Seadelphica follows the adventure of Jengu, a black dolphin connected to the global network called “Oversense”, as he searches for answers to his existence, love, and a way to save the consciousness web from the virus that has been embedded in it by Lil It, the sovereign of the largest settlement of their world. This game combines its gameplay with Tumblr for a connected experience. Anton Zoripov, the author of Seadelphica from Russia, shares the inspiration behind Seadelphica and their plans for the future.
Venting Through Games
It is said that everyone has his or her own talent, and you just need to work on it from childhood. For example, the only God’s spark I had was the ability to cause a feeling of hostility from other kids. Kindergarten and school were just a long and banal loser-story in Meg Griffin-style, with surrealistic pictures of Russian life in the 90s. To cut a long story short, I did not enjoy my school years. After a few crashing and humiliating attempts to socialize, I decided to bail education and just wait for the moment when it all will be over, and just enjoy life.
I was a typical hedonist – at big feast days, I got fake Adidas and Nikes, which was nearly sacred to me. I was inspired and ensorcelled by their shape and gracefulness, and was absolutely captivated by the mystique of logotypes’ attraction and self-expressive force. Swooshes and three lines – these symbols was magical for me. All day long, I was watching Terminator 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc., again and again.
Of course, I was also playing Dandy, followed by Super Nintendo. Games are such a vent! All my pictures, dreams, and thoughts were only about them. From a young age, I was just like a lil ugly emo, playing games all the time and realizing that real life sucks.
And all this ended quite despondently, of course. I finished school at 17 and had no direction. I didn’t even know basic things, and I couldn’t adapt to a new reality. That was quite a strange state of consciousness; I knew nothing and got some playing instincts – “to be courageous”, “to be cool”, to be attractive to the opposite sex, and of course, my love of games was a constant feeling. I spent two more years in a half-asleep state of inactivity, until I got my first computer and access to the internet.
Learning Through Livejournal
Then I discovered Livejournal, which became a special phenomenon in the development of the intellectual life of the former Soviet Union space in the first decade of the 21st century. Suddenly, everything changed. I found a free, unrestrained flow of knowledge, which I could absorb without any annoying initiation rites of submission and humiliation. Then, I just added different pages and read them all in a row. I liked everything – any opinions, any thoughts, any area of knowledge: politics, science, culture, and so on and so on. Whoever I am now – it’s all from the internet. My mind and my moral ideals were formed from an endless stream of Livejournal news.
Like any other normal ordinary artists, with the increase of years, I began thinking about how I could monetize my childhood and adolescence experience. When I was a boy, I wanted to create computer games – and only at the end of the third dozen did I finally decide to plunge into adulthood.
Seadelphica is the myth of the internet, which brings us to its origins. Internet is considered the mystical space of the soul. “Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live,” wrote John Perry Barlow in A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. The complicity to the Declaration was very important for me. It was also crucial to preserve sincerity of its main promises that are nodal points in the development of the plot. Seadelphica is the dream of a “civilization of Consciousness, which is more humane and fair” than the old world. “We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before,” wrote John Perry Barlow.
The black dolphin is a symbol of the new generation, living in the margins of the real world. The ocean is a cradle of the emergence of new forms of life. Young internet mutants whose DNA has mutated from the constant overdose of displays radiation became the new superheroes who replaced the obsolete superheroes of the past. Whereas Superman, having unlimited physical strength, tries to preserve the “eternal present” and guards the current order of Metropolis, the purpose of the black dolphin is to reprogram the Universe itself.
We did not want to pass that border, fearing to seem too serious. So we decided to get serious about irony and humor. After the first reactions to the game in the media and social networks, we could breathe easy, because the word “mindf@ck”, which has been used several times as an epithet, indicates that we are on the right path. Given my love of Robert Anton Wilson, it became our own «Operation Mindf@ck».
Genre and Story
The mechanics of the game are similar to old school games, and the story is divided into 24 chapters. To finish each chapter, you go through several runners or complete several free-play quests. In addition, there are eight bosses, each with its unique battle tactics. At first, we were not going to create a runner game. We had a storyline, so we were looking for the most appropriate genres in a bid to preserve unsteady balance between our narration and the gameplay. Eventually, we chose the genre of runner games – sort of kitsch in the industry of mobile games. It appeared to be the most applicable one, since it offered the desired balance.
Now it’s high time to talk about the main feature of our game – its integration with Tumblr, which is realized through free-play game tasks. It is supposed to bring the game up to a new level. The plot of the game is about a black dolphin who saves a social network of consciousnesses called “Oversense.” The dolphin is able to see echoes of people’s souls by looking at mystical and magnetic “Soul screens”. The concept is simple: these screens show pictures and photos from players’ blogs and their news feed, thus creating an endless flow of contemporary petroglyphs. Integration with Tumblr is our “perverse core” – our source of heresy and hesitation of different kinds. Considering the storyline, showing pictures and photos inside the game would be enough, but we decided to go further.
