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  • Results from Game Design Challenge: Romance

    - staff

  • Emily Greenquist Student, Flashpoint Academy, I <3 Mullido

    The most viable western demographic for dating games is female preteens. I <3 Mullido is (at its core) an educational social simulation; although to entice this target group, it is marketed as a seemingly taboo dating game. Marketing to this younger audience may appear risky, but there is a precedence (ex: "Mystery Date," 1965 and "Girl Talk," 1980's). The intent of this 2-D Nintendo DS game is to subtly develop social skills and empathy in players at a critical, typically awkward, age.

    As stylish, fuzzy creatures called mullidos (French for fluffy), characters are highly stylized in the graffiti design movement (saturated colors / thick outlines / urban influences). This art choice is twofold:

    1) attracts the pre-teen audience who still gravitate towards cute (fuzzy) things, but are beginning to rebel against childhood games like "Littlest Pet Shop"

    2) creates a risk free / otherworldly environment to subversively tackle complex topics

    The game begins with the player (a modish mullido, gender unspecified) leaving its small town to explore and live in the big city, where other fashionable mullidos meet and mingle. This mirrors the real-world transition from middle school to high school, which currently holds the demographic's curiosity.

    Before attempting to date a mullido of their choosing, the player must first develop a reputation through mini-games. In one instance, the player gains access to a dance club that houses mullidos clumped together in groups of like colors (green mullidos with green mullidos, pink with pink, etc.). To gain reputation points, the player must flirt with a member from each group, forming a multi-colored entourage. The underlying educational message is to promote racial integration and eliminate cliques, through social interaction.

    Friendships are more quickly developed with a higher reputation level, and close friendships lead to relationships. Each character has a "friendship level," signified by the color of their outline. All begin with black and change as the relationship with the player changes:

    Green - enemies

    Blue - dislike

    Purple - uninterested

    Black - strangers (start)

    Yellow - friends

    Orange - close friends

    Red - dating

    Unsuccessful interactions (like choosing to flirt with someone else's mate), will ultimately create enemies, who spread rumors and further decrease the player's reputation.

    Before choosing to reach the dating stage of a friendship, the player must research the character's reputation, by asking other mullidos their opinion. Each will generate a different answer, and it is up to the player to filter those responses. For example, through conversations, the player may learn that the mullido of interest is already dating someone or that it only likes short mullios.

    Unlike other dating games, dating in I <3 Mullido is not ultimately guaranteed (as is true in life). Once in the Orange friendship range, the player can attempt a relationship, with at 25% success rate. It is the challenge and thrill of the conquest that captivates an audience and an even more realistic simulation is to experience unrequited love. This game is designed to prepare preteens for such complex forthcoming situations.


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