Mitu Khandaker is the lone developer at “The Tiniest Shark”, the development studio behind Redshirt. Redshirt is unique, a “social-networking simulator” that manages to make Facebook more interesting and more resonant by driving home the effects that our choices can have on others. Each action has a reaction, and that reaction has a reaction. You’ll alienate friends even as you seek out the company of others. And it’s all set in space.
After talking to Mitu about some of her core beliefs and ideas, it’s clear that this game wasn’t made in a vacuum. It is, essentially, a direct representation of her key motivation.
What core beliefs most motivate you?
I’m a big believer in beautiful tininess in the universe. I’m a massive fan of Carl Sagan. I love the whole thing of the “pale blue dot” image representing us as this tiny speck in the vastness of the universe.
That motivates me because all we have right now, that we know about for sure, is each other. We have this responsibility to each other because we live in a closed system. The earth is a closed system.
People don’t think enough about the fact that everything you do effects someone in some way, and everything ripples out. I guess we’re not predisposed to think about what happens one or two steps removed from our immediate actions. We’re not predisposed to thinking long-term. I think that lack of being able to think long-term has definitely affected where we are as a species, for the worse, really.
When I sit back and think from that perspective, it certainly makes me more mindful of my actions, how I interact with people, and things like that.
I think that’s why I like games so much, because they are about systems. They teach you, in a way, to think systematically, and to be able to think “Okay, this affects this, etc.” I just want people to be able to translate that into real life.
So can you talk about how those ideas affect your game development?
In Redshirt, every action you take does have an effect, on yourself, on the people around you, and on the people around them, etc. My ideology has definitely been infused into the game in that way.
Do you have a role-model?
I don’t know if I have one role-model. I mean, my parents, obviously. But other than that, there are so many people that I admire for so many reasons.
But I don’t know! Now I feel on the spot… Let’s say Carl Sagan.
That’ll work. Why?
I guess I just want to grow up to be him. [laughs] I think he definitely had a gift for being able to communicate and put forward this idea of our place in the universe, and just appreciating the beauty that is around us. He did it so eloquently. I don’t think there’s really been a science communicator like him since.
How do you feel about the idea of games communicating philosophical and spiritual ideas?
They absolutely do. Even when you don’t think they do, they do. Everything is political. Just because something is of the mainstream view doesn’t mean it’s not political. That’s already political. I think everything we do is already infused with these ideas. It’s just some games are more obvious than others.
We definitely need more games which do it in a more thoughtful and articulate way.
What are some games that do that?
Well, the whole movement of personal games. There are so many amazing creators making these personal games which are definitely, undeniably political. I think that’s amazing. We need more of that.