Not all games about the future embrace violence and dystopia, but a huge number of them do. Brie Code, CEO and creative director of Tru Luv Media, believes we can do better. Tru Luv’s mission is to create games of care and characters, and to help create a world where all people “have real opportunities to develop their unique talents, create culture and design the future.”
If it sounds utopian, that’s rather the point.
In an in-depth piece for GamesIndustry.biz, Code shares her thoughts on creating utopias and caring spaces in games.
By simply talking with a few people who found video games boring, I found the theory of tend-and-befriend. I wrote about it earlier this year. In short, it’s a common stress response in humans that does not involve fighting or running away, but instead, taking care and connecting. And it can be stimulated by more than stress. It can be stimulated by acts of care and connection themselves. In learning about tend-and-befriend, I realized that my boredom with so many games isn’t that they are too hard for me or even that I have grown out of them. It’s that they don’t stimulate me. They aren’t my pattern. My growing annoyance with guitar solos, linear films, and games had been a gift from my subconscious, showing me that entertainment could be different.
Tend-and-befriend challenges the underlying assumptions in every game design book I’ve ever read. It implies that we might not need to design games around this linear build of increasing stress (adrenaline), and increasing opportunities to win (dopamine). Tend-and-befriend implies that we may be able to design games that balance care and characters (oxytocin and opioids). We might not need frustration, violence, or dystopia to engage the player or the viewer or the listener. Entertainment that is brutal and fearful and is also uncaring and incomplete. It’s small. We might be able to imagine something bigger and better.
That’s only a small portion of what Code has to say on the subject, so read on.
Tru Luv’s part in bringing this vision to life is a series of games made in part by people who find games boring. It’s a provocative idea, but it’s central to Tru Luv’s mission. If games are always made by people who love games as they are, then games will creep toward homogeneity. New ideas and new audiences come from expanding the game industry.
To support this mission, Tru Luv is raising money on Patreon. In exchange for the support of its fans, it’s offering care kits that include monthly life-affirming digital packages and quarterly care kits that represent the studio’s values of care, connection, transcendence and celebration.
The first game Tru Luv is working on comes from Eve Thomas, a Canadian magazine editor and artist. It’s called #SelfCare.
In Eve’s game, someone has stayed home for the day. They refuse to leave their bed. They are surrounded by their favourite sacred things, and each one has some gentle insight to offer. Each interaction makes life seem a little bit more possible, or a little bit more meaningful. While you take care of the character in the game, maybe you take care of yourself a little bit too.
Eve’s game will never send you notifications. There is no difficulty, no score, and no competition. Her game is instead about taking a few moments for reflection.
If you’re interested in #SelfCare or Tru Luv’s mission, check them out on Patreon.