the formative years

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been pre-occupied with graduating from my Master’s program, and with working on the final requirements of my certification for my new career. But I’ve still found some time to think about this project.

My initial creative approach was to write the story step-by-step, following the track of my protagonist’s life. It meant digging into each story choice in minute detail every step of the way. In other words, a recipe for overwhelm and never finishing the project.

Human lives are ridiculously complex. How do we live every day without noticing all the factors that go into our life situation at every moment?

So to kick myself forward, I’ve switched my game plan and am working from the top down. Since this project is an interactive fiction game, the interesting parts of the game are the choices. I’ve mapped out some usual choices that we as Americans tend to make from birth to high school.

After sitting overwhelmed with that for a bit, I had a chat with myself about how huge this project really is. And I’ve decided to narrow my immediate focus on the story from birth to kindergarten.

I’m not a parent. I also have no siblings. I don’t even have a dog. Looking at years 0-5 in the terms of choices, I am so struck by how many choices are made for us by our parents that will echo through our lives in ways both obvious and unconscious. And how the choices parents make are directly impacted by choices their parents made…..

What this means in terms of the game is that there is going to be a lot of things the computer choses for the player at first. On one hand I find that frustrating, because the game won’t be as interactive right out of the gate. But on the other hand, I like how it mirrors reality. Reality is that we can’t pick our parents, or where we grow up, or how we are raised. It also means that the player will have to make the choices for the protagonist’s in-game children, and all those choices that the player had no control over initially will come home to roost in the range of options they’ll have as a parent.

Now that I’ve gotten a little structure set up to play with, over the weekend I procured a library card and have put some books on hold so I can start researching the stories that go along with the statistics. I’ll start posting more about my research soon.

Note: I got a request to let people know where they could contact me directly if they want to be a part of this project. I’ve set up a Gmail account: climbintotheirskin. E-mail away!

Note #2: I haven’t been going out of my way to find news stories about discrimination (I’d actually be interested to track them all, but I really don’t have that kind of time right now) but they keep happening. I did see the McKinney, TX pool party debacle. If you missed this one, BET has a quick slideshow summation. The incidents of people getting fired from their jobs due to making inanely uninformed racist comments about McKinney on Facebook is both cheering (hooray they got fired) and disheartening (why the hell would someone even think that, anyway??). UK’s The Guardian has a penetrating article about how this one pool party incident is a very small tip of a very large iceberg:

But as the Section 8 slur implies, there is already a form of segregation in McKinney, one that combines geography, race and income: housing. The alleged comment was a reference to a federal programme that provides housing subsidies for the very poor, many of them black. It is easy to see why it might cause offence in the Dallas suburb, where middle-class developments such as the Craig Ranch subdivision, the location of the pool, are predominantly on the west side of the city while poorer residents live to the east….

The ICP’s lawsuit, which was settled out of court, accused the city of perpetuating “racial segregation by making dwellings unavailable because of race or colour in violation of the Fair Housing Act”. The ICP claimed that McKinney only wanted to build affordable homes in the east of the city, not in the majority-white parts of town west of the highway.

Last month, a Harvard study found that moving young children out of low-income housing into more prosperous neighbourhoods could have positive long-term effects on their lives and on the fabric of society.

“Efforts to integrate disadvantaged families into mixed-income communities are likely to reduce the persistence of poverty across generations,” the authors wrote.

American cities, though, remain deeply divided. In 2013, 97% of units qualifying for low-income housing tax credit in Dallas were in areas where most residents were minorities.


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