Daniel Wilkins and Neil Jones are two game developers from Detroit who have founded a development studio called Dead Art Games that is “focused on making diverse and interesting games” and their first title called Clique certainly looks interesting.
In a video explaining the story behind their decision to start their development studio and create Clique, Daniel and Neil say “as African Americans we’re very under-represented in the industry and in games as a whole” stating that black game developers make up only 2.5% of all industry developers. As a result, they wanted to create a game that actually focused on diversity and accurately represented their culture, and so Clique was born.
Not only does Dead Art Games’ motivation behind creating Clique make it interesting, the way Daniel and Neil are telling the story has captured our attention too. Clique has a dual narrative which is told through the perspectives of a young teenage girl called Zhora who uses gaming to escape the real world, and the avatar she plays in her game. This means that gameplay will switch between being a top-down action adventure game and a first person adventure game.
The top-down action adventure part of the game will see players take up the role of Zhora’s avatar, described as “a diverse character in a world that’s not very welcoming”, as whom they will explore environments, solve puzzles, and defeat enemies in order to gain the trust of the world’s unwelcoming characters. The story of this game world where the protagonist is rejected and treated with suspicion by the NPCs because of their appearance seems to be a clear metaphor for raced-based exclusion and the unfair efforts that people of colour have to go to in order to overcome the prejudice of others and be treated fairly.
This in combination with Zhora’s own story told through a first-person perspective has the aim of creating “a player-character connection that will provide a unique insight into African American culture” and what we imagine will be an emotional experience for the player. Daniel and Neil say that they hope the game will be “an experience that gives players a relatable perspective of the black community and its struggles with race, gender, and equality.”
Despite the fact that their game has a creative premise and a worthwhile aim, Daniel and Neil have been rejected for funding having been told they “should focus on a ‘different type’ of character or story”, much like the creators of Life is Strange being told not to use female characters. Fortunately, they’ve decided to turn to the gaming community to help them continue making Clique with a Kickstarter campaign.
The team are seeking $35,000 in order to continue development and self-publish Clique on Windows, Mac, and Linux. At time of writing they’ve raised $9,306 and with 10 days of their campaign remaining. From what we can see of the game on their Kickstarter page, it already looks pretty impressive for being the work of a two person team with some extremely pretty visuals and a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack.
If you’d like to be able to play Clique yourself, pledging $15 (£10) will secure you a copy of the game in July plus some digital artwork. Though all Kickstarter campaigns do have their risks, we think a game that aims to bring more diverse representation to the industry seems like a worthwhile cause.