MY LIFE'S WORK
When I look back at how I have spent most of my time on this earth, I would say gaming has soaked up most of my attention.
Gaming has not only brought me a lifetime worth of friendships, it has also taught me social skills, math, logic and how to explore the realm of imagination.
In the last two decades of my life, I have had the pleasure of participating in various gaming projects. This is by far a complete list of games I have worked on. My hope is that these projects inspire you to develop and create games in whatever capacity you may find yourself in.
To call Huli - a five-year game project that lived through various teams, a game that was presented before international audiences, a project that encouraged and gave direction to an autistic high school student, a collaboration that created a template for change in the community, and by far the greatest project I could ever be part of - would not do the game justice. I will do my best to describe the monolithic and spiritually challenging project of the game Huli.
A Brief History
Huli began from the mind of Solomon Enos in 2014 with a simple premise: "How can we create a game that incorporates positive change in the community?"
With that idea, we began with the intention of creating a digital game where players would embody leaders in the community (farmer, steward, teacher, fisherman) with the goal of healing unhealthy areas of the community.
Our team began working with various programs on the West Coast of Oahu. From Nanakuli Highschool, PALS Hawaii, and Ka Waihona o Ka Na'auao Public Charter School.
As Board Games continued to exponentially rise in popularity in Hawaii, we discovered that the paper prototype of the game resonated with our playtest groups in a way that a digital version never could, thus causing us to abandon the digital version and focus our efforts on the analogue version instead (board game)
During these years, I served as a mentor to Ka Waihona's game development team lead by Luca KCB, & Sean Pottenger.
In January 2018, I was asked to work on Huli full time. We dedicated our school year to completing Huli. Student game developer Jack Hobbs and reknown artist Alika Spahn Naihe joined the team.
Huli was created with several goals in mind: to teach our keikis (children) the importance of land stewardship, to remind our Elders that it is never too late to change your narrative and finally to act as a guide and pathway for alternate timelines. In Huli, you will take the mantle of one of these avatars: Konohiki (steward), Lawai'a (fisherman/fisherwoman), Mahi'ai (farmer), and Kumu (teacher). Using these avatars, the goal of the game is to practice removing all Eha (hurt/negative particles) from the landscape through time. Thematically, we needed to keep the original intentions of Solomon Enos while streamlining the mechanics and player roles. Allot of the thematical elements come through in the event cards and artwork.
In Huli, the goal of all players is to remove Eha (hurt) From the communities on the West Coast of Oahu. At the begining of the round, an event card is revealed from the event deck. These event cards are based on actual events that took place in Hawaii. The event will distribute Eha on in the community. The players then use their avatars' abilities fueuled by dice rolls to remove Eha from locations on the board.
Players are represented by avatars in the game. We have created three guiding principles that will assist players on how to play their avatars. First, the avatars' role. The avatars' roles are the historical context of the character. Second, we provide gameplay guidelines that will help the player understand how his/her abilities interact with the game. The final principle is responsibility. The responsiblity guidelines give the players an understanding of the out-of-game tasks the players perform.
Role: is the mentor, teacher, guide, stalk of all trees.
Gameplay:The Kumu removes Eha from adjacent locations. Kumu also has the ability to foresee future events and can invest in other avatars’ future potentials.
Responsibility: The Kumu, reveals and reads event cards.
Role: Traditionally, the manager of a land division. In our context, the Konohiki represents the modern day parent who deals with day-to-day challenges.
Gameplay:The Konohiki removes Eha from their location at all costs.
Responsibility: Facilitator for all in-game discussions. The Konohiki also resolves disputes and walks the players through each phase.
Role: Lawai’a is the fishermen, traditionally was both the economist & engineer of the sea.
Gameplay:The Lawai’a begins the game with 3 dice. This number decreases every round to 1 then resets to 3 in the following turn. Lawai’a still receives the dice bonus from the board. The Lawai’a’s dice explodes on 5 rather than 6. Like the Mahi’ai, the Lawai’a does not remove Eha from the board, instead, uses streams and currents to displace Eha in efforts to prevent it from spreading (Eha outbreak).
Responsibility: Together with the Mahi’ai, the Lawai’a places Eha on the board in response to events.
Role: The Mahi’ai is the farmer and cultivator of the soil. Mahi’ai were rooted to the ’āina, just as plants were rooted to the earth.
