It’s been a year since I announced I’m working on I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, and may be another year yet before you can play it. But it’s about time I tell you a little more about it… starting with what inspired me to make it in the first place.
Let me tell you about my favorite Japanese game series, Princess Maker:
I’ve gushed about these games before. I admit it – I’m obsessed with them.
You play the adopted parent of a girl who could grow up to be anything – not just a princess, though that’s a traditional goal. You manage her time, scheduling her school or work or leisure activities every month.
It’s a life sim game, and though it seems like every franchise from Assassin’s Creed to GTA is part life simulator now, there’s something especially charming to raising a character with skills like Temperament and Decorum and Housework, who might never touch a weapon or have an adventure in her life and might grow up to be a farmer or an innkeeper.
And that’s just fine.
Yeah… your little girl could also become a sexy sorceress or a prostitute. Or marry you, her own father. Titillating! Sexist!! But in other ways open minded, empowering, and empathetic, especially in the later games in the series.
I used fan patches and clumsy auto-translation software to play the Princess Maker games (which are now on Steam, although the official translations aren’t great). I ate up games inspired by them like Cute Knight and Long Live the Queen from the distinguished Georgina Bensley (Hanako Games).
There’s been a spate of magical-boarding-school inspired ones, including Magical Diary (also Hanako – with a sequel coming soon), Academagia, and Littlewitch Romanesque, which are interesting because I prototyped something similar myself in 2008 (then made Rebuild 1 instead).
More recently I’ve been playing the painfully true-to-life Chinese Parents which adds a factor of emotional abuse the child must endure as they study for exams.
What I love about these games isn’t the fantasy of actually being a parent (no thanks!). It’s the idea of living a life in a small span of time, and seeing how it turns out, then doing it again.
I can trace my love of life sims back further, past The Sims and the Creatures games and the original Tamagotchi, to a funny Sierra game called Jones in the Fast Lane from the early 90s. It was loosely based on board games like the Game of Life: you go to school, get a job, eat fast food and try to acquire stuff in the cynical modern world. The CD version had hilarious voice acting from the Sierra staff that is forever ingrained in my head.
Jones in the Fast lane, Sierra, 1990
I Was a Teenage Exocolonist has its roots in simulated life games like these. It has other elements too: visual novel, collectible card game… but in the Exocolonist code the main character class file is named ‘Princess.cs’ as a nod to Princess Maker and these other games.