Jack King-Spooner has been applauded for making thought provoking games. The Scottish developer most recently released Beeswing on PC, an intriguing adventure game taking place in rural Scotland. Beeswing featured no combat or puzzles, rather focusing on pure exploration and storytelling.
Now Jack is attempting to create an even more ambitious game called Dujanah. The crowdfunded title is currently in its last week on Kickstarter, and tells the story of a young woman in an Islamic majority country.
To find out more about Dujanah, We Got This Covered talked to creator Jack King-Spooner about the non-linear narrative, tackling religion in games and much more.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
We Got This Covered: You’ve described Dujanah as an interactive narrative. Will gameplay be based around making choices and exploration?
Jack King-Spooner: The core of the game is indeed exploring and making a few choices along the way, but certain story arcs will take you to different mini-games where the core mechanics change altogether. For example: a sizeable Metroid-like game replete with bosses or a bastardized version of Asteroids. And throughout all the sections there are plentiful secrets to be found.
WGTC: Dujanah features a non-linear narrative that will be unique for each player. Was it difficult to craft something that told a meaningful story, while also allowing for different outcomes?
JKS: The game is non-linear in two distinct ways. Firstly, the player can pretty much go anywhere from the get go and encounter the stories in whatever order they desire. This may cause slight changes in the narrative, but the most significant changes come in the form of certain randomized elements which the player will (hopefully) be completely oblivious to. I’ve not found it difficult to craft at all. In fact, I’ve found it an interesting way to tell more stories within the same framework. I did something similar for my previous game Beeswing but it was perhaps a shade too subtle and no one really noticed.
WGTC: You’re going with a really cool art style for the game combining clay animation and paintings. It really gives the game a unique look. What led to you choosing this visual style for Dujanah?
JKS: The visuals are really just a progression from all my previous games. I’m pulling together everything I’ve learned to create a world that feels tactile and familiar but at the same time visually unique and distinct from my other pieces.
WGTC: The game takes place in a fictional Islamic majority country, which is something we don’t see that often in games. What made you choose that setting?
JKS: A number of reasons actually. I wanted a setting that was altogether different from the setting of Beeswing (rural Scotland) so that the similarities between the games elucidate more universal themes: ideas of loss, community, rural economy. On top of that I wanted to explore ideas such as tolerance, motivations and intervention which I feel are really the big ethical dilemmas of our times.
My first idea for a setting was in Belarus as the nuclear catastrophe happened the year I was born and during my childhood our community helped victims of the fallout. However, the setting didn’t mesh with the themes, art style and stories and various world events pointed towards a more topical setting.
To a lesser extent, representation in games was a consideration. Of my games, only about one in four protagonists are a white male character, three of those games the protagonist was essentially a representation of me. It’s not really a conscious decision, it’s just what feels best for the story. I was a bit surprised to find that 22% of the global population has almost no representation in video games (Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia and half a dozen others) and of that representation something as simple as self-actualizing lives is completely nowhere to be seen.
WGTC: One of the topics Dujanah deals with is religion. This is obviously something that needs to be handled with tact. What research have you done in coming up with the narrative, and making sure the game has its desired effect?
JKS: The topic of religion isn’t up for critique or appraisal in the game, but is more a background foundation, like Buddhism was in Blues for Mittavinda or Catholicism was in Beeswing. But of course, you are right, it has to be handled with tact. Besides an ever-growing reading list I have been having dialogues with many interesting and relevant voices; from Muslim apostates and Muslim family members to a soldier who has been part of the Scottish peacekeeping force in Afghanistan to mention but a few. I hope to expand these dialogues should the funding be successful.