Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kasvi the Game


One day the Aalto University branch of the Finnish Green Party went to visit Jyrki Kasvi, one of our parlamentarists (at the time) and the most vocal proponent of information technology in the parliament. I had no idea he even knew I was in the game business so it was kind of a shock when he asked, in a sort of an embarrassed way, if I could make a game to promote him in the 2011 election.

It didn't take much to convince me so we went on and made it with a group of people we recruited at the university. We made it in time (barely) and published it, but for some reason Kasvi still dropped out of parliament, a mystery that remains unsolved...

At the time of this posting, the game can still be played here.

The Team

  • Jyrki Kasvi acted as the main character of the game.
  • Patrick Jensen created most of the graphics.
  • Joona Karjalainen composed the music and made the sound effects.
  • Olli-Pekka and Tomi-Mikael Kahilakoski tested the game and programmed some features.
  • Timo Tuomaala and Antti Mustakangas helped with testing and marketing.
  • Maija Koivula helped a bit with concept design.
  • I programmed the game and created most of the menu graphics. I was also project manager and coordinated the design process.
  • We all participated in designing the game.

Technologies I Used

  • Java, Swing

Designing a Political Game

The game wasn't very difficult to code (though optimizing Swing for various platforms turned out to be surprisingly problematic). The inspiring challenge was the design. It had to be fun, easily accessible, and - about politics.

A parody was the obvious choice and we took it. In the game, Kasvi stands on the steps of the parliament building, using a megaphone to shoot down bad laws that fall from the sky, while letting the good ones fall through. The good ones are, of course, the ones supported by Kasvi and the bad ones the ones he opposes.

I believe that especially in a project like this, where you don't have a horde of earlier similar games to base your design on, it's important to do the design as a team. For one, you have to come up with a lot of novel ideas. ("What elements of politics are funny? What should we include?" "I know, how about the 'group whipper', the one who looks after party discipline? She could hit Kasvi with a whip!") On the other hand, you have to weed the bad ones out. ("What do you mean a 'Black Hole of Ignorance' is too obscure?" - I'm glad that early favourite of mine didn't make it into the game.) I think we did a great job and ended up with a good set of game elements that both enhance the basic gameplay and are thematically appropriate.

Even though it didn't save our country from the disaster that was the 2011 election, this was one of the most fun game projects I've been involved in.

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