No guns or dragons: her video games capture private moments

Growing up in Ipswich, Massachusetts, Nina Freeman spent a lot of time playing video games with a pair of close friends who were twin sisters whose basement was the setting for a marathon session. “My friends and I were geeks,” she recalled. “We played many Of the game. “FINAL FANTASY 11” was like Second Life to me. “

A few years later, when she was a student at Pace University in Lower Manhattan, Freeman was drawn to the work of Frank O’Hara and other poets at the New York School and how they lived their lives through witty and conversational poetry. I praised what I recorded in confess at once. When she began her career as a video game designer, she came up with a similar tone and created a lyrical game that explores her memories and small private moments.

of “How do you do it? “ Freeman, a 2014 game, gives players the role of a nasty tween trying desperately trying to understand how sex works when playing with dolls. There are no levels to complete and no dragons to kill. Players crush the dolls together to earn points. This game is as much as you can get from shootouts and fantasy quests that have long been the most popular releases.

“I think the game isn’t almost on stage, or maybe it’s possible,” Freeman said in a warm afternoon in the backyard of a townhouse in Frederick, Maryland. .. “You can step into someone else’s shoes and act as a character. You can put the player on the stage and pass the script. The script is a game.”

She said the game she’s been working on recently with Jeffreys would be a little scary. It is based on her vague and embarrassing experience of buying clothes with her mom.

“You’re in the dressing room and mom wants you to try on these clothes, but you’re like,’Oh, I hate how I see this,'” Freeman said of the setup. explained. “There are these mannequins that come after you, and you lose all your clothes, and nothing fits. I’m trying to make your body uncomfortable and explore its trauma. “

Games like her vignette cannot be launched on PlayStation 5 or other large gaming platforms. “What I have worked on has never been a major financial success,” she said. “I’m not rich. I wasn’t, and I’ve never been motivated by it.”

Her next game, “The Legend of Nonno,” will be released in August. It was inspired by the time she spent with her Italian grandfather. He placed the globe on the counter, and Freeman stared at it and rotated it. In video games, the earth is magical and players can create new versions of the earth.

Freeman made this month’s game Triennale Game CollectionPart of Triennale Milano International Exhibition, An annual show in Milan dedicated to architecture and design. A carefully selected group of game designers invited to the collection includes others who specialize in quirky things: Fern Goldfarb-Ramallo, Llaura McGee, Akwasi Afrane, and the team of Yijia Chen and Dong Zhou.

Freeman creates games in his home office full of Japanese comic books, Disney Tsum Tsum plush toys, and a collection of vintage board games such as “Squirt” and “Contack.” She and Jeffreys live with two mini-dachshunds, Aaron and Kimari, named after the characters in FINAL FANTASY X.

The house is unfurnished and of fresh quality. For most of the pandemic, the couple lived with nearby Jeffreys’ parents after leaving Portland, Oregon. Freeman said he chose to live in Frederick, a city in western Maryland with a population of about 70,000. Not only was it close to the family, but it was also an affordable place for self-employed artists.

She said she lived a modest life by selling games through sites such as: vapor And itching; she also makes money as a host for the streaming platform her Twitch channelWith about 12,000 followers, she spends hours at home interacting with fans playing a variety of games, including action-heavy hits such as “Rise of the Tomb Raider” and “Elden Ring.” I am. She still has a true love for those games, she said, but she’s not interested in making something like that herself.

Her outsider status may only enhance her status in the world of indie games. “Her work was very inspiring to me and important to the bigger industry,” said the video game designer. Francesca Callet-Leon I said by email.

Curriculum manager Carletto-Leon Code CovenOffering an online class of video game design, added that games like memoirs are becoming more and more popular among a new generation of developers.

“Many of my students say that Nina’s work has a big influence on the kind of work they want to make,” she said.

Last year, Freeman released her most personal game.Last orderProduced in collaboration with Jeffreys. She said it arose from what she experienced about six years ago when she was in a relationship of physical and verbal abuse.

On the verge of leaving the relationship, the player initiates a “last call” except for an empty apartment full of moving boxes. The player then stitches together what happened through the clues provided by the poetry fragments that Freeman wrote specifically for the game. As the game progresses, players are asked to speak into the microphone and verbally confirm, such as “I see you” or “I believe you.”

Todd Martens, a video game critic at the Los Angeles Times, chose “Last Call” as follows: 2021 Essential Games.. “What makes it so powerful is that you have to talk into your computer’s microphone to get through the house and let her protagonist know that we’re for her,” he writes. I am.

Brighter tones infuse another recent game.Met in may“A greedy and humorous reproduction of the four scenes from the early days of the relationship between Mr. Freeman and Mr. Jeffreys.

Freeman is well aware that his game is not suitable for everyone. They lack a clear goal and, in some respects, offer a challenge to the basic beliefs of most video games. Regarding her 2014 game about playing with dolls, she said: It’s a one-minute game. People are still angry with me about it. “

She is part of a group of designers using video game formats to focus on moments that are likely to be explored again in memoirs, fiction, poetry, or indie film dramas. This approach is “Dys4iaThe 2012 game by Anna Anthropy, who talks about hormone replacement therapy for game makers, and “Cart life, “About street cart vendors trying to balance work and family responsibilities. Even the third-person shooter Gears of War, released by mainstream studio Epic Games, was partly inspired by the divorce. According to its creator, Cliff Bleszinsky..

After graduating from Pace University, Freeman found a way to the indie scene around 2012. She started going to game jams. People get together there and create new themed games during the weekend. While earning a graduate degree in integrated digital media from her New York University, she began incorporating her personal life into her early games. “”ShibeleSince 2015, 19-year-old character Nina has been following her online romance, having sex with him, and being abandoned.

“Nina was at the forefront of the wave of confession games,” said Bennett Fodi, an independent game designer who made the internet a hit.QWOP,“I was one of the professors of Freeman at the graduate school. “The important thing about’Sibere’is that it puts you inside Nina’s body. Video games are still a medium dominated by masculine voice and experience. To the living experience of a teenage girl. Placing a heterosexual man can be something radical. “

He added: A brave artist is needed to pursue such a job. Especially in media that have problems with cyberbullying. “

For Freeman, “my background is in poetry, so it’s natural,” she said. “So, for me, I never even thought about doing it in the game.”

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