Crossposted from the Sharkbomb Studios blog.
So a few weeks ago I released Different, a short game about self-consciousness and first impressions. It’s a personal piece anchored in my experiences and perceptions.
At it’s core it’s a game about growing up as a non-white person in a predominantly white environment and how one’s perception of race changes slowly. In my case it’s the story of how constant encounters with casual racism made me more and more aware of the fact that I do look decidedly different from the “regular German”.
The most German kiddie picture of me I could find
As a kid I was hardly ever confronted with racism of any kind, but the few instances that I did made the experience stand out strongly. Later in life the occurences have become a lot more frequent, if subtle. Nowadays it’s very common for me to meet someone for the first time, and then, within the first minutes, get asked about my origins.
It is this constant barrage of seemingly innocent questions (“Where are you from?”) and off-putting compliments (“Your German is really good!”) that has solidified in me the awareness of looking different. In the mind of my younger self, there was nothing that clearly separated me from anyone else. We were all different from one another, all in our own way.
In recent years these questions have started to frustrate me more and more, up to the point that I knew I wanted to build the game. It took a while from idea to execution but I am very happy with it. It’s an abstract game, that tries to recreate that experience and that slowly dawning realization, that you are seen as different.
With my growing awareness also came a frustration at being reduced to this part of me. This found it’s outlet in my answers to these remarks becoming increasingly curt and gruff. Something I’m struggling to let go again. Maybe the game is part of the process.