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Global Game Jam '11: H.I.V. Extinction 1981

Dance. Sweat. Dance. Condom!

My Twitter feed over the weekend was full of one gaming event: Global Game Jam. From Boston to Seattle to Köln, I was reading about people being giddy, seeing plenty of fantastic concepts, and generally lacking in sleep as they worked at completing a game from concept to finished within the span of a weekend.

The fallout? Why all these lovely games here. You can filter based on badges they have, platform, and area.

In particular a designer I've been following for a while, Krystian Majewski (whose game TRAUMA I've been anticipating, and who worked on Cybersecurity Emergency Assange during GGJ) brought my attention to H.I.V. Extinction 1981.

If you aren't given the info page (to which I'll link in a moment), the game's concept makes quite a bit of sense already, particularly given its name. You are a person dancing in a room. Hearts are falling. Catch the hearts, earn condoms. Press space, shoot a condom, and save a person as they fly off in a condom-bubble.

The full premise: "Back to the days. Disco! It is hot, sweaty & loud. It is 1981. The year that AIDS was first reported."

As far as interpreting it goes? Safe-sex is being promoted as the action that is favorable. What's intriguing about it is that shooting the condom makes a shooting and reloading sound akin to one you'll hear in many FPS games, hinting at the fact that you are a someone who possibly has a deadly 'bullet,' which in this case would be HIV.

Here's where it gets intriguing to me: the game only ends when the music is finished. Which means, the game does not loop, and the other dancers do not respawn. You are a person who possibly has HIV and you have two options: abstinence, or the abstraction of having sex with someone, but with a condom. As far as safer sex education goes, that's how I'd prefer to go at it.

Which also means there's no real way to 'win' the game. The closest argument to such would be the title: making HIV/AIDS extinct in the year it was first reported. Which begs the question of whether or not the figure you control is Patient Zero--which is a controversial topic, and has theories supporting and negating that particular piece of HIV/AIDS history. However, in retrospect, just because the first reported case was in 1981, does not mean there weren't earlier cases. The enemy is not the people you are shooting, and is not even visible. Your supposed 'weapon,' a fired condom, is then more of a defense mechanism. The other dancers could have HIV. You could have HIV. You are both defending yourself as well as others.

The game itself? Not particularly long. Not particularly flashy. In fact, not incredibly engaging in terms of its gameplay. The message it has? Much more intrigued by such--especially as it treats someone who could have HIV as a person, rather than some diseased leper we must ignore.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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