TBF One Year Later

It’s been just over a year since we “released” That Blooming Feeling so I figured I’d do a one year retrospective/postmortem sorta thing. There’s a lot of baggage related to the game for me that continues to feel relevant and I’ve never really sat down and written out a lot of my (poorly edited) thoughts.

I think pretty frequently about That Blooming Feeling as the culmination of my time in undergrad at DePaul, particularly in regards to the way that it contextualizes the idea of success coming out of a program like the one I went through. In retrospect the overarching thought of a “successful student project” undergirds most of the decisions I made about That Blooming Feeling. There were a couple aspects of student projects I’d been struggling with, most of which had to do with power dynamics, but others had to do with how to gauge personal growth and, in a broad sense, the subsequent success of projects that would inherently be viewed through the lens of failing as learning.

I spent a lot of time my senior year chasing a lot of community related goals which I fell short of in a broad sense but felt like I attained with my capstone team. One of my goals I wanted to take into account for our capstone project was the power dynamics in student/group projects. An important part of our team’s process was to attempt to democratize as much of the work as possible. In my opinion, the normalized structure of a game development team doesn’t apply when everyone is essentially paying to be a part of the group. Furthermore, while that payment is often equal in quantity it is absolutely not equal in its effect on each individual. Something I didn’t realize at the time was that this sort of idea existed within the structures of democratized workplaces & worker coops. I think looking into resources related to those things before/during our project definitely would have been helpful, but despite our failures as a team (I know I personally had my fair share), we definitely pushed each other to grow more earnestly than we ever would have as a faux-game studio.

Looking back our design goals for That Blooming Feeling also reflected our desire for the democratic collaboration that underlined our development process. Through discussion and reflection, what we sought to evoke felt like it emerged from a desire to fight many of the subtle norms of game design that made us uncomfortable. While initially one of several design “pillars”, decolonization slowly became what felt like the core of our game, largely because it felt like the mistakes we wanted to avoid from other works were largely encompassed by their embracing of colonial ideals. Our cycle of development, discussion and reflection led us to hone down the tone of game over a focus on hyper-rationalizing arbitrary rulesets meant to convey one formalist Truth.

I think the way we avoided the formal tendencies of many videogames is what makes me the most proud of our work on That Blooming Feeling. The project isn’t a grand thesis or argument, but a manifestation of our personal search for truth through our medium. We may not have created an award-winning experience, a technical marvel, or a grand fiscal success, but I believe we did manage to create an earnest, affecting, and caring virtual world; a feat that escapes many people working in this medium & makes me extremely proud.

There’s probably more nitty-gritty technical details or touching moments from development I could list off but this feels like a nice place to stop so I’ll leave that to somebody else ;) . I’ve said this before Online but: Thank you to all the people that supported & enabled us to create this work, I hope our love for you is shown in our work if not elsewhere <3