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Student game runs on empathy

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

Co-operation is key in a new video game made by Taylor Anderson (Cmp’15).

“There are too many games where you act as some lone wolf tough guy, and the whole thing functions as a big power fantasy,” says Mr. Anderson. “Most of those games revolve around violence, and even those that claim to be co-operative, Call of Duty for example, have people acting alone to try to get the highest score. The fact that they’re playing on a team is an afterthought. Because of this, I thought it would be interesting to have two players trying to help each other out, a game where you need empathy to win.”

Cascata is a colourful game where players race to keep one another safe to get points. The longer you survive the more hazards that fall, and the more co-operation you need with your partner. To get a higher score, players can share their stored lives with one another and activate an ability called “team-up” that has both players trying to control the same character at the same time. Success requires a constant stream of communication and a willingness to make sacrifices for your teammate.

The game is the latest creation from Fourth Floor Games, a startup company that Mr. Anderson runs with Colin Zarzour (Artsci’15), who composes the games’ music and offers design feedback. When they first started making games in 2011, Mr. Anderson was writing characters and stories for their games, but when their programmer left, he starting learning to code.

“We’re a small operation, so we’re limited to making simple games,” he says. “When games are simple, you’re forced to have really unique mechanics that set you apart from the rest.” Besides Cascata, Fourth Floor has made a two player adaptation of the arcade classic Snake, a game where the player tries to protect a blood cell from invading viruses, and a number of others.

Hoping for a career in games design, Mr. Anderson is making a portfolio to demonstrate what he can do. “I’m trying out all sorts of ideas to develop my skills and see what stands out.”

Cascata runs on both Windows and Mac Systems, and can be purchased online.