Indie Game Spotlight: Plasticity (@plasticitygame)
This week’s Indie Game Spotlight tackles how our choices can impact the environment. Plasticity is a 2.5D cinematic platformer set in the year 2140, in a world where plastic consumption never ended, leaving lifeless cities, flooded towns, and widespread disease in its wake. The protagonist is a young girl named Noa, whose actions decide the future of her post-oil, plastic-ridden world. Players make choices that either help or harm the environment and its living creatures. After a certain point of the game is reached, ten years pass, and players can see and play through a world impacted by their previous choices.
We spoke with the game’s director, Aimee Zhang, and lead designer Michelle Olson, to find out more about the world of Plasticity. Read on!
What inspired the story and characters in the game?
From the very beginning, we were committed to creating a heartwarming and heartbreaking experience that could inspire players to care about animals and the environment. We wanted to bring awareness to the damaging effect that single-use plastics have on animals, people, and communities around the world. Many key moments and narrative beats in Plasticity were influenced by videos from all around the world, where plastic harms animals and entire communities of people. We were deeply inspired by various films documenting the negative effects of plastic consumption, and papers published in National Geographic that tracked the amount of plastic dumped in our oceans (8 million tons every single year).
What are some of the game’s mechanics?
In Plasticity, players navigate and explore a plastic-ridden landscape by running, jumping, and solving simple puzzles which have various solutions that either help or harm the world. Players encounter dogs, seabirds, sea lions, and other people that may be affected by their decisions. Every choice the player makes profoundly changes both gameplay and story.
How long have you been working on the game?
We worked on Plasticity for a year, in partnership with the USC Games and USC Environmental Studies department. We wrapped up development and released the game for free in May 2019. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to show Plasticity at IndieCade and E3.
How did you come up with the style for the game?
We were visually inspired by Wall-E, Studio Ghibli films, and Playdead’s Inside. With development time being limited to a year, we considered scope and feasibility when it came to art and animation and settled on an art style that was simple but evocative.
What are you hoping players take away from the game?
We want all our players to leave Plasticity feeling empowered to make sustainable changes in their lives, and knowing that even if they’ve made mistakes in the past, it is never too late to make a positive difference. Sometimes environmental issues seem immune to change, and our individual actions seem like they bear no real weight in the world. But we want to help our players remember the significant impact a single piece of plastic or a single act of environmental kindness can have on a single living creature.
How do you think games can be used to bring about change in the world?
Games are an incredible medium that can shape the future, generate empathy, push the boundaries of technology, and inspire positive change. Interactive media provides a unique opportunity for people to not only watch something happen but play a part in the story. It’s incredibly empowering to be able to take control and see how your actions affect the world around you—it’s really hard to see that kind of impact in real life! For example, when you decide not to recycle a plastic bottle, you never see it go into a landfill where it will sit for hundreds of years. Similarly, when you choose not to use a plastic bottle, you never get to see the positive impact that choice has on the environment. In a game, you can get immediate feedback for the decisions you make. By giving people the ability to feel empowered in a more contained space, that feeling of empowerment and inspiration can carry into the real world and affect very real change.