Shadow River Game

a Game for Change by Anne-Marie Schleiner

The current game I am developing is titled Shadow River and is intended to be (during the development phases and after) a conversation starter about the Anthropocene, about climate change and the impact of humans on the environment. In this game, the player has 7 days (indicated by 7 rocks on the “rock clock”) to complete their mission of navigating a life raft along a river bend. When a tree casts long shadows when the sun reaches just the right position, the shadows fill a dry river bed and the life raft can move on down the river. The player has one “time mana” rock that indicates that they can freeze, slow down, or reverse (ie. scratch) the movement of the sun/time for a limited time, thereby prolonging the shadow casting that helps the boat survive. This is currently the only way the player can interact with the game, otherwise the game plays itself as the sun appears to rotate around the earth.

In planned later levels, a great storm approaches with attacking monstrous spheres of hail,(an element of tower defense game mechanic). Each level is represented as a topographic landscape map inspired by an actual map of the twists and turns of Cache Creek in Northern California (also intended to serve as an augmented reality paper marker for the player’s mobile device to fix on) and the player will use simple button controls in Vuforia.

So far I have sketched out 3 levels. I have developed one prototype level of it in Unity and paper prototyped its game mechanics and level progression. Ultimately, this is intended to be a “tabletop” augmented game using markers and mobile devices like tablets or phones. After a detour into the history of Mesoamerican cosmic architecture, diagrams of ancient observatories and serpentine pyramid shadows documented in my sketchbook for the game, inspiration for the game came back to my initial, environmental focus, in this case the binary extremes of climate change: drought and storm. (an option for increased difficulty would be for the boats to get stranded in the desert if the river drys up, and a final apocalyptic level could be of pure shadows minus 3-D components)

I am developing this game at the Davis Makerspace, a locally run Makerspace in downtown Davis, California, where in the future I plan to give some workshops on AR game development with Unity and Vuforia. Or on using games for political and environmental purposes. Or on artist approaches to game development. I am open to collaborators on this project and am interested in collaborating with scientists or citizen scientists who have insights to share or may wish to join forces. Also input from researchers of Augmented Reality, programmers, artists and/or from activist game designers would be welcome, especially those with experience with the Vuforia plug-in for Unity. Sponsorship would also be welcome–and I am considering opening a kick-starter campaign.