UCLA student game project Perfect Woman uses the awkward behaviors the Kinect can track to force players to mimic life choices starting from the womb. As Perfect Woman progresses, players make decisions that can make their simulated life difficult as they get older. The game aims to poke at the ideals media perpetuates, with particular inspiration drawn from questionnaires written in women’s magazines.
Here, creators Robot Bear/Peter Lu (Animal Golf, Burn & Turn) and Lea SchÃ¶nfelder (Ute, Ulitsa Dimitrova) discussed their inspiration, the limitations of the Kinect, and the game itself.
Peter Lu said that Lea, who is studying at UCLA’s Game Lab, came to him with this rather convincing pitch. He had just finished making a Kinect game and “concluded the Kinect was good for just about nothing,” but decided to give it a go anyway.
Together, they have decided Perfect Woman should help them accomplish three things:
“1. make a game commenting on how society has created the ‘Perfect Woman’ and perpetuated these ideals through media (the specific inspiration was from those ‘what type of person are you’ questionnaires in magazines). In particular, the ideal life at one age may directly contradict the ideal life at another age.
“2. make a game controlled by the kinect that encourages players to “cheat the system”. The kinect is a bad device. It is unresponsive and its output data is unreliable. We wanted to embrace these qualities of the device. The ‘bad’ interface is simply another (fun) challenge in the game (think qwop). There are many so called “impossible” levels but with the aid of chairs, friends and mannequins, anything is possible.
3. (implicitly) use 2 to reinforce the ideas suggested by 1.”
Peter describes the gameplay as a series of performance-based stages that players choose from. Depending on how well players performed, they will see a cutscene explaining how that choice affects the difficulties of their future life possibilities.
“Each character has a respective perfectness and difficulty,” Peter explains. “Ideally, you would choose the lowest difficulty together with the highest perfectness. Certain combinations can make future lives very difficult so the challenge is to both perform your characters well and to make the right choices.”
I asked Lea if Perfect Woman ignored those who seem to have it easy their whole lives. “Yes, some people can have everything. But I thought for people like me it would be nice to have a system where you are rewarded if you’re not always perfect. That’s kind of the idea behind [the game].”
I also asked Lea about what influences her art, which seems to have a distinct but common quality that I’ve seen in Ute and even the recent Stagediver. “It’s very personal in any case. I don’t imitate other styles just to look nicer. It is more like a language to communicate.
“Some colleagues like Andreas Hykade and Ines GeiÃŸer influence me a lot. I draw in my sketchbook every day like a diary. This style develops over the time. At the time when we made Ute, I just drew black and white lines. So the game was monochrome too. Now I use more colors, so my games are colorful as well.”
The duo hope to have the colorful and curious Perfect Woman released before the end of this year.