From alcoholism to bullying
Papo & Yos touching story on loss and alcoholism tackles subjects that arent often found in video games, at least not yet. Minority Media hopes to keep pushing the boundaries with their next project, Silent Enemy, a game that weaves in the subject of bullying and is set in the frozen northern region of Canada. The games theme and content is also inspired by the culture and legends of the Cree aboriginals, one of the largest groups of Native Americans living in North America. All we know about the gameplay is that you play as an unnamed boy whos trying bring the warmth of spring back into the harsh winter environment. He collects nature spirits that can manipulate the world around you and shapeshift to get into hard to reach places.
Well find out more as development progresses, but for now, we asked Creative Director Vander Caballero and Design Director Ruben Farrus questions about their new game, the reception and reaction to Papo & Yo and where the industry is heading.
What was the biggest challenge when designing a game around highly personal themes? Did you get the reaction that you had expected when Papo & Yo released?
Vander Caballero: The biggest challenge is being ready to open your story to the world. It took me many years of therapy just to be able to talk about it to others, and many more to share it through a video game. Now that my fathers alcoholism is no longer a secret, I feel free.
Deep in the idealistic recesses of my brain, I hoped that doing a game about helping others in a meaningful way would have a chance for success. However, it is difficult to judge what success actually is. Is it game critics? Is it the Metacritic score? Is it the sales? Or is it the mail that we get from our fans thanking us for making the game? Six months after the release of this game, I've realized that the real success is receiving mail, tweets and other kinds of feedback from people sharing their experience on how Papo has helped them cope with their struggle.
What are you hoping to achieve with Silent Enemy from a gameplay perspective and emotional reaction?
VC: We are going to be breaking rules in the gameplay book. Silent Enemy is a game that deals with bullying. This issue can't be resolved by going to the gym or by picking up power-ups. So, I hope people are open-minded and not expecting a traditional power fantasy game, especially the critics. We hope to create a gameplay experience that will help people cope with bullying in the same way Papo did with alcoholism and abuse. Our goal at Minority is to transform the gaming experience from pure escapism into something that provides a learning experience and rests in your mind long after you drop your controller. Hopefully, this game can help you in life.
Why did you decide to go with the setting you did?
VC: I'm turning this one over to our Design Director, Ruben Farrus!
Ruben Farrus: Silent Enemy is actually a project we've been working on since Minority was founded, but it has gone through a number of changes over the years. We first wanted to create an experience through which gamers could encounter Canada's frozen north and the culture of the Cree aboriginals - definitely not a common setting for a video game. Initially this was going to be a survival hunting game, but after Papo, we wanted to think of how we could make the game personal and emotional. So, Vander suggested that we could draw on my past experiences being bullied, and now we are combining that inspiration with elements from Cree legend and culture to create another emotional story, in a magically realistic world.
What has the experience been like working at an independent studio? We are seeing a lot more support for indies these days. How do you feel about that?
VC: Going indie has surpassed all my expectations. I cant think on how miserable life would be working at a big corporation. Its not that corporations are evil, its just that having no control over what the future will bring is extremely demoralizing. It can drive you nuts! On the other hand, being a small indie, you own your destiny: whether you fail or you succeed, it is entirely in your hands. There is no one else sitting at a board meeting making the decisions for you behind closed doors.
I love the growth of the indie space, especially here in Montreal where you have great artists who are leaving bigger companies to make games that wouldn't be possible otherwise. The Canadian government has given us and other studios amazing support through the Canadian Media Fund, which is helping this city to become one of the most interesting places in the world to create games."
Where do you feel like this industry is evolving? Where would you like it to go?
VC: I see the industry evolving towards more niche-oriented products, where games will no longer aim to simply catch as many players as they can. I mean, how many more adolescent power fantasies can you play? I think that digital store shelves will start to look more like video stores did during the first decade of this century and players will be able to access content at prices that will allow them to take risks.
What are your thoughts on the rise of mobile/F2P gaming?
VC: F2P games are like beauty products: the impulse to buy comes from a deep insecurity. They make you think If I dont buy this cream, Ill be ugly and wrinkled. So, you can use this impulse to buy for good or for evil. You can spend a lot of money and time on a game that sidetracks you from your life, or you can spend that money on a game that will gain you something. Minority's goal is to bring deep, emotional experiences to as many people as possible and, to that effect, we will be sharing new ideas on how we plan to do that.
Have you played Papo & Yo?
For those of you who haven't played Papo & Yo, it is a unique gaming experience as you traverse through a Brazilian favela, solving puzzles while guilding a lumbering monster through the slums. It's available on the PlayStation Network and is also coming to Steam. For more information, you can read our review of the game. We'll be keeping a close eye on Minority's next project, Silent Enemy, and will share more information as soon as we can.
If you're looking for more info on great indie experiences, check out our best indie games list.