Oftentimes, we might think that there is little we can do to help the Earth. However, how can that be true? We only have one Mother Earth, and even we, just simple college students, can learn to treat the world better and take care of it more. By learning to SoRRRt the trash we produce on a daily basis, we can help the world be a little bit better…
Our game centers around the everyday college student: stressed, tired, sleepy, and messy. Our main character is going through a rough midterm season and hasn’t had a chance to clean their room in a few weeks. There is trash EVERYWHERE, not a single inch of their floor can be seen, the room is a safety hazard, and our main character can’t remember the last time they did laundry. As they are studying for their exams, they get an email titled “[ACTION REQUIRED] Room Checks TONIGHT”, stating that a Dorm Admin will be coming by all rooms and performing a “wellbeing check”. Uh oh!
In a hurry, the main character must make sure their room is ready for the spontaneous check from Dorm Admin. However, the main character is also working on being more environmentally conscience after reading about global warming and pollution in their recent classes. Not only must the character clean up the room in a time crunch, but they must also do so in an environmentally friendly way.
In one round of the game, you must sort all the trash in your room into three different categories: metals, papers, and landfill. Run around the room grabbing items and sorting them appropriately! Once a certain bin fills up, make sure to empty it out in the bins outside and continue cleaning your room. You need to clean up everything before the Dorm Admin arrives!
Our game takes place in a college dorm room and relies on the player running and sorting quickly to complete the level.
The basic game focuses on our main character and cleaning up their room in the specific time, however we do have many ideas for stories that we could spin off into:
The Roommate: After having your own room your entire life, you are now living with a college roommate. Although you love your roommate and get along well, they are just as messy as you are, and sometimes even worse. As you are rushing around cleaning up the room, they throw wrappers on the floor and begin to add to the piles you had just cleaned up. Not only do you need to beat the time constraint, but now you also need to clean up your roommates’s mess.
The Pet: You decide to get a dog at the local shelter, a beautiful Black Lab! But isn’t a pet supposed to help you relax and have fun? Your new puppy is doing the exact opposite. You come home from a long day of classes and your entire notebook has been torn up by your dog, as well as all the trash removed from the bins and thrown all over the floor. Not only do you need to re-sort the trash, but you also need to separate your notes/homework from other random papers and try to save your room and your grades!
The Messy Kitchenette: Every week, your dormmates take turns cleaning the community kitchenette. Sadly, it seems like this is the week that everyone’s groceries expire and no one thought about labeling what should or shouldn’t get thrown out. Check out the change in scenery and help clean up the kitchenette for those around you!
The Birthday Party: You are finally turning twenty-one and your friends are super excited to help you celebrate. They invite all of your closest friends, but then all of your closest friends invite their closest friends, and before you know it, you have a full blown rager going on in a tiny dorm room. The night rushes by and suddenly your RA is telling you it’s quiet hours, and also reminds you of the alcohol policy for all of the underclassmen they see. Work to calm down the party animals and send them home, while also cleaning up the mess they made from the fun night!
The Family Weekend: You thought that Family Weekend was just going to be like any other normal weekend, until you get a random call from your mom. She tells you that she is on her way from SFO and that the Uber will drop her off at your dorm in 30 minutes. You hadn’t planned for this and have to clean up the entire room (and make it parent-presentable) within this time constraint!
This game aims to invoke a call-to-action and sense of urgency in players.
We want to give players the feeling of what it is like to have a messy dorm/dorm room, and to feel the pressure to clean it. We plan to achieve this by focusing on three core emotions:
Apprehensive. A dorm room check will be implemented soon and players enter the game and are placed into a messy dorm room: theirs. With the timer counting down to when the Dorm Admin will be arriving and performing checks, players must take in their surroundings quickly, learn sorting trash rules, and sprint to clean their room as fast as possible. We want players to feel nervous about the timer and feel the urge to clean as much as they can without knowing whether or not they will finish in time.
Accomplished. When players overcome one challenge (finish cleaning one dorm room or space), we want the experience to feel rewarding. Particularly, we want players to be encouraged to continue these actions or be aware of them outside of the game. These cleaning experiences will challenge players to want to achieve success, thereby resulting in clean spaces. We want this feeling of accomplishment to propel players forward and keep them motivated and immersed in the game.
Frustrated. Non-playable NPC characters that affect the course of the game (explained in further detail in the ‘Stories’ section) may cause frustration in players who are working hard to clean rooms or public spaces but more mess is made. This aims to help players understand that they should clean after their own messes but in some cases, their mess can unknowingly affect other people too. This is particularly important because it instills the value of being mindful of others and the importance of recycling trash.
The game takes place in a dorm (game slice)/dorm room (minimum viable product) on a college campus.
We want to emphasize a 2D realistic replica of an existing dorm room so the environment feels familiar to our target audience. Our goal is to keep the setting of the game in alignment with real life, and enhance the situations that may occur day-to-day.
Our definition of “realistic” targets the typical state of a college student when they are stressed during exam week. The dorm room is a space that typical college students are most comfortable and relaxed in, but may sometimes take for granted because they simply do not have the time to clean as often or because they do not know how to properly sort their trash and therefore do not incorporate trash sorting into their daily routine.
We recognize that with environmental games, players more often than not come out of the game without a strong incentive to clean their surroundings to help others or their personal living spaces. Thus, we want to take a realistic approach to designing the setting so players come out of the game more in-tune with their surroundings and when prompted, may choose to properly reduce, reuse, or recycle their trash. Our primary focus will be to encourage individual students to be more mindful of their trash, and as a whole, contribute to saving Mother Earth.
