Art critique

How Wayward Strand became a quiet critique of capitalism

As the video game industry continues to grow around the world, so too are the expectations for developers, especially those working independently or in small teams. While games are generally more appreciated as art forms, they are also now subject to invisible “rules”, set by capitalism. Games are not enough only be art – they must be financially viable and driven by efficiency. They must be business leads and pursue impactful monetization pathways. It’s a feeling that capricious strand Ghost Pattern developer vehemently rejected at PAX Aus 2022.

In a talk at the convention, the team behind Australia’s hit game discussed the weight of those expectations and how they lived up to their values ​​by creating capricious strand, mostly out of spite and trust. Somehow, the team says, capricious strand could be seen as a critique of capitalism and productivity, Ghost Pattern running counter to its development.

Each Ghost Pattern member on the panel (Maize Wallin, Susan Dang, Georgia Symons, Jason Bakker and Goldie Bartlett) shared a unique story during the PAX Aus panel, describing past experiences in the gaming industry as detrimental to their health. and their trust. . Poor studio experiences informed each panelist’s perspective on how best to make games – and it was these values ​​that ultimately led them to Ghost Pattern, a studio that prides itself on being open, friendly, and avoid cracking.

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Image: Ghost Pattern

In this environment – welcoming and deliberately “caring” – the developers were able to work better on the development capricious strand as a healthy and conscious experience. In this more “casual” space, developers could share their personal stories and life experiences, all of which came into play when creating capricious strand and its slow, carefully observed narrative.

As Goldie Bartlett, the game’s art and marketing lead, puts it, capricious strand is not necessary supposed be a healthy game. It was a tag applied post-launch, as reviewers who played it likely recognized its soothing vibes; their sense of security and comfort. This intangible feeling is easily recognizable in the thoughtful rhythms of the game and reflects the experiences of the team behind the scenes.

In the panel, Ghost Pattern was described as a “group” – each member having a unique role in the promotion. capricious strand forward and creating a comfortable experience, one where players can sit back and enjoy the scenery with just the click of a button. In capricious strandyou can spend your time in its pastel-colored world, sit back and soak up the atmosphere, experiencing a bliss many of us crave.

These moments of silence allow you to better understand each character in the game and protagonist Casey’s efforts to connect with the older citizens of capricious strandis the floating hospital.

This narrative stands in stark contrast to what the modern games industry demands. Ghost Pattern avoided the search for economic productivity and general appeal in development capricious strand. In doing so, the team has created a unique and warm experience that gives voice to people older and younger – groups rarely represented in the wider gaming industry, due to these economic and “mainstream” demands.

Ghost Pattern aimed to prove, largely out of spite, that it could succeed with a diverse team that could “manage its way” in the midst of a gaming industry constantly seeking growth and ambition – ironically, this subject was at the center of Games Connect Asia-Pacific (GCAP) 2022the game industry and developer conference that preceded PAX Aus.

Many interviews at this show also rejected the popular notion of ambition, choosing instead to talk about the value of being playful, imaginative, and carefree.

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After all their efforts, and after several years of working together on development, Ghost Pattern believes that beyond the launch of capricious strand, their greatest achievement is always to get along. This sentiment, shared during the PAX Aus panel, was an indictment of the current industry – an industry that too often prioritizes ideas of commodification and financial gain over the human element.

whimsical strand game ghost pattern
Image: Ghost Pattern

While Art and QA Developer Susan Dang has made it clear that Ghost Pattern is not perfect — no company is — she also said it’s important to recognize this and actively work to figure out how to best control workflow, while still giving everyone room to breathe.

Passion can be incredibly dangerous in the gaming industry, leading to slump and burnout, but sharing human values ​​and acknowledging the risk inherent in the love of your work, Ghost Pattern sought to create a more positive environment that challenged traditional notions of game development.

Reinventing what a workplace can be and rejecting extreme notions of development driven by capitalism can create a more positive environment where everybody can contribute, and everyone feels welcome – always. To that end, the Ghost Pattern team used their panel to share advice with new and established developers, working in Australia and overseas.

The first tip was stay true to your values – even if it means working out of spite and against the tide. But a sharper piece of advice from developer Jason Bakker was to stick to your sense of self and recognize what kind of developer and what kind of the person you want to be.

For Maize Wallin, what is most important is that individual developers affirm that their values ​​are reflected in the work to which they contribute. Georgia Symons believes that studios need to foster more diverse teams and teams with unique experiences and skills.

Susan Dang talked about doing friends being essential, and ended the panel on a cheeky and irreverent note: “Don’t be shit.” It is essentially the anti-capitalist philosophy that guided the Ghost Pattern team, until the launch of the marvelous capricious strand.