GAMERELLA IS HONOURED TO ANNOUNCE THE WINNERS OF ITS VERY FIRST GAME AWARD:
MASKS by Team Bardz
Nedward Rehanek, Joshua Shaw and Maya Harry team-members developed Masks during the two days of the GAMERella Game Jam in November 2020. In the game you play as an autistic woman, Harriet, trying to navigate life. You have to make sure she’s productive while also managing how the world around her sees her.
“We built this game based on the experiences of some of our developers and we were thrilled to watch people immediately identify with the game, and connect it to their own experiences. It was one of the most rewarding and wonderful feelings that we have experienced, and we are set on bringing it to more people.” – Team Bardz
The game follows Harriet, who struggles with people not knowing about or understanding autism. Because of that, when Harriet acts differently from other people due to her autism, people don’t react positively. So Harriet tries to fit in with the other people by hiding away her autism through her masks. This game models the struggles of neurodivergent people using the metaphor of masks to represent their experiences of hiding their true selves from people to conform to social expectations.
“The people who connected with the game helped us realize how important it could be, even in a wave of representation coming out right now, mental health issues are underrepresented, and while we’ve seen plenty of games address issues like race and LBGTQ+ issues, too few have represented autism and other neurodivergence explicitly. We’d like to give some of those people their due with this game and we are confident we can do good by them.” – Team Bards
The team plans to use the award money to further develop the game. The plan includes ironing out bugs and implementing improvements on the controls, all based on player feedback. Beyond adding more levels and situations to the game, the team would also like to work on accessibility by making sure that people with different abilities can also play and enjoy the game.
The new and improved version of Masks will be presented at TAG in the spring, so stay tuned!
The game in its current form available here for free:
THE BARDZ TEAM
“Hello! I’m Nedward Rehanek! I am a mixed Native Canadian – Caucasian
Transgender male. I am a third-year Game Design and Development student at Wilfrid
Laurier University. This was my second game jam ever, and I had so much fun with it. I
want to tell stories using games; that is my main goal. I love expression through games,
and I think it is an important aspect of games, which is why when we came up with the
idea for this game, I was thrilled.
I like to try and get people to try things from a different perspective. It is fascinating to me how we can all look at the same thing and have different ideas. As I continue working on games, I hope I can at least get one person to smile, laugh, cry or just for a second feel something because of something I helped create.”
“I’m Maya Harry. I’m a half Jamaican-black and half caucasian woman. I’m
a third-year Game Design and Development student at Wilfrid Laurier University. This
was my third game jam, and I’ve always wanted to make games that tell the
experiences of people who don’t always have their voices heard. I’m also an autistic
woman who was told by the person set to diagnose me that the diagnosis would hold
me back from living a life that I would want to live (adoption, living normally, etcetera.).
Autism is an issue that many people don’t know the full scale of.
I first found out that making games was a thing I could do when my mum bought
me RPG maker VX Ace for my birthday, and the first game that really inspired me to
want to make games was Papers, Please by Lucas Pope.
“I’m Joshua Shaw. I’m a half Vietnamese and half caucasian student! Storytelling, interactivity, imagination, and role-playing have been exciting concepts to me since I can remember, and nowhere are these types of fun embodied more than in games. I’ve spent my whole life playing and learning about games just by engaging with them. The gatekeeping, misogyny, and entitlement that permeates the community made me disillusioned with it. It has culminated in me not being comfortable saying I’m a gamer anymore. That brings me to GAMERella, my first game jam! What GAMERella embodies is the potential games and developers have to shift the community to one that is more loving, it is so crucial at this juncture, and it seems like fate that it would be my first game jam. While I learned a lot about making a game during GAMERella, the most important thing I learned is that I can make a change with the games I make. I feel it is my responsibility to do what I can to make the gaming community safer for all and a community I can be proud of again. Making Masks has been a great experience for me to feel empowered to do something meaningful with games; award or not, I will be continuing the journey.”
The jury that included TAG Director Dr. Rilla Kahled, internationally renowned media scholar Dr. Kishonna L. Gray, GAMERella co-founder Gina Hara, GAMERella mentors and game developers narF and Nicole Parmentier would like to congratulate all teams that participated in this year’s jam.
In addition to the main prize the jury would like to give Honorable Mention to the game A Fox’s Brew, created by Rohaan K. Allport, Regina V. Esteva, Rafael Laffitte, Sai Nikhita Reddy, Pooja Balamurali, Jenny (Beichen) Guo and Antonio (Mint) Moses.
A Fox’s Brew is a 2D game where you help Clea, the fox, collect as many ingredients as you can to brew an amazing potion as a birthday present for Ethel, the nicest witch. The game is available online for free here: