Cross Roads with AMES
The Access to Media Education Society was making their first educational game and they needed help in a hurry.
AMES (Access to Media Education Society)
Design Consultation and Educational Workshops
After five months of hard work, the AMES Cross Roads team initially approached us with just one month left in their timeline and a game with lots of planned, rich features with little time to implement them.
After meeting the Cross Roads team, Soft Chaos held a series of workshops and co-working sessions to help focus in on the most important features of the Cross Roads game, clarify the learning objectives and the educational methods, and help with tuning the game script's anti-oppressive content and dialogue.
After scoping down the project and editing the game scripts with our help, the AMES team is now putting the finishing touches on a visual novel project that will help students educate themselves and reflect in a nuanced, honest way on subjects ranging from anti-Indigenous racism, transphobia, homophobia, anti-Black racism, classism, and more.
A ‘unicorn’ of an outfit, Soft Chaos brought an incredibly rare and generative mix of skills and methods to the task of supporting us in the developing our ‘Cross Roads’ branching visual novel. Among them, vast technical and gaming-specific knowledge, facilitation and project-management finesse, intuitive ability to strike a healthy balance between gaming-based information, transformation and play, laser-sharp critical analysis, and a deep understanding of how to embed anti-oppression principles and practices into the fabric of the game.
Deblekha Guin, AMES
Cross Roads is a visual novel game that follows four teenagers in a friend group who are each discovering their own biases and gaps in knowledge in their day to day lives and relationships. By following each character's path, players have the opportunity to see different scenes play out in different ways and answer reflective questions that help tie those scenes to their own lived experience. The game provides prompts for reflection as well as information and terminology that might help players talk about these challenging subjects.
About AMES (Access to Media Education Society)
The Access to Media Education Society is a nonprofit based out of British Columbia, Canada. For 25 years, AMES has provided marginalized youth with the chance to tell their stories and learn media-making techniques primarily through short films. In 2021, AMES began a new interactive media project that became the Cross Roads visual novel. For Cross Roads, they needed game design experts with social justice work experience to guide them to the finish line by being both caring and firm about the scope of the project.
When the AMES team showed us their plans for Cross Roads, it was easy to see that they had put an enormous amount of thought and work into it. In addition to the branching visual novel, there were plans for achievements, a metaphorical map to help players understand the meaning of their choices, voice acting, and more. Their team was made up of first-time game creators. With a month left in their planned time and scripts left to finish, we knew that we would have to help them scope down the project to be able to finish it in time.
It can be difficult to hear that a project exceeds what is possible in the time allotted. After an initial meeting with the AMES team, we reviewed all of their design materials and hosted a workshop to help focus in on the simplest, most essential version of the game. We provided written recommendations based on the workshop for a design roadmap that would get the project finished in time. The Soft Chaos team also provided space for the AMES creators to express their feelings about the difficulties of the project.
From there, we provided mentorship through several joint scriptwriting sessions while also giving written feedback on each script. We also led the team through an educational workshop about learning objectives and to teach them about meaning-making and creating reflective learning opportunities in games.
Eventually, this led to the AMES group deciding to extend their timeline through the summer with their board's permission.
Later, in several stages, we did substantive editing passes on the scripts for sensitivity reading, narrative, and dialogue. We also provided suggestions for simplifying the language of the definitions for a younger audience's reading level.
With the extra time and our guidance, the AMES team was able to improve the educational value of the project using educational game best practices while also polishing the core features of the game. The project is currently in its final stages, with playtesting in BC schools set to happen in the Fall.
AMES has also expressed future plans to work with Soft Chaos, and we can't wait to see what we'll get up to together!