About (spoiler alert!)

This game is a role-playing game of a lonely teen on their own, trying to survive.

Watch pre-release trailer here.

Progression

In the beginning of this game, the player survives by “being good”: using their existing knowledge of basic survival. Most teens believe that one must get a job, spend wisely, and avoid obvious trouble choices to survive, and most teens find it easy to achieve those goals initially. Once player is successful in saving some money, they get a temporary subsidized apartment.

At this point the challenge changes from life skills to social skills. Social skills become critical: players must make friends to hear gossip about the best jobs, discover personalities to convince a suitable peer to be their roommate.Every computer-controlled character in the game seeks to fulfill their needs (a design used by the Sims). Different characters have different needs, as determined by personality traits. Some peers use friends as a resource to meet their other needs, so are quick to befriend the player, are willing to be roommates, and generally act like friends…but they are more likely to have high-priority needs to get drunk or high, and ultimately cause problems for the player: they may invite strangers into the player’s apartment, encourage player to drink and smoke, skip work, borrow money and often fail to repay, refuse to end parties, and when drunk or high, do not respect the player’s wishes.  Players must be assertive, state their own needs, and take action (e.g. kicking out a guy who brings beer) when the situation is out of hand.

Beyond tactics, players learn to be strategic in choosing friends: the reliability of their peers is key to their survival.

bosses start having bad days, expecting unrealistically high performance and assigning extra shifts against player wishes. Player must decide to either quit and seek another job, or comply.

  • neighborhood: live somewhere cheap and deal with the problems, or pay more for a safer area?
  • socializing: keep your friend list short, or invite lots of people to network your way to great friends?

There is not a single, prevailing strategy: sometimes tolerance is best, other times teens must confront problems to solve them.  Players must decide case by case how they want to live.  There are many combinations of choices that can lead success.  Once the player convinces a reliable peer to be their roommate, the game is essentially won.

Aims

The game aims to make players questions their independent living skills and knowledge, like these:

  • How hard is it to earn enough to survive?
  • Will I have time to hang out with my friends?
  • Should I borrow money sometimes, or is it always bad to borrow?
  • Whose problem is it, if someone at my apartment gets drunk and out of control?”

The game was designed around Prochaska’s “Stages of Change” theory. Specifically, the game aims to move teens from Pre-Contemplation (blissful ignorance) to Contemplation (“Do I need to change?”). The game does not address the next stage, Planning (learning the specific skills e.g. resume writing). However some planning-related skills are imparted during play.

Secondary Aims

The game touches on many other social good aims:

  • autonomy, decision-making, delayed gratification (detail)
  • drug & alcohol (detail)
  • basic financial literacy
  • peer social skills
  • adult social skills
  • female body acceptance
  • race and gender prejudice
  • self-identity and self-exploration

This game weaves these topics into a single combined experience – a “scale model” of real life. This approach fits existing pedagogical guidelines for drug and alcohol educational interventions, and forges new ground in many ways (more).

Content Rating “Teen”:The game is intended to comply with the ESRB “Teen” (13+) rating. Specifically:

  • Alcohol and drug references are designed to be beneficial to players, as explained here.
  • Regarding gender and identity topics, characters have a range of body shapes that include strongly masculine, feminine, and ambiguous genders. Female character body size is intended to be realistic.
  • There are no sexual themes (e.g. dating, romance, or strongly sexualized clothing and characters) in the game.
  • Physical violence is limited to simple fistfights with appropriate consequences: The game teaches that fistfighting is almost always a bad choice.