A friend of mine struggled to find her career path in her junior year of college. She loves both storytelling and tech and didn’t want to give up either aspect. While playing narrative games to soothe her anxiety, she unexpectedly found it her dream career and started paying efforts to get into the company that made her favorite game, Life is Strange. The topic of interactive fiction immediately reminded me of her story, which motivated me a lot. Therefore, I decided to adapt my friend’s story to this project.
Setting, Role, and Journey
You are Aria, a female college student studying English literature and computer science. You are deciding your future career path – either a movie writer or a software engineer. After researching, you learned that misogyny is very common in both fields. You discover narrative gaming as your dream career, but your job application gets rejected. Needing to yourself, you accepted a software engineer internship offer.
Not wanting to give up your dream, you use the after-work time to study what makes young women quit after pursuing either of the two fields. You recollect crisis moments when you felt disadvantaged as a female in STEM; then, you interview an accomplished woman in the film production industry. Based on the findings, you created a narrative game that informs the public how we all can do better in supporting young women with their dreams. Along the journey, what skills did you learn, what people did you meet, and how will they lead you to different endings?
Understanding and Feeling
The players will get a realistic experience of the gender bias that a girl in STEM or the film industry encounters from high school to her late career. On the flip side, the players also realize that underrepresented females form a community that supports each other: Many accomplished women overcame the stereotype, paved a road for future generations, and are willing to provide resources for young women in need. The real world is a dystopia, but there is hope.
Iterations & Improvements
Playable first draft (Feb 7, 2023)
I had a draft, converting the premise to a prototype in twine. On average, I had one or two sentences per passage, and some only had a title.
Feedback from classmates
- The topic of misogyny is meaningful. The project can be impactful for the readers if they can resonate with the character, which requires me to compellingly convey the story.
- Adding time to rewinding components would be fun.
- It is more interesting if I write multiple endings: the character can meet different people and learn different skills along the way, which leads to various jobs and mindsets in the end.
- Keep expanding the passages.
- Make each “crisis moment” a memory rewinding so the plot is not linear in time.
- Adding variables of “programming skill,” “writing skill,” “courage,” etc. The variables will increase by different values if the readers choose different story branches.
- Write endings depending on the value of these variables.
Playtestable “close to final” (Feb 14, 2023)
At this time, I had almost finished the crisis moments, but I hadn’t expanded the film industry storyline.
Feedback from classmates
- Add emotions to the story would make it more compelling
- The physics class scene is weird. I can depict the character’s mental activity more
- The plot of having a mentor is cool. I can emphasize the importance of the environment/others helping the character besides herself working so hard.
- Implement the movie write track so that the players are not being brought back to CS
- Rewrite the passages by adding the environment description and emotion of the character.
- I decided to put more weight on the sense of the female community and women helping each other – giving the players more exposure to mentorship will increase the character’s skills significantly.
- Fix some confusing terms my classmates couldn’t understand, like “high tech” and “informatics”
This is a fun project, and I learned a ton about storytelling. I learned many different ways to unfold the plot (e.g., the player doesn’t have any information in the beginning, and they need to collect these things by making choices; the timeline can either be linear or reversed or mixed) and design the branching map (e.g., will different choices lead to totally different plots, or is there a time to bring all branches back to a point?).
Due to the time constraint, I didn’t write this story to a typical fiction length with many descriptional or emotional details in all passages. However, I tried my best to incorporate the complete storylines in my mind and play with the variable settings (which lead the readers to different endings). I also didn’t have the chance to polish my narrative fiction with illustrations and sound effects. Next time I would make my narrative game sound aesthetically so that the players enjoy it much more.