Gameplay:The Mahi’ai begins the game with one extra dice. That number increases every round to a max of 3, then resets back to 1 in the following round. Mahi’ai still receives the dice bonus from the board. The Mahi’ai is a support role and rather than remove Eha, the Mahi’ai identifies Eha on the Aina, and displaces Eha in efforts to prevent contagious outbreaks. During the event phase, do not place Eha on a location where the Mahi’ai is (you still place Eha from Eha outbreaks).
Responsibility: Together with the Lawai’a, the Mahi’ai places Eha on the board in response to events.
End Game Conditions
Players in Huli will survive several event rounds while attempting to remove Eha (hurt) in the community. When the players end the final turn with no Eha in the community, then the players win. If at the end of the final turn there are is still Eha that remains on the board, then the game is lost and so is the community.
Each year, my game design class at Nanakuli High School, has 2 gaming projects. The goal of the first project is to introduce the students to my project management style and as an ice breaker in the class. Namja Myeon is a product of our first project in 2016. The theme is a bit out-of-the-box. It was thought up entirely by students in the class. At that time, many of my students were really into K-Pop. They also were really into the game Tetris. Namja Myeon is an amalgamation of the 2, then themed in the world of Juni Ito.
In Namja Myeon, one player will play as the Gugsu (cook) and the other players will play as the Yeojaaduel (fangirls).
The Gugsu’s goal in life is to have the most successful restaurant in town. The Gugsu’s special ingredient is K-Pop boys that are diced and placed into each serving. Secretly, the Gugsu resents anyone attempting to devour his soup with his grade A ingredient. However, he realizes that he has to run a business and secretly desires to be considered as a top cook.
A.R. MURDER MYSTERY
The Nanakuli Estoteric Order of Investigators.
The idea behind this game was to interview Kupuna's in the community and gather stories about mysterious circumstances that occured in the Nanakuli area, specifically focusing on the school's location. We would then string together a gaming narrative around these stories and have the game solve various esoteric puzzles through an augmented landscape. The result was a result of collective wisdom of the aunties and uncles of Nanakuli :
" The dead should stay dead, be carefull what names and stories you invoke. For they may send you to the grave or worst."
We pivoted that idea fast! Rather than using existing tales from the community, we decided to make up our own. Knowing that most of our players would "google" this information to test for validity or gaming clues, we created fake websites. We uploaded these websites to various free hosting platforms. For example if you searched: "Nanakuli Library ghost dog 1946". In google, you would come across one of our fake sites.
We also created an esoteric order to investigate these activites:
The Nanakuli Estoteric Order of Investigators.
The narrative was taking form. A mystery time-traveling game where students would go back and forth through time to solve mysteries on campus.
Parents, teachers, and friends outside the order are completely unaware of their role. When initiated and once the oath is accepted the investigator is given accsess to a time traveling application that will function as their vehichle to solve each mystery. The goal of every investigator would be to solve the myteries on campus.
Mechanically, the game operates as an Augmented Reality scavenger hunt. You open the app, point the camera at an object, if the game recognizes the object you are then given a clue on what to do next. It was decided early on that we would not use a map. My students wanted players to look like zombies wandering around campus around with their phones pointing at random objects.
What we did was take a series of pictures or iconography that was unique and that stood out to my students. My students then created a narrative that strung together from one mystery to the next story that would compel players to keep playing. We then created overlays with text that would obfuscate the original image and overlay the image with a narrative. We wanted to do animations, but none of us could figure that out.
Everything was hosted on a local machine connected to the students' wireless network. We stashed the system in a cubbard in the class we used. As long as the system was logged in, the service was up. Students would simply connect to the http://ipaddressofthehost/neoi and they were in. We eventually got in trouble for this and had to shut the system down.
The end goal for this project was to host the game somewhere like AWS or a similar platform. We also wanted to incorporate events and times into the game. So if you showed up on a Saturday, you would be served different content. Or even better, on Halloween, the entire game system changes for 24 hours. Unfortunately, we never got to finish. The following year, I started the project to finalize the Huli game. I still have all the source code sitting on an external drive somewhere. Maybe someday I will resurrect it.
THE DEPRESSING GAME
The Depressing Game is a social deduction game, where players take on the role of high school students who have to deal with depression on a daily basis
This game as designed by the students of Nanakuli High School, located on the west coast of O'ahu, Hawaii
While understanding the serious of the topic, this card game is light and humorous, and uses satire to explore the sensitive subject.
