The Senior Project class gives students the opportunity to direct their own project based on individual skills, interests and professional goal. For 10 weeks, students work closely with faculty on their individual project. These projects went through thorough research, conceptual development, prototype development, refinement and production.
This Senior Project class focused on interactive media such as game design, dynamic website, interactive installations and more.
For my Senior Project, I chose to design a video game called "Space Invader," inspired by retro arcade games and their underlining colonial narratives.
Research and Development
Before my Senior Project class, I saw this video of a programming/coding project done by students from the University of Texas at Austin. See the right side for the video.
In this video, the students created a Space Invaders game with the aliens becoming more responsive through each level. For example, the aliens are nonresponsive in level one, but the next level has the aliens dodging the shots. Then after each level the aliens question the player on their intentions. I thought this was a unique take on the classic arcarde game.
Colonialism in Video Games
In an essay by Mary Fuller and Henry Jenkins, they compare the narratives of popular video games such as Super Mario to historical narratives of colonialism.
In many video games, the player must reach their goal by exploring digital landscapes, taking the land's resources, fighting and killing off the native species. This is similar to many European explorers and traders traveling to Africa, Asia and the Americas during the 15th-18th centuries. For example in the Super Mario game, Mario and Luigi are simple men crossing unexplored and dangerous lands and encountering strange creatures in order to save Princess Toadstool from the savage King Koopa. This narrative can be juxtaposed with the story of Pocahontas with John Smith and John Rolfe "rescuing" (or kidnapping) the princess from the savagery. It is said that "history is written by the winners/victors" and history has traditionally taught that European colonization was meant to "save" the natives. However it was the destruction of people, languages and cultures through the eyes of indigenous groups.
The article was a interesting perspective on video game narratives and influenced me to analyze the gameplay and narratives of many games such as Space Invaders. The aliens are supposed to be the invaders, but maybe the player is actually the invader.
I designed the game through Unity3D. The game mechanics are similar to the classic arcade game, Space Invaders with the aliens lined in up rows shooting towards the player. As the player progresses, the enemies increase in difficulty through a variety of game mechanics and elements such as Asteroids, Galaga and Missle Command.
In the beginning of the game, the player can choose 2 different narratives—a spaceship or an alien. The history of colonialism is complex with multiple perspectives, so I created 2 story lines for the player. The question becomes: "who is the invader?"