Conversations We Have In My Head, 2015

Conversations We Have In My Head, 2015

All images courtesy of the artist.
Available for download on Windows, Mac and Linux.
https://squinky.itch.io/conversations

Please note: Throughout this writing, Mx. Dietrich Squinkifer, otherwise known as Mx. Deirdra Kiai will be referred to as they/them and/or “Squinky,” Irene Mahboubi referred to as “Quarky” and Lex, as “Lex.” 

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The art game Conversations We Have In My Head is launched via an icon of the character Quarky. Quarky is represented as an animated, 2D vector cartoon. They have short, purple hair and brown eyes; wearing a black t-shirt and lime green unbuttoned, button-down shirt. Quarky is engaged in a conversation with Lex. Lex also appears as an animated vector cartoon with short, red hair, and blue eyes. She’s wearing a green t-shirt and has an upper ear piercing in her right ear. Quarky and Lex are gender neutral. More specifically, we learn Quarky is genderqueer. The dialogue between the two characters is layered over the sound of passing street noise and the constant tip-tap of their footsteps as they stroll down the street. The characters are cropped mid-chest and contextualized in an urban street scene. The background environment appears to be crafted from a series of 4-color still photographs. These snapshots have been edited, cut and blurred in a manner to simulate the passage of downtown storefronts, residences and other on-street elements. As Quarky and Lex navigate the urban environment, previously unsaid thoughts are spoke and emotions unfold.

It is safe to say that most of us have had conversations in our mind that were never actually vocalized. We often have unfinished business in the form of ghosts that linger from the past. This ‘conversation in the mind’ is a one-sided exchange of ideas that occurs in our subconscious, often with someone from our not-so-distant past, focusing on our own regrets, personal failures, and perceived inadequacies within our interpersonal relationships. Conversations We Have In My Head allows us to imagine what it might be like to engage in those never actualized, real conversations.

In Conversations We Have In My Head, Quarky explores gender identity through the experiences of a past relationship. This is brought to life through real-time conversation with varied narrative paths. In this ‘player’s choice’ format, the player assumes the role of Quarky’s ex, Lex. As Quarky delves into topics concerning life changes, the player controls the direction of the game by selecting from text that appears at the top of the screen. As the narrative unfolds, we learn more about the prior couple’s relationship, family, and friends.

As previously mentioned, Quarky is genderqueer. They are designated as asexual, yet more effeminate than the character of Lex. Lex is attracted to women and can best be described as butch. Lex has ‘always known’ her sexual identity, whereas Quarky self-realized much later in life. Quarky is concerned they won’t be accepted by Lex because their self-realization occurred years after they dated.

“The story of Conversations is one of someone who came to know of their queerness in their mid-to-late twenties trying to justify themself to someone who has ‘always known.’ The contrast between Quarky and Lex mirrors the tension between these socially agreed-upon ways one is supposed to understand and present their queerness versus the often-messy reality of people’s actual experiences.” Squinky (2015, August 10) A Conversation with Squinky About The Conversations We Have In Our Heads


Throughout the life of the game, the player (Lex) can interrupt Quarky’s voiceover at any point allowing the conversation to progress in an interesting and often unexpected direction. If the player does nothing, the game will automatically continue on to the next topic of conversation. This feature within the game most clearly replicates how real life conversation is often conducted.

Squinky creates games about social issues like gender identity, and the awkwardness that often surrounds these topics. The art game platform provides the opportunity to approach these serious issues in a manner that is more comfortable and universally accepting. It is important to also address the ongoing gender issues that exist in the male-dominated gamer subculture. Although not the focus of this article, one cannot help but entertain the possibility that Squinky has chosen to represents themselves in the manner they do because of the intense gender equality problems within the gamer/game developer community.

Dominique Pamplemousse in "It's All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!" 

Squinky’s claymation musical, Dominique Pamplemousse in It's All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings! also tackles gender issues but does so with a combination of comedy and theatrical satire. It's All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings! is about a gender neutral detective struggling in a tough economy. This quirky, black and white, stop-motion animated, adventure game is peppered with punchlines and show tunes; confronting queer themes with humor instead of vulnerability. 