At the start of each game, a player will be assigned the role of either a depressed student (shown left) or a happy student (shown right) and dealt a hand of cards depicting various depressed or happy emotional states (shown below). Throughout the game, players play these Emotional State Cards in order to win rounds. The winner is decided in the final round:
- If a Happy Card wins the final round, the players with the happy student roles win.
- If a Depressed Card wins the final round or if the round ends in a draw, the player with the Depressed student role wins.
Emotional State Cards
The Emotional State Cards feature artistic depictions of our student designers experiencing the various factors of happiness or depression in their daily lives. In each depiction, our students wear a mask of the role they are taking on while experiencing these emotional states.
Kawaii Kon Demo
As a means of getting user feedback, my studends demonstrated the Depressing Game at Kawaii Kon 2019. Exceeding our expectations, the game was received very well by the public.
Our class has been invited to present at this year's Schools of the Future in Honolulu Hawaii.
If you are interesting in obtaining a copy of The Depressing Game: :
The concept of Loa is influenced directly from William Gibson.
"The Loa are the spirits of Haitian Vodoo. They are also referred to as Mystères and the Invisibles. Unlike saints or angels however, Loas are not simply prayed to… they are served. This makes the relationship between human and Loa, a personal one. Practitioners of voodoo do more than venerate their Loas, they “feed” them. For this service, they expect results from their Loa, in return. Loa, with their individual strengths and foibles, must deliver, if they are to remain relevant.
Loa Matrix voodoo gods; also called 'Divine Horsemen'; probably sentient parts of loose AIs in the matrix set free after the unification of Wintermute and Neuromance
Complicated mechanism and a Complex system
The scientist *John Holland* observed in a famous paper that helped establish the discipline of chaos science. Holland spent years considering these puzzling, hard-to-model systems and spotted at least one common theme: Whether it was webs of finance, such as the futures exchange, or immunological networks or our own brains, highly connected systems share what Holland labeled an evolving structure—they never stay the same. They seem to shift with an easy plasticity, in response to internal pressures or external changes. This is why so much unexpected chaos is occurring now, from government collapses to economic crises. Connection means systems take on new forms. In many cases, they become better, stronger, more adaptively fit. It isn’t simply that the unexpected appears or that there is more or less good or evil now; it’s that the systems are evolving. Holland thought the world was filled with such evolutions, no different from species’ adjusting (or not) to a hotter climate or some fast new predator. He called the networks that produce these sorts of innovations complex adaptive systems.
*“complex”* comes to us from the Latin world plexus, meaning “having parts,” which hints at the interwoven, layered nature of any object. What appears simple — a flower, our skin, the value of a dollar bill — is in fact a plexus, loaded with twitches and influences.I’m interested in complex systems. Systems like how Jon Holland describes.
The differences between a are as follows: Complicated mechanisms can be designed, predicted, and controlled. Jet engines, artificial hearts, and your calculator are complicated in this sense. They may contain billions of interacting parts, but they can be laid out and repeatedly, predictably made and used. They don’t change. Complex systems, by contrast, can’t be so precisely engineered. They are hard to fully control. Human immunology is complex in this sense. The World Wide Web is complex. A rain forest is complex: It is made up of uncountable buzzing, connecting bugs and birds and trees. Order, to the extent that it exists in the Amazon basin, emerges moment by moment from countless, constant interactions. The uneven symphonic sound of l’heure bleue, that romantic stopping point at dawn when you can hear the forest waking bird by bird, is the sound of complexity engaging in a never-the-same-twice phase transition. The word “complex” comes to us from the Latin world plexus, meaning “having parts,” which hints at the interwoven, layered nature of any object.
Games for example usual contain complex mechanisms. This is a set outcome based on “gears or mechanics” to achieve a goal. Goal being the operative word.
However in a complex system, the mechanism lead to to a altogether different destination. Often times these same set of rules could lead to an altogether different outcome.
Most of our networked world is a pool of buzzing, fresh interaction—not only hard to predict but also constantly on the cusp of making something new. Scientists such as Holland call this process emergence, referring to the way that bottom-up interactions between cells or chips or traders or cars—create an order, often in forms that have never existed before. The fundamental uncertainty of a complex process means that when we look at the world, we often forget it is taking place. It’s easier to assume that a predictable, linear, complicated logic is at work, an “a leads to b and c” sort of process: Revolution leads to freedom, which leads to democracy, for instance.
