In 2011, approximately 7,300 people in my city were homeless.
This game shares the story of just 4 of them.
"Mission" is a videogame that was made by 4 men from a homeless shelter in downtown Ottawa, Canada to help them share their stories.
The 3 goals in developing the game were:
- Empower the 4 men from the shelter: Andre, Jean, Gordon, and Roger by giving them an opportunity to share their lives and express themselves through art and a game.
- Combat the ignorance, assumptions, and stigma around homelessness by giving the general public some insight into who these 7,300 homeless are.
- Highlight the importance of having social programs like safe shelter, access to food, addiction services, and continuing education.
We decided the best way to achieve all 3 of these goals was to give the guys as much input and control over the game as possible. In the end, the character designs, item art, words, and even sound effects were all created by the 4 men whose journeys you experience.
We spent hours coming up with lesson plans before our first workshop, and then promptly threw it all out the window once we realised we'd have to be much more flexible with the guys. Each of the guys had different strengths and interests. Andre loves to draw and sketch on paper,; but Roger prefers doing his art digitally. Jean has an incredibly interesting story to share, but doesn't care much for creating art. Gordon has a passion for videogame design and wanted to be more involved in level design.
The project started in September 2012 and officially launched December 17th, 2012.
(Turn on sound for the best experience.)
The game was designed and developed by myself, David Rust-Smith, in partnership with writer/designer Grant McLaughlin, and with the support of Ottawa Community Arts, The Ottawa Mission and of course the 4 men who's stories and art we share: Andre, Jean, Gordon, and Roger. We had a very small budget, and like all good projects, burned through it very quickly. We ended up so wrapped up in the project we volunteered a lot of additional hours working on polishing the game.
The Biggest Challenge
The hardest part was figuring out how to balance having a game that was unique and exciting to garner attention, easy for non-gamers to pick-up, didn't trivialize these guys stories, and left as much design and control up to the 4 men as possible.
Our solution was to work off of a well known platformer formula, but with a deeper story line, we pitched it as:
It's like Mario, but instead of getting a princess you're reaching milestones from these guys lives.
The game features 4 episodes, each telling the tale of one of the men and takes you on a journey to reach 3 significant milestones from their lives.
Each level also has 3 hidden items that have sentimental value to the storyteller.
When you finish an episode, you get to play a fantastical dream level that symbolizes the feeling of the artist's best day at The Ottawa Mission. These dream levels each feature a unqiue 'dream power' such as the ability to flip gravity or rotate the world's blocks.
There is both an HTML5 web version and a Windows 8 app version.
Windows 8 App also available