 Actual Sunlight. Will O'Neil. All images courtesy of the artist.

Actual Sunlight. Will O'Neil. All images courtesy of the artist.

The game, Actual Sunlight addresses the issues of depression, anxiety, sexuality, and suicide. Not unlike Conversations We Have In My Head, this text-heavy art game focuses on the life of Evan Winter, a Toronto white-collar worker dealing with issues including social anxiety. Gameplay is minimal as you navigate through three distinct periods of Evan's life. The story is linear and therefore unavoidable. You experience his perspective and accept consequences for his life decisions. 

 Coming Out Simulator. Nick Case. 2014. All images courtesy of the artist.

Coming Out Simulator. Nick Case. 2014. All images courtesy of the artist.

In Nicky Case’s Coming Out Simulator 2014, the player becomes intertwined in complexities as Nick ‘comes out’ to his parents. This ‘player’s choice’ game navigates us through Nick’s personal journey in the format of an interactive 2D cartoon. The story unfolds through a series of ‘text bubble’ formatted conversations between Nick, his boyfriend and his parents. The player is offered three options for what characters say or do. One of the options is true, one is fictional and one is a semi true story of what actually happened. 

Conversations We Have In My Head offers a view into humankind and how we relate to one another. It addresses our concern with how we are perceived by those around us, especially those with whom we were intimately acquainted, and highlights the nature of true life and real interpersonal relationships as they shift and grow. Individuals who evolve together, yet separate. The game concludes as Quarky realizes Lex isn’t actually part of the conversation. The entire game took place within Quarky’s mind, enabling them the opportunity to address outstanding issues they had within themselves about their relationship with Lex. The chance to express these opinions within a safe and accepting environment offers encouragement to others who may be facing similar issues.

Squinky addresses the “unpredictable rhythm of dialogue, encouraging a give and take on everything from gender pronouns to the interpersonal dishonesty of conformity to spiritual disillusionment to family ties.” Pressgrove, Jed. (2015, July 31) Review: Conversations We Have In My Head, Slant
“I’d say that having conversations with your exes in your head is a bit like picking at scabs, in that it isn’t always good for you even though you’re probably going to do it anyway, and it’s probably best not to involve other people in the process.” Squinky (2015, August 10) A Conversation with Squinky About The Conversations We Have In Our Heads


Conversations We Have In My Head was part of the following exhibition:
Squinky
Champlain College – Burlington, VT
October 26 – November 16, 2015

Additional Press:
http://squinky.me
https://twitter.com/TheSquink
Making Games is Easy, Belonging is Hard
Squinky edited by Shevinksy, Elissa. Lean Out: The Struggle for Gender Equality in Tech and Start-Up Culture. New York and London: OR Books, 2015. Print.
Notes from a Game Industry Outcast
Squinky edited by Shevinksy, Elissa. Lean Out: The Struggle for Gender Equality in Tech and Start-Up Culture. New York and London: OR Books, 2015. Print.
https://books.google.com/books?id=0Vp2CwAAQBAJ&pg=PT60&lpg=PT60&dq=Squinky&source=bl&ots=qnwB8o102i&sig=QiziXyQI3jylW87HQd85HO0FEXs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-zYWf14LMAhWps4MKHU1eBGA4KBDoAQhRMAk#v=onepage&q=Squinky&f=false
http://champlaincrossover.com/2015/11/new-ccm-curator-aims-to-showcase-individuality/
http://blackgirlnerds.com/diversity-gaming-squinky/
http://indiehaven.com/episode86-deirdra-squinky-kiai-dominique-pamplemousse-the-indie-haven-podcast/
https://killscreen.com/articles/conversation-squinky-about-conversations-we-have-our-heads/
http://www.santacruztechbeat.com/2015/01/15/rising-stars-garner-national-attention-gaming/
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/ZZ/20140114/NEWS/140117558
http://www.slantmagazine.com/house/article/review-conversations-we-have-in-my-head

Center for PostNatural History

Center for PostNatural History

Ocular Revision

Ocular Revision