I feel game design is the most effective method of refinforcement learning. The designer has to really understand the topic to translate that knowledge into game mechincs. Without understanidng a subject, the game falls apart. Cardboard Economnics was a project that used this very idea to teach economics in the classroom.
This project was spearheaded by the Rising Tiger Foundation. They provided the ecconomic framework for the games. My involvment was to be a mentor in the game design process.
Kids understand games. Leave a group of children alone in a room with a pair of dice and within minutes they will create a world guided by dice throws. So, why was I needed to help and mentor the process? Simply for balance and production. Was I that industrial factory boss standing above the production lines with a full mustache and a cold steel stare? Not at all. I saw myself more as Yoda, redirecting student effort in the right direction.
The Right Direction
Using a workshop methodolgy. I created downloadble workbooks as guideposts. These guideposts served as the framework of "How to build a game"
Design Journal & Theme
Creating a deisgn journal to record their progress. Students also developed the theme, or setting of their game. Students needed to incorporate ecomonics in their theme. Rising Tigers provided the economic languaging and lesson plans.
Game Mechanics & Playable Prototype
Developing mechancis and creating a prototype as a proof of concept to their game idea. Mechanics, in this respect, simply are the gears the players will use to accomplish their player goals.
At this stage students would play-test their game internally (alpha test). Then once satisfied with their results, they would beta test with the public, obtain feedback then decide what to incorporate into their game.
Production & Publishing:
At this stage games should be solid, theme proven to be interesting and mechanics are sound. At this stage, what is left to do is developing art assets for the game and production. We partnered with local artists here in Hawaii and used The Game Crafter as our means of production.
Here are some of the game titles that were published
For a link to the workbooks and the original page goto: Cardboard Economics
SCHOOLS OF THE FUTURE 2018
The title of our lecture was: "Huli: Gaming as a Vehicle for Community Healing." The expectation was to give a talk about how our game "Huli" served as a simulation of community healing. Through gameplay one could see the possibilies of regenerating the psyche of the landscape.
Rather than have an audience stare at me for an hour while I go through keynote slides, I imagined a more immersive & interactive experience. I wanted the participants to step into the world I created, walk around and feel the struggles of my community, then collectivly solve the challenges we face on the west coast of Oahu.
The original goal was to craft a life-size analogue representation of our Huli game.
Huli game overview
Before going over the presentation, I thought it would be useful to give you a bit of back ground on what our Huli is about.
Huli is a board game about practitioners in Hawaii that heal communities through cooperation.
Mechanically, the setting of the game takes place on the Wai’anae coast of Oahu. From Kahi Point to Makaha Surfing Beach, the board lays out to scale the topology of the coast. The coast is then represented by locations and landmarks. These locations were identified by our students. Some locations are local memorial locations, like beach locations or hangout spots known only by the locals. Other locations are sacred locations named by our ancestors. Other locations represent outside investments or influence on the coast, churches or shopping malls, for example.
Players take on the roles of heroes of the community (Konohiki, Kumu,Mahi'ai, Lawai’a) who collaborate turn by turn to remove Eha from the locations. If at the end of a turn, a location has at least one Eha, players lose as there is too much anguish in the community. If, however, the players are able to remove all Eha from the board, the players win immediately.
Board game to life-size production
First, we need to start with the most difficult challenge, the board. How would we be able to represent the Waianae coast in a life-size three dimensional space? Influenced by Michelle Gondry, I decided to use large card board boxes as the medium to create our mountain range. This would be the frame for our game. All other components would be placed within that frame.
Second, we needed a representation of Eha that appear in our community. We decided to create signs that participants would hold up at various locations. The locations would be determined by events in the game. Signs represent issues that the coast is facing. These issues were thought of by my students. For example, crime, lack of mentors, devaluation of indigenous teaching or poverty.
Eha would be distributed randomly at the beginning of every round. Participants (who were not heroes) would pick up a sign and go to specific locations on the board that represent the plaguing issue in that area on the coast.
Finally, we needed to somehow represent the four characters of Huli or the heroes of our game and how they would interact with the environment.
We decided to give each hero two abilities. The players could activate one ability per turn. This turned out to be a fantastic idea. It limited the choices players could have, but made each choice meaningful and successfully initiated interaction with other players.
We decided to do a semi-presentation along side the game. This would guide players through two turns of the game. Sort of like a dungeon master. I would display on a projector, a quick turn by turn overview, while reinforcing the intentions and rules of the game.
At the end of any turn (for a total of two turns), if the players are able to remove all Eha from the board, they win!