First of all, we had to choose which social network was best for our goals. Everyone forgot about Livejournal many years ago, so I decided to concentrate on Tumblr and VK. These two social networks are the best, but we had to choose one of them, and the answer was clear. VK has many advantages, such as liberty in the content’s distribution and some very interesting public groups. They could serve as separated spaces in the game. But it has a big minus – orientation especially on Russian audience. Recently, the creator of VK, Pavel Durov, was fired, and from that moment, Vk was not cool and special any more. All in all, Tumblr, I love you! You are perfect ❤
As I mentioned before, we want to implement something more than just simple demonstration of pictures from Tumblr inside the game. We decided to incorporate traditional Tumblr’s “Like”, “Reblog”, “Follow”, “Tagging”, and “Post Creation” functions into the gameplay. Being the developers, we see no differences between Tumblr and our imaginary “Oversense” social network. What would the “Like” function be for a man connected to a social network of consciousnesses? This function would be a way of communication with people’s souls and a tool for transferring positive energy, which you would be able to accumulate and use when required. The most important thing in life are “likes” (let us be forgiven by the chaste Internet-Desert Fathers). The “Follow” function would allow players to attract attention, make new friends inside “Oversense”, win their followers, and gain previously unachievable influence, which is required for progress of the storyline. The “Reblog” function would allow people to freely copy different stuff and information and easily access it. We also decided to create Tumblr profiles for all of the major and minor characters of the game. For instance, the bosses will run their own pages – post their thoughts, publish photos of themselves fighting against players. Each boss will have a certain number of followers, and after a player beats him, the boss and his followers will follow the winner, thus making the black dolphin more and more powerful.
By and large, we have described our concept of integration with Tumblr – the idea seems to be pretty clear. We have many ideas on how to integrate our game with Tumblr, and we are going to gradually implement them with each update, making the integration more deep, various, and interesting. Unfortunately, we cannot back up our dream of implementing everything at once with our capabilities. Step by step, we want to achieve a wide list of regular players, who would become our “born and bred citizens”, so the time they spent in Tumblr would be inseparable from the storyline. We dress ourselves in a black dolphin’s skin and look at our real life from within a social network. We look into the future of social networks, whose concept was described by Donna Haraway as “a network society without hierarchy and with no privacy bounds between the I and the world.” In the film Annie Hall, Woody Allen brilliantly expressed his experience in communication inside a network society of that sort: “I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me”. This is the implementation of the old New Age dream of the extension of consciousness. And this is why we feel saturated with New Age aesthetics mixed with some elements of ancient myths, science fiction, contemporary pop, and internet-culture. For example, the main hero’s name – Jengu – may be considered both as a reference to the name of the water spirit from the beliefs of Cameroonian ethnic groups, and as a reference to Django from the Django Unchained film.
A Bump in the Road
Now to the sad news. We invested our own funds into the game and a few months ago, we ran out. When it became clear that we were broke, we did not despair, because even then, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and moved to “Plan B” – organizing a campaign on Kickstarter. The results were disappointing; there was no light at the end of the tunnel, but only the blazing eyes of the chimera. We suffered a resounding failure, but I can not say that failure greatly saddened us. Rather, in the cold winter evenings with a cup of coffee, it was a good excuse to sneer and laugh at ourselves (Thank God, we managed to do it before Russia banned irony! Now we are trying to get the game done before it bans the internet). But actually, I have to say a huge thank you to all the guys who are involved in this project for their patience, love, and non-indifference to the black dolphin.
We are looking for funds, and we continue to work together, because we sincerely believe in miracles and that in any case, we can handle all the complexities. Our team members are spread across different countries – Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, USA – but our true homeland is the internet. And if our team relationships are not affected even by political squabbles between our countries, the possibility of conflict over money is completely eliminated. Paraphrasing Groucho Marx: “We started from scratch and by hard work, we have reached a state of extreme poverty.”
A Personal Project
You might have noticed that I did not pay much attention to the development process of the game and the details of our workflow; I did not treat the game as a commercial product and did not consider its economic potential. Forgive me, but these things seem boooooring, though this does not mean that we pay no attention to them at all. Certainly, we dream of putting our game on the market, earning money, creating the game’s sequel, and starting new projects. Instead, I wrote about personal things. Probably too many personal things. I have just noticed how disproportionately big the part I devoted to my childhood was – the more a man talks about his childhood, the older he is. Well, this is excusable. Such a stupid adult life! Each member of our team spends time on the game for a variety of personal reasons, but all of us are like-minded. Ultimately, we proceed from the assumption that “life sucks,” and we have nothing else but to improve it ourselves.
Let’s get back to those inspiring words from the Declaration one more time: “We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth”.
Since the writing of this article, the Seadelphica team has found additional funding to continue the game. To learn more about Seadelphica and its progress, follow the team on Twitter, Facebook, and listen to the game’s music on Soundcloud.