It Comes In Waves

Over the last few years, I have been lucky to be a part of the ongoing Class and Games research project at Concordia University. These sorts of long-term media studies endeavours are delightful, amorphous things — one day you might find yourself working on a paper about working-class videogame heroes and the next you’re delving into Twine to tell a story about the early days of the pandemic. It is the latter project that I’m writing about today, to coincide with (roughly) the one week anniversary of its release.

the title card for "it comes in waves" featuring the silhouette of a figure on a balcony

It Comes In Waves is a game prototype about being an essential worker during a global pandemic. Designed in Twine, the game began as a way to explore how socioeconomic class intersects with the COVID-19 pandemic. The underlying themes of the game are rooted in numerous news media accounts of employees in the Canadian health sector from the early days of the pandemic. How does it feel to be an “essential worker” while still facing precarity every day? What does it mean to fear for your health and safety when going to work, especially when without it, you can’t earn a living? No game is capable of definitively answering such questions, but we attempted to weave a narrative that touches on these ideas without overly simplifying or diminishing them.

My role on the project was narrative designer, which is really just a fancy way of saying that I did some writing and Twine-gineering for It Comes In Waves. This was my first experience working on a game of this type and I, of course, fell into the common traps of “writing entirely too much” and “severely underestimating development timelines.” Whoops! However, I’m happy with how the project turned out and extremely proud of the development team. The last few months were especially challenging due to the enormous number of bug-fixes and the immense amount of feedback we received from our playtest groups.

Of course, as a prototype, there is certainly room for improvement. If you have any comments or questions about It Comes In Waves, I recommend commenting on this website, on the page, or emailing the project lead.

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By Michael