It is the beginning of March, and there are more changes for Carla Duty to announce, including a major change in the focus of the game.
I set out almost a year ago to make a Cookie Clicker clone with feminist and socialist themes, and as I have gotten deeper into the project the game type has changed and I now am doing a major rethinking of the theme. This is not entirely due to the caustic reactionary drivel that has polluted most talk about games lately (I am not mentioning anything by name to avoid dealing with idiocy, trolls, or hateful mobs) but rather because of a number of realizations I had while building out the working parts of the game.
Firstly, it became really obvious that simulating sexual harassment and inequality within the guise of a game is difficult to do without belittling the experience. Interactions with your boss had to be concise and impactful to avoid being boring, and the level of despicable evil required to get this point across quickly and easily was off the charts. And sure, there are some terrible bosses out there that constantly assault and harass their employees, but cartoonish super villainy is not what I was trying to address. Systemic and cultural forces are far more troublesome and "quiet" than the occasional boorish asshole. Women don't make a fraction of what men do because of some dark coalition of powerful über-misogynists cackling in boardrooms.
Secondly, it became obvious that some of the best ideas around this central feminist theme would be really hard to realize. I spent quite a bit of time talking to friends and relatives of all ages, backgrounds, and job types about their experiences with inequality and sexism, and a few themes repeated that I really wanted to try to work into the game. An example was the perception that managers passed younger women up for promotion because they think that they may leave the company to start families; I wanted to integrate this into the promotion algorithm, but simplifying the process led to some of the same issues of simplification from my first point: The game had to be easy to understand and also viable for one person to build and develop within a decent timeframe. By making the player young was I being ageist? Possibly, so would it be possible to add logic for differently aged players? Sure, but was I making things too complicated? Most definitely. Even more importantly, I don't want to assume every woman wants to start a family, and suddenly my list of variables expands and my conditional logic gets more complicated.
Finally, as the logic got more complicated I realized that I was ignoring other groups that suffer from inequality in the workplace. Did I really want to ignore people of color (a group of which I am a member)? No… Is that another variable and more logic? Yes. What about the fact that 90% of the wealth of this country goes to a small sliver of society? Absolutely not… And how do I work this into a match three game?
In fact, the core functional parts of Carla Duty were already built and working, and a vast majority of my work on the game in the last couple of months has been refining the gameplay and making sure it is interesting and fun. I have gotten way too far into the game-making process to scrap this project because the theme was getting too complicated.
And so it came to this — I set out last April to make a game about inequality and gender. And race. And class. And wealth… and… Well, it just got too complicated for a single developer working in his spare time. True, I could take the advice of many a [young, single and free of responsibilities] "entrepreneur" and quit my job and count on my talent and intelligence to make me successful, but my talents include an ability to mitigate risk, and intelligence and age means I am even more adverse to risk than most… So I decided instead to pivot the game.
I decided that it is much easier (for me at least) to address inequality and the tediousness of modern work as generic game concepts, exaggerated for comic effect.
So your boss in the game will likely still be a dick, but I won't be worried about whether he calls you "sweet pants" (we had an internal conversation about how and what terms the sexist boss would use, and how making it too "50's lecher"-style could be more damaging than just leaving it out.)
You'll likely still have to address income inequality, but I'm not going to try to adjust prices for inflation and provide a chart that compares your income to your coworkers (both serious suggestions that I had partially built.)
It will still be hard to get to the mid and high levels of the game, but mostly because of the mechanics of the game itself, and not because of obtuse and invisible variables and logic (we struggled immensely with how exactly you show the user that they aren't getting promoted because of their gender, at least without writing a short essay for every game and situation. Not exactly user friendly.)
So in conclusion, work continues apace on Carla Duty — it is looking better every day, the gameplay is getting more interesting, faster-paced, and strategic with every iteration, and features like game saving, sound effects, and special tile effects are working and being expanded daily. However the theme of the game is a little less focused and vaguely presented, and this generality will hopefully make play more interesting and much less confusing. With any luck I will have a mostly-finished game sometime within the next few months and we'll see if this holds true!