The creative technology team at publishers Penguin has launched a mini computer game to tie in with the release of Grayson Perry’s latest book The Descent of Man.
Default Man is a satirical mini game that plays with the ideas of male stereotypes explored in the book. Players first act as Default Man, the archetypal manly persona, then as Tender Man, itself a stereotype of metrosexual character, overcoming different challenges to reach the end goal. Intended as an exaggerated and tongue-in-cheek way to talk about Grayson’s subject, the game is a humorous way to talk about a big subject.
“Default Man is everywhere, in board rooms, on TV, in the government,” says game designer Mathieu Triay. “Players of Default Man step into his shoes and see an over-the-top, accelerated version of his life. Then to balance that out, you play as a more caring, progressive man, which has its own challenges but has to make more sacrifices to overcome them. However, in return, Tender Man doesn’t get the same rewards and it’s up to the player to decide where they lie on the spectrum.”
“The aim of the game is to offer a gentle, wry, wake-up call to men who have had rich and powerful men as role models and show them they’re missing out on the good bits. Obviously the game can only scrape the surface of the problem, whereas the book has a lot more space to expand and nuance its arguments. We’ve tried to get the game to convey the message with the signature Grayson humour.”
The game incorporates Grayson Perry’s illustrations from the book, some cut and pasted, others redrawn to fit the design. “Grayson’s style of illustration is quite loose and joyous which worked really well with the lo fi feel of the game,” Mathieu says. “Part of the fun of the project was drawing every single asset in the style of Grayson Perry, from the Penguin logo to the typeface and social media assets.”
Mathieu and fellow designer Tom Etherington also created a Grayson Perry typeface, working from glyphs in Grayson’s illustrations as well as his handwriting, taken from another of the artist’s books, Sketchbooks.
“Grayson’s world is colourful and caricatural, so we didn’t shy away from garish colour combinations, hoping to reproduce the impact that Grayson’s illustrations often carry. Making the music and sound effects in the game was also really fun. We opted for a dystopian synth style for Default Man, and a euphoric pop feel for Tender Man,” Mathieu laughs.
“While some people see the book as an attack on masculinity, we hope the game format spreads the positive messages of the book: there’s no shame in being different and more in touch with your emotional side.”