Dress To Depress: Skirt Quest

By Nathan Grayson on July 12th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

I sure do love posting about Molyjam games that, er, skirted the quote-based rules of this year’s jam. Oh well, though. An interesting game is an interesting game, even when it hasn’t indirectly emerged from the constantly exposed braintubes of Peter Molyneux. The idea behind Skirt Quest is one I think everyone can identify with – no matter how infrequent your skirt-clad skips through the sunflower fields might be. The goal? To fit in at school. You do so by surreptitiously adjusting your skirt length to match that of other girls. Otherwise, they’ll gossip – some louder than others – and before long you’ll be reduced to a blubbering mess, leaking self-esteem into heaving crocodile tears. It’s a simple game, but one that captures just how brutal the judgment of your peers can be, especially for kids.

Skirt Quest actually comes from the exceedingly versatile mind of Frog Fractions creator Jim Crawford – aka, Twinbeard Studios. It’s not nearly as humorous, but then, that’s not the point. Instead, the idea is to put you in the mindset of a young girl (or boy; that’s hard mode) who’s being bombarded on all sides by peer pressure.

Your objective, then, is to move from class-to-class while making sure your skirt length matches everybody else’s – especially that of crown-wearing “popular” girls. Gain their approval or disapproval, and suddenly everyone within a small-city-sized radius knows and agrees, regardless of their own appearance. If your self-esteem meter hits empty, that’s it. Game over.

So basically, it’s about peer pressure, judgment, conformity, and the desperate childhood desire to just be accepted. By someone. By everyone. By people who pretend to like you, but actually despise you. Unsurprisingly, it’s not really a game you can win.

It’s pretty heavy stuff, but I do think Skirt Quest could deliver its message a bit more effectively. While it might be frustrating, I feel like the game would’ve worked better if self-esteem damage transferred over between classes. I mean, it’s the long-term side of these gradeschool grudges that really stings. The reputation that slowly spreads, quickly clings, and lingers like a noxious puberty odor. There is no mid-level reset button.

Also, while young boys tend to settle their feuds openly (and sometimes with fists), our society conditions girls to act like nothing’s wrong until the knife’s already in a “friend’s” back. For better or worse, it’s all about maintaining appearances – sometimes while actively plotting somebody else’s downfall. That’d be tough to express in a game – especially one as simple and quickly developed as this – but it’s food for thought.

Still though, Skirt Quest touches on subject matter that’s not often explored in games. It captures a lot of the feeling of being a confused school kid, too. The frantic nervousness, the senses-shocking horror of standing out (the Metal Gear detection sound is a nice touch), the constant uncertainty. Try it here and then compose a long, angsty MySpace blog.

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27 Comments »

  1. bstard says:

    Oh god it’s on moments like this I’m starting to feel old.

    • Sidewinder says:

      It’s moments like this that make me GLAD to feel old. Here’s to never having to go back to high school again!

  2. faelnor says:

    I disagree with the serious aspects of the RPS writeup and feel like it misses the point to some extent. I don’t think that Skirt Quest is supposed to be delivering a message, let alone a subtle one. There’s nothing heavy or effective and I certainly don’t think it’s food for thought.

    I only see a small, quirky and challenging game that makes a socially-loaded premise fun because it’s so cynical and over-the-top. There’s nothing to be depressed about and in fact, I love how it skirts around the “issue” entirely by trivializing it.

    • pupsikaso says:

      This is trivial to you? There are kids that literally KILL themselves over this stuff.

      • kael13 says:

        As an ex man-friend of a girl who most certainly put a lot of thought into the length of her skirt in school (and got a name for it) I can tell you it was absolutely a topic of much internal and external debate.

        … I miss sixth form.

      • faelnor says:

        In the context of this game, absolutely.

        • pupsikaso says:

          The only one that’s trivializing anything here is you.

          This issue is so delicate, so complex, and so important that how can you imagine any game could possibly handle it with the right kind of attention and tact that it deserves?

          Or are you saying that if you can’t then you shouldn’t even deal with the issue at all? Because THAT is the dumbest thing ever. Any issue that makes kids suicide, no matter how delicate, needs to be raised to the public and be made aware, by whatever means.

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            distantlurker says:

            You put words in his mouth and then call them the dumbest thing ever. THEY’RE YOUR WORDS, SCHMUCK.

          • pupsikaso says:

            I didn’t start off by calling a game dealing with a serious issue as “trivial”.

          • faelnor says:

            I… don’t really know how to respond to that. I think you may need to work on your reading and comprehension skills and maybe counter my arguments properly when you understand them. I’ll be honored to debate with you then.

      • Berzee says:

        “There are kids that literally KILL themselves over this stuff.”

        That’s a bad idea. They shouldn’t do that.

    • Ross Angus says:

      Well, I’m not one to hem and haw about this issue – wait, this is the pun thread, right? Because faelnor’s already used “skirts around the “issue””. I’m confused.

      • faelnor says:

        I apologise for the confusion, I may have tried to have my cake and eat it but you’re welcome to thread your puns here.

  3. Kefren says:

    Reminds me of the start of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ when he talks about the inspiration for Carrie.

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    Harlander says:

    Is there a page with a list off all the stuff wot came out of Molyjam?

    edit: yeah, off, it’s a formal logical term meaning “of and only of”…

    … right?

  5. Tuckey says:

    High Schoolllllll, is such a serious thingggggg… these problems matterrrrrrrrrr….

  6. Berzee says:

    Looking forward to the expansion pack “Skirt Quest: Homeschool Edition” sandbox / easymode.

  7. Zepp says:

    Sparkling vampires anywhere?

  8. protowizard says:

    I can remember putting so much thought into what skirt I would wear at school, and all the other boys made fun of me for it anyway.

  9. belgand says:

    It seems like this sort of thing would just be a sort of limbo contest wherein you try to see just how short you can make it without having a teacher cite you for violating the dress code and force you to go home and change or something.

    Yes, I recognize he’s trying to deal with a complex social issue, but really… longer skirts? I don’t care if you’re part of the ostensibly “popular” clique, you’re a lot less popular with me now.