Papo & Yo was received well by critics, recognized for its emotional narrative that followed a boy and his sometimes moody best friend that was also a monster. In that game, players had to learn to recognize the monster’s mood and move forward accordingly.
Vander Caballero is the creative director of Minority Media, the creators of Papo & Yo, and the game’s story was inspired by his own troubled past. Papo & Yo was a conventional game, but Minority Media has VR experience with their popular Time Machine VR game. VR is where Caballero has decided to build his next work, a game inspired by a heartbreaking chapter of his past, and he spoke with us via email about the sobering tale.
In Cali, the new game from Caballero and Minority Media, an ancient ritual sets a man on the path to become a god. A part of his trial includes conquering a goddess, but he falls for her instead. The narrative is inspired by a love that Caballero experienced in his teenage years — a love that wasn’t meant to be.
“When I was a teenager, I fell in love with the daughter of a sex worker,” Caballero said. “I was from a wealthy family and she was not. So, we could not be together because, in my country, that’s like being from two separate worlds. It was ultimately impossible.”
Reaching back into a true to life story of a love lost is an intimate thing for Caballero to do and, when he decided to create an experience around it, he wanted it to be intimate for the player as well. Conventional gaming platforms can be emotionally jarring, but he felt that VR was the best way to make players feel what he felt. The majority of gameplay is platforming in third-person, but you also meet the central character face-to-face and that sparks an emotional connection.
Development teams, whether they’re indie and mainstream, often find identities in their games and build a rapport with their audience based on that identity.
“Minority started telling stories that nobody else was telling in games,” Caballero says. “Our first title, Papo & Yo, was the first to tell a Latin American story through the very eyes of a Latin American. The emotional way in which fans reacted proved that games can channel empathy.”
Creative works from paintings to video games can serve to give us perspectives outside of our own, and break down barriers and guards we put up instinctively. That’s what Caballero is aiming to do with Cali.
“Today, VR has the power to make us emotionally engage with characters like never before; it is the ultimate empathy machine,” Caballero said. “It is the perfect technology to promote understanding in these days of widespread hatred.”
Cali is currently available on Samsung Gear VR via Oculus Home for $4.99.