alienmelon

Nathalie Lawhead is a net-artist and award winning game designer that has been creating experimental digital art since the late 90's. Past works include titles such as the IGF winning Tetrageddon Games, "Everything is going to be OK", and the Electric Zine Maker. Follow them on Mastodon

Goodbye, America

I’m writing this from an Airbnb on my new laptop in the new country that I moved to. I’m a European gamedev now. I finally put America behind me! I have a lot of thoughts and feelings that I wanted to encapsulate at some point, about having lived there for seventeen or so years. How I feel about it. Will I miss it? Can I miss it? I’m not sure if I will, or if I have the energy, to talk about all that… at least to the extent that I would like. Bouncing around Airbnb’s, while renovations are being...

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Backrooms, Liminal Spaces, And The Subliminal Menace Of Loneliness in Indie Horror Games

This is about the horror of liminal spaces, and the intrinsic surrealism of our digital world… That beautiful awful loneliness of existing in the electric void of shared virtual fantasies that video games are.
Video games are the closest thing that we have to existing in someone else’s dream. Carefully constructed fantasies that we share with players. These are our fever dreams, both pleasant and awful.

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BlueSuburbia out now on Steam Early Access!

I’m so very proud to finally announce that BlueSuburbia just got released as Early Access on Steam. This is about a year of hard work, learning 3D game development, learning Unreal… and it feels good to finally have this first part out in the world. Get it for free on… Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2431510/BlueSuburbia/ Itch.io: https://alienmelon.itch.io/bluesuburbia This installment of BlueSuburbia brings the first open world. A surrealist dream-like realm where you explore poetry and find items to help you further on your quest to be free. It’s heavily laden with metaphor about mental health, survival, and struggling with the alienating weight of...

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How To Download and Run the Flash Version of BlueSuburbia

BlueSuburbia was a Flash website comprised of a collection of interactive poetry. Each poem was animated in a surrealist, often metaphoric, way to bring the writing to life. The poetry would live in these dreamy worlds, one transitioning to the next. It was presented as a dark neighborhood that you came across in a dream… and there you found a large abandoned home. The home was a living world where you could discover books that were like doorways into poetic realms. The animation style was like Disney’s Fantasia meets late 90’s goth. The poems were often about war, refugees, poverty,...

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BlueSuburbia is an IndieCade 2023 Nominee!

?*:.?.o So this is amazing! ?.:?*:?’ When I submitted BlueSuburbia to IndieCade I had little expectations for anything happening. Submitting to IndieCade is just a thing you do! I was hoping it would be eligible for one of the exhibits or just get into Night Games. IndieCade announced that Night Games would be an in person event, making that the first since the pandemic hit. It seemed like an exciting time to submit to them. I was floored when I received an email from them saying that it was nominated! Personally I really needed this. BlueSuburbia is a project that...

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The Generous Space of Alternative Game Engines (A Curation)

This post is a response to Unity’s heartbreaking announcement that they will… charge developers relentlessly for distributing their games? I struggle to frame exactly what they are doing because Unity’s decision is so bizzarely resentful toward their huge developer base that trusted them. You can read this for context… I’ve done a lot of writing curating and covering tools, and showcasing alternatives to popular ones. I even have a collection on itch.io keeping track of things that are on that platform: https://itch.io/c/235488/cool-tools For myself, it is an imperative to always be aware of alternatives! The biggest lesson I learned from...

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Real Talk: Games About Trauma (art caught between “everything is horrible”, “everything is survivable”, and “this is too hard to talk about”)

CW: Trauma “Trauma” sometimes seems like an unfortunately reductive word to describe what these games are… The games that are easy to ignore because they come with lots of trigger warnings so they are “ugh another one of those”, the brave games that are hard to make and even harder to play, the ones that seem to be in abundance but still don’t get talked about enough… There is a bravely pioneering aspect to them that is hard to ignore. Some might brush them off as losers “being high on their own supply”, or one might understand why they will...

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You scream into the void but the rate limit has been exceeded. Nobody can hear you scream.

On Mastodon I was joking that I want to create a social media simulator app that takes you through the exhausting process of setting up an account (avatar, enticing follow-able description of yourself, a unique name, a solid unrememberable password…) and then it gives you a space to say things into the void. Whatever you say rewards you with that unending gratification of juicy feedback we associate with social media. This particular void rewards you generously. You could say the dumbest things and get a ridiculous amount of simulated engagement. Nothing you say is actually posted anywhere. It’s just for...

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BlueSuburbia demo is out! (more about the project, vision, and things coming…)

It has been well over a year that I decided to learn Unreal so that I can bring my vision of “reviving” BlueSuburbia to life. This was a crash course in Blender, 3D animation, modeling, Unreal, scripting, textures, volumetrics… what any of these things even mean and how to do them right. I still have a long way to go, but I’m proud to be able to finally share an early look at this new BlueSuburbia. The demo was posted on itch.io the other day: https://alienmelon.itch.io/bluesuburbia I already payed for the Steam store listing and will be working on getting...

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Indie Games and the promise of better spaces

Idyll is a small social world designed around kinder forms of online conversation. That description alone couldn’t come at a more meaningful time. I’ve been eagerly watching the development of it over Twitter, and have been looking forward to writing about it when it releases. I think it is a profound thing to put into the world in the shadow of “losing” Twitter… with friend groups scurrying to other social media spaces, and overall how things like this tiny game-thing contrast against the more popular online social spaces that we must inhabit. I think it goes without saying that each...

