Indie Game Spotlight: Plaything
This week’s Indie Game Spotlight is a reminder to lead with kindness. Plaything is a joyful and intimate game about your relationship to a small being crafted by your fingertips. In a series of personal and touching vignettes, you learn to live alongside each other. With a loving blend of hand-made animation and unfolding generative art, Plaything is a moving experience you can hold in your hands and close to your heart.We spoke with Niall Tessier-Lavigne and Will Anderson, who are both from the Highlands of Scotland. Niall has a background in games and animation, Will in animation and film. They’re co-designers on the game, which involves things like figuring out the visual direction, narrative design, and gameplay decisions. Read on!What was the main inspiration for the game?
A lot of the ideas behind Plaything came from our desire to make something with kindness at its core. We were both thinking about our own relationships to technology and wanted to make something that’s very careful with its dynamics of dependency.
Niall: I was definitely inspired by seeing Will’s short film, Have Heart, which is what lead me to approach him in the first place. I find the ideas in it about work, love, and digital media really affecting.
Aside from that, I’d been thinking a lot about gardening games, kinda prompted by Max Kreminski’s gardening games zine; games that can have an element of nurture and care, without feeling like heavy systems. I’d also had other people’s words about empathy and games rolling around my head for a while—writing by Lana Polansky, Emilie Reed, thecatamites, Paolo Pedercini, to name a few.
Will: When I was younger, I was pretty obsessed with Tamagotchis. I had LOTS of them. The idea of nurturing something that isn’t real always fascinated me. On the surface, it feels trivial, but on closer inspection, being affected by something artistic in our lives is pretty crucial for our wellbeing. So that, along with very human character animation, is a source of inspiration.What was it like, coming together from game development and film making backgrounds?
Early on, we did a lot of talking before figuring out what any aspects of the game would look like, or what the gameplay would consist of. We tend to approach things in quite a filmic way—jotting down possible moments and feelings, script-writing, doing rough animatics, sort of translating this into something less fixed, and more interactive. We love working with rough-cut trailers and animations of possible playthroughs set to music, as a way of thinking through the arc and tone of Plaything.What are some ways you can create and customize the small creature?
You pull softly fizzing shapes into the center of space, loosely assembling the creature’s form. There’s a degree of control, but a big part of the design is how loose and gestural this action feels. You don’t have too much control over the final assembled form of your Plaything in the same way you don’t get to control how it behaves or feels towards you. Part of the experience of playing is mapping out how you act together, defining those hazy spaces at the edges of your relationship.What other features does the game include?
Niall: All the features you know and love from your friends and family.
Will: Eyes, ears, mouths, arms & legs.What do you hope players will take away from the game?
If we can give you something to waste your time with, in a way that feels genuinely meaningful, we’d be very happy. We hope to stir something up in the cold embers of our collective hearts.
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