Xan Drake BFA Illustration Thesis Fall 2020
Proxima is a visual novel game where you oversee a team of robots that have crash-landed on an alien planet. Your task is to survive the elements and complete an unknown mission. The biggest challenge you face, however, is that your team is becoming more human. They are playful, curious, and caring, and soon enough, you wonder: How can you possibly keep them focused on the mission when they have finally gotten the chance to be alive?
The game begins as a classic sci-fi romp through space but quickly transitions into something that is more self-aware and leads players to question how systems in our own lives lead us to dehumanize ourselves—and each other—for the sake of some enigmatic sense of self-worth. Within its subtext, it is firmly queer, anticolonialist, and anticapitalist.
I am focusing this game towards young adults, especially those struggling to find their own identity. I am building Proxima from the ground up to be accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds with no assumptions of prior experience. My goal is to expand the niche genre of visual novels to a wider and more diverse audience.
Proxima began with a problem of my own: a crisis of identity externalized as an android, an empty vessel that exists only to work. I imagined, given free reign, what could that android grow into? Who could they become? What if they could learn to love themselves?
As a bisexual, nonbinary individual, this project is deeply personal to me as I hope to use robots as a defamiliarization tool to represent how it feels to struggle with your own body as a result of your identity. I want players to love these robots in all of their queerness and to develop empathy for them that carries into their own lives.
In Proxima, you don’t just witness the cast of robotic characters struggle with their own humanity. You are their boss, the artificial intelligence of the spaceship the crew arrived on and the only person they answer to. Every scrape, dent, and lost limb is a direct result of the decisions that you made for the sake of the mission. The way in which you interact with them influences their relationships to their own humanity, whether they think of themselves as fully autonomous individuals or merely objects of labor, and these paths have their own unique upsides and downsides.
The game you can play right now takes only about 30-45 minutes to play through, being a vertical slice of the free demo I’m developing which itself represents a small portion of the full story that I have outlined. My goal is to show the technical possibilities of this game, including dialogue choices with both short- and long-term consequences and animated characters and environments that feel truly alive.