The theme for the the residency was Water & Autonomy. Projects were proposed and teams created before meeting in person. There were 5 overall projects and each had around 4 – 5 collaborators. Participants interested in collaborating with me were Aline (architect), Sabrina(writer) and Saulo(biologist).
The objective for the two weeks was to create a Text Adventure Game showing how human activity effects the local water eco-system of Serrinha. We researched facets of the environmental impact of the waterways for the game to create more understanding and empathy about the quality and quantity of the water supply. We also provided an oblique documentation of the other projects during Interactivos?
It was a unique opportunity to jump into an intense unknown environment, in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. Everything was upside down, including the constellations and the seasons but I quickly adapted to the slow pace of life in rural Serrinha (most of Brasil). Interactivos brought together a range of disciplines, skills, connections with the local community, and unending supply of vegan food in a environmentally protected rural area.
We were set up in a basic house built to accommodate large groups, akin to a self-catering holidays. There was a large common room, four bedrooms with two beds each, a kitchen with gas oven, hob and wood burning oven which ended up doing dual duties as a clothes drier for those extra rainy days (there were a lot). Extra mattresses provided sleeping surfaces for the 30 odd group. Another lived-in house two house down the dirt road was where you could access the internet, which didn’t work most of the time. In spite of, or because of this off-line setting, we were able to focus on the work that would have been impossible with constant FB, Twitter, WhatsApp, and email notifications.
Process of making the game
The best way to find out about a new place or thing is to rely on local knowledge. Find the places where communal activities happen, meet the people who are connectors to the community. (In our case Merie) Be open to listening to others. We went out and
- Went on planned and exploratory excursions : Trout farm, a popular rock, the forest
- Interviewed various local people: Neighbours, teachers, farmers, elders
- Ran two workshops in the local (only) school.
This provided the material to start creating a basic narrative. We also chatted to the participants on the other four projects to be included in the game.
Design the game
Create paper version of the story and paths using post-it notes. We went through several iterations based on the week of research. This was done as a group activity, the stickon/off nature of the post-it notes is useful to adapt the stories and narratives when new information is added. Probably went through 5 or 6 passes of the passages & paths. Through lots of formal and informal discussions, we decided to look at the narrative of the area through time – past, present, future. The game would give some background information, you played through current scenarios and had 5 different futures depending on actions taken (or not) in the game.
Twine is a great tool for creating interactive fiction, significantly lowering the barrier to entry in playing and making games. The writing was split up between ‘passages’ areas of interest. Aline wrote the children’s story, Sabrina wrote dialogue, elderly people stories and other projects, Saulo researched and wrote about the myth of Pedra Sonora, formation of APA, and the other Interactivos? projects. I glued everything together in Twine, passing proofs through a USB. The most difficult barrier to me was language. I have a smattering of Portuguese, but was determined to create a bilingual game. Sabrina’s experience as a writer added to the poetic nature of the stories. She thought about sounds certain animals would make and added it to the text, which I tried to recreate in English, but this may need another pass at a later date. We found a last minute collaborator in Fernanda who created the lovely illustrations.
Play the game
I think the strength of the residency lied with not only how organised and supportive the people were, but also that Cynthia – one of the organisers – lives in Serrinha and has been building relationships with the local community for over three years. Working as much as I do with ‘communities’ I know how much time is needed to create trust and sympathy with others. I’m also curious about what the locals think about artists descending on creating ‘art’ in a short time/space. I hope I can keep up connections and find out what the people who informed the game think about it.