A-Closed-World

A Closed World

Release Date: 2011

Developer: Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab


A game prototype that focuses on the challenges of LGBTQ youth.

TOTAL SCORE (PLAYERS):

7.4

Play the Game:

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Like most game prototypes created by the students at the GAMBIT Game Lab, A Closed World was designed to explore and research different aspects of games, in this case, the lack of compelling video game content for LGBTQ youth (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer).

A Closed World takes the gameplay aesthetics and mechanics of “JRPGs” (Japanese role playing games) and puts you in control of a character of ambiguous gender that begins exploring a forest on the edge of town. Disregarding rumors of “demons” that exist in the forest who have the ability to “destroy” your village, your character must overcome the hardships of a forbidden relationship by exploring what lies inside the forest. Through this journey, players battle the forest’s “demons” and the ideals they are trying to force upon them. The players’ only defense is their logic, passion, ethics, and the ability to remain calm during conflict. As “demons” attack with their beliefs, they must fight back and defy their ideas of what’s “normal” and what love is supposed to look like.

Funders:
National Research Foundation (Singapore), Media Development Authority (Singapore), Interactive Digital Media Research and Development Programme Office, (Singapore)

Press:
PC Gamer
Gamasutra

Contact:
gambit-request@mit.edu

Trailer:

Screenshot:

  1. 7
    Psycho Cygnet
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    The main body of the game is engaging: I enjoyed the fact that the combat system was based on trying to keep calm while enemies pressured you to be "normal" (just like real life), and I enjoyed the animated cutscenes that illustrate the player character’s relationships with the people they’re having to face in these interactions (some of which were heartbreaking). I do think there’s room for improvement, however: it’s confusing to go through long stretches of the game without meeting any enemies (I kept wondering if I was lost), the question in the beginning could stand to be broadened (since not everyone defines themselves as male or female- maybe "or" could be a button as well?), and the ending felt anticlimactic (I wanted to see the character finally standing up for him/herself in real life; I’m really not sure that some placating lines on a statue are going to do anything to address his/her difficulties).

  2. 7
    Rixter
    Game Developer | Total Game Reviews: 5

    The music from the opening screen is great! I actually postponed hitting the play button in order to listen to it some more. So good job there! The mechanic reminded me stronly of Pokemon, but it certainly works. One thing that you might be able to improve: The lines during each stage of each battle stay the same. Can you introduce even more variaty to them, without blurring the lines between daemons’ battle tactics? The art style is awesome, the "cutscenes" are fitting perfectly – except for this one moment when the text tells me I am talking to my father and the picture, to my mind, shows a woman’s back. And what is the actual change, determined by whether I choose male over female? I am afraid I did not get that. What I recognized: This game is probably not at its best when played by those who suffer from the same challenges as my/our avatar (however, I cannot be sure here). But introducing others ("outsiders" like me) to the challenges these people undergo – that is does brilliantly! And I like the visual symbols you used for portraying the daemons. Also this line, like "I don’t think I am ready for this daemon yet." was perfect – making me curious and giving me a goal at the same time.

    Now this is a gem!

  3. 7
    maddyguinness
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    I liked this game a lot for what it stood for and its ethics but after a while it became a bit monotonouse. They could have brought some diversity of gameplay.

  4. 9
    joemil08
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    In this game, you traverse a forest as a member of the LBGT community in search for the truth. In your search, the only weapons you have to fight your foes are passion, ethics, and logic. You use tools to persuade your enemies, and yourself that your cause is just.

    I think this is an interesting to frame the struggle of sexuality, as people of that community have problems trying to convince others what they are doing is “okay” or “right.” Having to appeal to different facets of persuasion makes sense. One small issue that the game doesn’t encounter is battles that can’t be won. I think you should encounter an enemy that is not persuadable, a family member or someone in society that is willing to accept you for who you are.

