36 Questions, the game, is predicated on a psychology study that postured a set of 36 questions could make anybody fall in love. Participants take turns asking the questions, then both answer each question. At the end, they stare into each others eyes for four minutes. Supposedly, they will have fallen in love. In the game I interface with a pre-written and fictional representation of Squinky as we exchange answers. Behind the questions there’s a mini-narrative of apocalypse and assault on disprivileged videogame developers.
The first question starts almost immediately: “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?” Squinky starts strong with a several paragraph answer about previous experiences in videogame development conferences. A mouse click later and it’s my turn. I fidget as the page opens to a blank box in front of me. It’s so much easier to select from multiple choice, or fill in a few blanks. And what kind of question is that, it feels really obscure to answer out of nowhere. I think for a moment, and type: “cool rappers” imagining how fun that dinner table might be. Not a great engagement, but a sincere one nonetheless.
Second question: “Would you like to be famous? In what way?” Squinky answers about how they want a sustainable, but modest following, fearing of trolls. I can jive with that, sustainability is my ultimate goal, but some extra trolls and fame wouldn’t hurt me as bad as Squinky. “Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?” They hated phones and mentioned how their father taught them to rehearse scripts in preparation. I told them about my anxiety and how it makes phone conversations and other simple interactions a lot harder than they need to be.
And so fictional Squinky and I talked. They took the lead answering deeply and personally in questions, so I’d plumb myself for a response to match. As I talk to Squinky, I’m also talking to myself. I write to them, but only for myself, since only I will ever read it. And a kind of freedom is enjoyed when interfacing like this. I can think my thought, and write it down without care. I don’t need to organize and restructure my words for clarity. For all intents and purposes, we both understand the heart of my message.
Unfortunately, I think much of the 36 questions experiment is lost in this form. Body language, and a responsive face would make a world of difference. Even a live text chat would mitigate this with live responsiveness and an ability to better exchange humor. But that doesn’t really matter. We still share intimate details about ourselves. Squinky shares deep facets of themself to the public of the internet. They leave the computer never knowing that I will have picked it up and read it. In exchange I return pieces of myself, never sending my heartfelt letter for them to read. They stare into a camera for four minutes, and I stare into their eyes.
“When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?” Last night. After coming to terms with the fact that I need to get a part-time job, I basically had a breakdown. I had to push my videogame back even further when all I wanted to do was work on it. After two years with plenty of work but next-to-no progress, I was going to throw it on the backburner yet again. I felt like I was never going to finish a damn game. I realize now that a part-time job won’t take most of my time like school + side work did, that I’ll still have time in the future, and every other objectively correct sentiment. But it wasn’t really about that job, it was two years of stagnation, doubt, and fear cascading on me.
Talking to Squinky/myself is therapeutic. When I talk to us there are no prefaces. I admire that Squinky can talk so intimately with the wide ranges of The Internet, and that’s why I have the confidence to air myself here. 36 Questions is a game where I interfaced with Squinky, unbeknownst to them, from across the world. As they opened up to me, I opened up to them, and myself as well.