Alice and Kev is one of the most fascinating blogs I've read in a while. Robin Burkinshaw, a student of games design/development at Anglia Ruskin University, is playing the Sims 3 with two homeless characters. He moved them in to a place made to look like an abandoned park, removed all of their remaining money, and then attempted to help them survive without taking any job promotions or easy cash routes. Kev, the father, is mean-spirited, quick to anger, and inappropriate. He also dislikes children and he’s insane. He’s basically the worst dad in the world. His daughter Alice has a kind heart, but suffers from clumsiness and low self-esteem. Her best friend in life is her teddy.
The blog is divided into different episodes whose story is dictated by the game's rules. Once I started reading, I was hooked. I was curious what the game had in place for the two and how its assumptions about life would shape their path. A new, strangely engrossing form of fiction developed right in front of my eyes: Burkinshaw made some decisions, the rest was "told" by the game. (Spoilers ahead.)
Alice hungry, tired, and stressed, struggles at school and gets into arguments with her father. She gets a job at the supermarket.
When her shift ends... that evening, she has 100 hard-earned simoleons, but she is as exhausted as it is possible to be. She wobbles slightly after walking out the door, and only just manages to stop herself from losing consciousness there and then.
She takes all of the money she has just earned, places it into an envelope, writes the name of a charity on the front, and puts it into a mailbox.
You might think that Alice has the worst life in the world, but she doesn’t believe that’s true. She will turn down the chance to improve her life in order to give others the opportunity to improve theirs.
What does it mean when a character you’ve created makes you re-examine your own life through their astonishing selflessness?
It means that rules can have an emotional impact after all.
Of course one could start the same experiment with other games; yet the Sims is about life itself and not about Super Mutants ("Today I killed five locusts"), something we can easily relate to. This is why the game has the potential to make us re-evaluate our lives and tell us about ourselves (or rather, the designers' assumptions about our lives).
It also makes you wonder which path Alice would have taken if the game received a less commercially oriented rating on account of its drastic rules. How would the story have evolved if the game was designated Adults Only and included drugs and prostitution?
At the same time, Alice and Kev is a great example of how a future could look like; a piece of art utilising screenshots and gameplay videos to be consumed on platforms like the iPhone or Kindle. Kev and Alice can even be downloaded to be put in one's own game, everyone can live their lives, make different choices and tell their own story: instant, touching art created by play (or rather, the recounting of play).