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Documenting what it’s like to be treated humanely by a journalist

Not too long ago I was contacted by a journalist that said he is a reporter for the Guardian and is publishing a piece about toxic and abusive work environments around film, TV, and game composers. He said that they were planning on mentioning my rape allegations against [Famous Composer], and that he had a couple of quick questions for me… asking if I had time for a quick call. The email itself was fairly standard, but as you can imagine I freaked out. The last time I trusted a journalist with this I was drug out in the most...

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“Death Stranding Meets Net-Art” in a poetry world (devlog update)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the creative (mostly narrative) direction of my current 3D game, BlueSuburbia. How do you approach building a large thing, without disappearing into the development void forever? These long projects can eat a lot of time, life, energy… and even relevance because it’s all you do for the next few years… how do you manage that? Sometimes I feel like I’m banking everything on a gamble, because it’s such a beast of an endeavor. When you’re a solo-developer, you have to constantly think about scale. If I make this too big then it might never...

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Celebrating some beautiful jam games <3

There is no greater joy as a game developer (and general fan of video games) to just browse random game jam submissions and get lost in a sea of work. There is so much stuff being released every day, you could isolate all releases for just one month and it would probably take a lifetime to play through everything. From all that, only a small sliver is ever really seen. I don’t think that’s bad. I think that abundance is brave. “Amateur” work is and always was at the heart of video games. I say this because browsing random jam...

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A curation of beautiful thoughtful poetic silly and queer zines made with the Electric Zine Maker

~ tiny literature capturing forgotten moments, queerness, silly illustrations, and random poetic thoughts ~ It has been a good while since I last shared anything to do with the Electric Zine Maker, so I thought I should highlight some of the work people have made in it recently. Making an art tool is a humbling experience. I’m constantly blown away by the beautiful work people make in it and the fact that they would choose the Electric Zine Maker to make something in the first place. Many of the zines use the tools in unique ways that surprise me. I...

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The GDevelop Game Jam #3 is here (with prizes!) and I’m honored to be a judge…

Recently I wrote about the wonderful open-source no-code world of GDevelop and featured some of the games made in it. It’s a beautiful accessible tool that’s very welcoming to newcomers. GDevelop is running it’s third gamejam, and I’m going to be participating in it too! * The GDevelop Game Jam #3 Is Here! * GDevelop Game Jam itch page I have to say again how encouraged I am that such wonderful tools and communities exist. Recent criticisms levied toward how Adobe is collecting customer’s pictures into machine training sets (see this Mastodon post ), or other discussions about how Microsoft...

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The open-source no-code world of GDevelop (if you miss browser Flash games, this is keeping that dream alive!)

(This is a cross-post of my recent itch.io blog post which you can read here.) I’ve seen GDevelop mentioned here and there and have been meaning to write about it for some time. I was invited by Marcos Codas to check it out and I’m grateful for that! The more I dug into GDevelop for this post, the more I was blown away by this tremendous tiny space of beautiful browser games all made in this open source game development environment. What is worth highlighting is that GDevelop boasts easily making things with “no-code”. This makes it perfect for people...

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Exploring the beautiful worlds of games made with “RPG in a Box”

This is a cross publish of a post I just put up on itch.io. Itch.io has started supporting blogging! My posts so far are… * Video game blogging at the end of the world (hello world!~) * Exploring the beautiful worlds of games made with “RPG in a Box” (get it free December 1st through December 8th) But I swear I will get back to posting here too! I mean to use my itch.io blog for short form things, and this one for long form writing… Tho it’s kind of turned on its head right now because blogging on itch.io...

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The Joy of Silly Useless Software

I was invited by the wonderful organizers of the “Gamez & ruleZ” conference to speak. I’m grateful to have been given an opportunity to discuss a topic that I’m passionate about: silly software (like desktop pets or other unusual programs that are hard to classify). Following is my talk turned into a blog post. There are a lot of recommendations here, and I hope you enjoy these wonderful, strange, silly finds… As you may know, I’m an experimental game designer, and make weird software that kind of exists in the space between games and “something else”. It’s the type of...

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MoMA’s “Never Alone: Video Games and Other Interactive Design” Exhibit & The Hopeful Future of Video Game Preservation

I just came back from visiting New York City to attend the opening for MoMA’s newest exhibit all about video games, interactive art, and the “@” sign. The exhibit is also accompanied by a book in the MoMA Design Store. In case you haven’t heard, “Everything is going to be OK” was one of the games that the museum acquired! MoMA’s journey into acquiring (and effectively preserving) video games has been an effort they announced back in 2012. This was met with much controversy in the art space, as most notably captured in the Guardian article titled “Sorry MoMA, video...

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When software makes you laugh! (…creativity as a mechanic, how it exists in games, and the ethics of either empowering or exploiting creation)

A lot of exciting tool related developments have been happening in the indie game space since my last post. Go get lost checking out all The Tool Jam 2 submissions… also my Cool Tools itch.io collection is at its 400th addition as of today! When I started writing about tools, and putting together that curation, I thought I would stop at maybe 30… or 100 if I felt like doing too much work. I only got into paying attention to all this because of the Electric Zine Maker, and I wanted to highlight other exciting work done in this space....

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