    The game mechanics are pretty simple its like a typical JRPG, were there is a turn-based battle system, different moves to use, and healing. The game doesn’t have much strategy, you merely find which persuasion harms your enemy, and then repeat. I think if the game was a tid bit deeper in its mechanics it could drive home the message a bit stronger. I did like that fact that the last boss was yourself, representing that the biggest enemy in the struggle for sexuality is self-acceptance.

    The player is offered many choices throughout the story. The story is pretty linear, having you go from one point to the next. I think to get across its message it required to be linear however. The games ethics are aligned with gameplay and are unchangeable. If someone didn’t agree with the mission of the game, I don’t think they would find it interesting in the least. The stance on the LBGT community the game takes is definite. It does encourage critical thinking as you think about why these characters he interacts with have problems with his choices, and what can he do to persuade them. Although the dialogue is very limited, I thought of other things that might’ve been said.

  5. 6
    Nick
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    Fun roleplaying game suitable for children and young adults with easy tic-tac-toe style combat system. Can be completed in 30 minutes or less. If you enjoy JRPGs with dialogue and wandering around and turn-based combat – here with logic, passion, and ethics as the "weapons", this game is for you!

    Hint: if you find an interesting object, move close to it and press space to learn about it. There are beautiful cutscenes as a reward for accomplishing the challenges.

    The map is a little large, a dynamic arrow pointing to the nearest demon or a mini-map overview would have helped to avoid players getting lost. Players who are new to the genre may need a stimulus to begin exploring and to keep exploring instead of giving up too soon if a demon isn’t found in one screen.

    It’s better to ask what sex the player is (most) attracted to rather than asking the player’s sex (forcing the player to choose from the heteronormative gender binary). In my play-through (as a male) some cutscenes seemed to have gendered differences in dress between the sweethearts.

    Overall, if players can get past the crass starting question, this is a steady enjoyable game with a self-affirming message. Older players may find the repetitive combat dull.

  6. 9
    Tom Mowbray
    Total Game Reviews: 30

    Interesting sociological game it develops a sense of understanding the demon’s tactics and countering with your own, always keeping the option of taking a breath to regain composure. Nice conversational interludes between the demon battles ties this specifically to the LGBTQ domain. However, the main game itself would be outstanding for teaching about bullying in general and defense against it. Since all the text was automatically generated, the player does not get any practice formulating responses, but merely choosing the next strategy. Very nice touches right at the end (the final 2 demons are very special foes).

  7. 7
    dcpliskin
    Total Game Reviews: 6

    I like the aesthetic design of the battles, with every enemy being much bigger than the protagonist. When it remained true with the self reflection (seeing yourself at the same size, but much bigger when fighting), and that was nice. The graphic for the sister in the bed looked mostly hidden, but i thought it was a male. Additionally, the father looked female from behind. This surprised me because I thought they were supposed to represent conforming to a set perspective, so it was weird for me that they looked like the opposite gender.

    Additionally, playing as a male and female yielded no difference other than pronouns. This would be fine and even understandable, if the beginning only asked if you were male or female. However, it purposely placed such importance in that question, that I initially believed upon selection that there would be more sustenance in the difference between the two. The fact that it was just pronouns was a little disappointing.

    In terms of gameplay, it was a little too simplistic for my taste, though I certainly think that isn’t a huge problem. It is mostly easy to win, even without breathing. However, the battles were repetitive, which is more problematic. While the first fight was fun and interactive, and the second might have even been ok, by the time the third fight occurs, the game becomes more tedious than thought provoking. Sitting there, I feel compelled to finish the game out of obligation, but without aid from the interactivity that was present in the beginning. This was especially frustrating since I played it a second time to see if changing gender made a big difference, and so had to fight 10 battles instead of 5.

    The message itself is well received, and pretty easy to follow, which is good. I liked that the ending was inspiring. The minor details (such as the ax, etc) really gave more substance to the game, and the simple but pleasant graphics and music really makes this an overall positive experience.

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