Our core gameplay is walking to the target destination, a room or dorm, and ensuring that all trash and garbage items are sorted in their correct order as well as disposed of responsibly. The game view will be 2D, and the user will see the map as a whole from the top, allowing the user to plan their game play in order to avoid being busted as an anti-environmentalist.
The player will start out with their hands, which will pretty much be more than enough to pass through the majority of levels. As the scene progresses, the main player will discover new artifacts that can help their agenda such as fake phone call to make the enemy, the Admin, return to their office, or stall for a couple of seconds before proceeding to their targeted room, or buy robo-cleaners with the points they collect as the level progresses in order to clean multiple rooms at the same time. The mechanics we’re considering are:
- Objective is to maintain all assigned rooms clean of trash and ensure all garbage items are well sorted. Failure to do so will result in admin finding out after a given inspection, after which player is fired/expulsed (losing state). Admin will have predictable agenda, which is to check on rooms periodically at random intervals and increasingly faster speeds.
- Outcomes of the game ends in a zero-sum state, where there is a clear winner and loser.
- Rules are: If the main player sees the Admin, Admin will rush to the targeted room for a surprise inspection (can be randomized). The main player cannot leave the facility for the duration of their round, this will be the default, as no actual environment will be designed besides the inside of the facility. Environment will depend on levels, but can include floors of a dorm, an entire school, hospitals, parking lot, etc.
- Procedures: The main player will start off in a relaxed manner, where they first gain a sense of how the process works. As the scene progresses, the difficulty will increase such that players will have to be punctual and resourceful with how they spend their time.
- Resources: Game statistics include a score, where the main player will earn points as they successfully keep rooms clean after an Admin inspection. Power-ups will include tools players can use like fake phone calls, or robo-cleaners to help the main player maintain rooms clean at a larger scale. Player will have at least a set time range to clean a room before Admin goes to the target room.
The central influences for the game are: Overcooked, Overcooked 2, Stardew Valley
- How to Become a Straight-A Student, Cal Newport
- Atomic Habits, James Clear
- The Life-Changing Magic Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
- Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, Richard Feynman
Movies that are about the environment in an indirect atmosphere
- Happy Feet
- The Day After Tomorrow
- Cars 2
Movies that talk about the effects of trash or failure to take care of an environment
- Project X (Rated R)
- Neighbors (Rated R)
- Easy A
- Game Night
- The Night Before
- 21 & Over (Rated R)
- The Lorax
- Don’t Look Up (Rated R)
- Our Planet
- Hoarding: Buried Alive
- Overcooked 2
- Stardew Valley
- Classic Mario
Key Challenges for Design
Generalizing levels of game to fit within the character we settled on, which is a college student.
The slice level is currently centered around the role of a college student in their dorm. However, if this slice is to be generalized into a full game with level components, then we may have to revisit the main character’s background to fit across these levels. Current ideas for potential level implementations include parking lots, schools, hospitals, etc.
Decision to make the game feel light-hearted despite the seriousness of the environmental issues.
Environmental care is serious. However, our goal is to influence the player to be more mindful of their behavior in recycling. We had initially settled on setting a dark, disaster-oriented start, which has a negative tone on the environment. We feel that behavior change is more effective in influencing users’ thoughts and considerations about the environment when using positive reinforcements (providing funny entertaining experiences revolving around the environment) rather than negative punishments (showing players the real-world consequences of environmental miscare).
Setting criteria for concrete winning and losing states of levels
So far, there are concrete criteria for establishing losing states. However, one challenge to consider is what the definition of the winning state will be. Current considerations include a timer of the overall level, or the occurrence of major events that can send both the enemy (Admin) and college student (main player) into a fast-paced gameplay to complete challenges without losing.
Key Challenges for Tech
Creating this game will require us to program with Unity. Considering our short timeline, this will be a challenge. However, we are going to ease some of this pressure by creating only a “slice” of the game, which will allow us to display what the gameplay will look like without building the entire game start-to-end.
Specific challenges may include:
- Movement. Players will move through keyboard controls.
- Sound. We would like there to be background music and sound effects that match each action.
- Randomizing (and controlling) behavior: MPCs, like the Dorm Admin, should have random movement, but within certain parameters (like not moving off the map).
- Collisions: We should not allow players to walk through objects or other people.
- Singleton items: Certain items need to carry across levels – for example, lives and points.
Key Challenges for Art
Specific setting. Our game takes place in a college dormitory. This may not be very relatable to players who do not fit into this demographic. However, it is a design choice we made after deciding on our target audience. Also, as mentioned in the “synopsis” section, other levels of the game could showcase different settings.
2D Pixelated Art. With a 2D setting and pixelated artwork – a design choice made to make the process of development a bit smoother – it may be difficult to display the environment in a way that is easily navigatable by the player. Furthermore, the pixelated figures, especially small items, must be distinguishable. We may need to incorporate shapes and symbols recognizable by anyone. For example, the triangular arrow symbol represents recycling.
Who is this for?
The setting of our game may only be relatable to college students, who often struggle to maintain a clutter-free living space in their tiny dorm rooms. However, there are not any elements that may be inappropriate for younger players, and the mechanics of the game itself should be accessible by all. We hope that anyone who plays our game can become motivated to start sorting their trash and helping the environment!