Process: Art, Pattern, Repetition
The header image is a photo collage of one of my yard haunts. A full yard of tombstones is a low-effort year for me, and that is still a full yard of tombstones hand carved by me.
I've always been a very detail oriented person. As a media critic, as an artist, and as an arts educator, I think small details can make a huge difference in the overall tone and impact of a work.
With Haunted, no detail is too small. My weird fiction writing always hinges on the use of recurring language and patterns and my art is all about the contrast in patterns, color, and material.
The greatest challenge and opportunity in Haunted is incorporating art into narrative storytelling. The illustrations in the game are true to how I approach art, just broken up into a new context. I found my voice in mixed media work. I find joy and inspiration in mixing watercolor with acrylic and ink and pastel and photography and ephemera. The game art is mixed media illustration photographed and digitally manipulated for impact. It goes deeper than that.
As you go further into each story, the art shifts from gentle paintings of pumpkins to something more fantastic. Each branch of the story has its own set graphics. However, those graphics start to change as the order of the stories impacts how they're told. It's actually been quite freeing to shift some of the narrative techniques I've used for decades from my writing into my artwork. It comes down to small details that make a difference.
The art has been very important in how I've adapted the game's narrative to the companion short story collection. My writing process is driven by images. I get an idea of some impactful event in my head and write the story around it. I just won a short story contest in May trying to figure out how my car door got opened overnight when I swore I had it locked in my driveway. The image haunted me for a few days, so I wrote a story about a character doing everything they could to solve that mystery. It was my first story actively engaging with the worst of my OCD symptoms and the judges' feedback praised those details that they never quite pinned down as symptoms of OCD.
I have six stories pulled from six scenes in the game to go with the introduction and flash fiction climaxes from the game itself. These stories grow out beyond Haunted's second person narration into very different styles. The game is designed to put you in control; the collection is written to make you witness six characters losing control in various ways.
Finally, the music is important in any game. I work in theatre. I've been very lucky to have the opportunity to use a lifetime of developed skills to help put on shows. For years, I worked with a school that paid me to write underscoring for their play productions. These are the skills that I'm relying on the most in designing this game.
Haunted is programmed in Twine. That means when you buy the game, you can look through the images and sound folders to see everything that's there. For the score, you might recognize the names of the songs. My compositions always pull from, again, specific images and references and it only felt fitting to pull from my theatre background and have another pass at some of my favorite character concepts from The Crucible. The tracks have names like "John Proctor" and "Betty Parris" to help me hone in on themes I wanted to emphasize in the stories.
I know that all of this work pays off in the end with a finished product I can be proud of. I'm also aware that I don't get to be there guiding you by the hand through all the research and references I put into developing the game. I just know from my own experience as a gamer and games journalist that I enjoy this kind of glimpse into the design process. And as an artist, I know the work I'm most proud of is the work I put this kind of effort into.
Haunted comes out in one month, 25 October, and I can't wait for you to play the full thing.
Get Haunted (A Slip Story)
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