McKinney 2016: 3rd Prize Electronic Media

in Creative Writing/McKinney 2016 Winners/McKinney Contest

A Disorganized Collection of Writings

Rajas Nagpurkar




Gazing through the looking glass, and attempting to reminisce, he lets go, relieves, and perceives.Colossi of raindrops subtly fall through sky’s shadows , violently battling the grey in great amounts, failing to come anywhere near the threshold of one’s most sensitive ear. Nature’s children appear to tremble as dark forebodings of a dreary future pervade the air. The danger and annoyances of such rarities is always given priority and significance. He misunderstands it; he believes in its false infinity.


Unable to stabilize, unable to achieve a desired normality. From every pitter, he regrets; from every patter he forgets. Forcefully drudging through the thick swamp of his mind, struggling to understand what and why, diminishing his hopes of any change, any desire. Suddenly, several elements collide against his one-way mirror in his cell and revitalize his consciousness. Looking through the droplet, his face pressed against, his mentality momentarily produces quick successions of thoughts and random impulses of recovering memory.


Every snowflake understands its place as sui generis; every raindrop understands its place as trite. The beauty of a snowflake with death, the dullness of rain with life. It’s uniformity and strict nature are necessary to sustain life, but somehow it places a bittersweet piece of an unusual feeling inside him. Its unexplainable transparency, disguising itself as invisible, but not untouchable, stimulates a sense of deep nostalgic hopelessness within him. As he discovers the profound pulchritude, and simultaneous incomprehensibility, of the paradoxical elements of natural and artificial state cooperating to achieve more of the same, he realizes more in this moment. The monotonous, repetitive beat of rain seems to harmonize in an odd manner with some contrasting presence.


A new rhythm to this sound, a new color to this sight. A particular emotion of gradually diminishing despair comes about as he observes little rain boots composing a sort of  rhythmic song with the catchy beat of the rain’s clashing, the continuous flow of the tree’s trembling, the back-up percussion of the thunder’s loud suddenness, the sight of lightning’s exciting flash, and the cheerful singing from their voices.Upon this feat, he accepts the shadow’s tears; no longer must he endure the pain of the past’s domination of the future, now he begins to savor the varied colors of newfound harmony.


Context for ‘Gazing’:

I owed a favor to friend – to write a poem for him for a high school class. I initially was bullshitting my way through the task. As I was writing it however, I grew more enthralled with my writing. In several more hours, I realized I was iteratively changing the majority of what I had originally written to convey my message effectively to the audience, albeit in a highly interpretive manner.


Context for ‘Tainted Authenticity’:

After the positive reception of ‘Gazing’, as I was having an argument with a friend, I turned some of the texts which I’ve sent to him into a self-aware, ironic, satirical, meta-humor, trying-too-hard to be hipster poem. I’m still unsure which parts are serious and which parts were intended to mock poetry’s highly interpretive nature, which has the power to completely disillusion the writer’s intended purpose, or make the writer’s message more impactful. To put it frankly, I’m not sure which parts were bullshit and which parts weren’t. I don’t particularly like this one; I feel I tried way too hard to be poetic. My goal is to somehow find the balance between artsy interpretivism and purposeful clarity, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to strike that balance.


Tainted Authenticity


In time, my friend, you will love me.

Love me like how we once were,

Walking around singing, completing each other’s sentences,

And you will be less salty.

And upon this realization, you will swallow the ocean of misguided malice within you,


Digesting it’s naive, weak creatures

quenching your throat’s thirst with its refreshing purity

relieving your burning eyes of its salty tears

invigorating your senses with its lack of the numbing, sharp stings.


And with it, the salt that resides on your tongue will be swept away,


Leaving only the sugar

which you,

like every other kid,

have been smothered with the contaminating, yet natural salt since 13.


The sugar

which I,

like every other kid,

may never uncover within the salt’s contaminating, yet natural smothering.


The sugar

which we,

like every other kid,

have hidden deep within ourselves,


Deep within the young chasms of insecurities, social unfamiliarity, and hormone-fueled emotional instability.


Only with time’s air, goals’ motivation, and love’s help can we deepen our chasms to uncover maturity.

My Friend.


Context for ‘Aji’s Eulogy’:

Below is the eulogy I wrote for my grandmother who had been suffering from ever-worsening dementia, alzheimer’s, and the depression which resulted from dealing with these conditions for the past 10 years. She passed peacefully on March 6th, 2016. This was the first time I’ve experienced significant loss- Aji was one of the main people who raised me in my small family of about 6. I don’t understand why her passing had such a prominent effect on me though, because I hated seeing her suffering by living in her worsening condition. Seeing her in her final stages was a bit traumatizing. Throughout my life, she always had a smile on her face and seemed to gain happiness from life’s simple aspects. The month before I saw her, I looked into her eyes and, in that moment, felt her pain – the pain of being unable to understand oneself, one’s environment, and one’s loved ones.

The eulogy may have been a little rushed due to the crazy nature of that time. I was juggling handling work which I had to make up from being sick last week, working on a passion project, and planning out how to get to her rushed funeral which was held 3 days after her death. Despite this, it’s clearness, brevity, and simplicity make it all the more impactful-or at least it did in the context of the funeral.


Aji’s Eulogy


Sununda Anand Nagpurkar,

to me, Aji

to my father, Ai.

to my father, mother and I,

A nurturer

A giver

A teacher

A mentor

A friend


An unfortunate timing

A timing –  enemy to communication

A timing which made me question our understanding of one another



Through her roles to me

Through her roles to my father

Through her roles to others

Understanding triumphs this false emptiness


The regret I once felt

For the time I thought was wasted

For the connection which I thought was incomplete

For the communication I thought we could never have

Is merely a lie


Dreamt up conversations about our lives








Unnecessary to a fundamental understanding of one another

I still understood her

She still understood me

She still understood others


Upon this tragic event

Burden’s are relieved

Suffering has ended


No longer must she drift through life as someone who she is not

She is now relieved of this burden

Others are now relieved of the burden of watching it unfold.


Still, her final state is not what she will be remembered for

Her legacy remains as what she was to others

A nurturer

A giver

A teacher

A mentor

And our friend.



Context for ‘Chromesthesia Design Doc’:

Below is my documentation for a game which I am developing with other’s. It is a passion project, and will at some point become an independent study or count towards my GSAS Research Project. I’m including this here because I believe it’s an interesting idea – at the very least. It’s too bad that, in the game industry, ideas are meaningless. Execution is where the value comes from.


Themes of understanding oneself and one’s environment will be explored deeply in this game Here is the current design doc for it. Read atleast the pitch and story to get a general idea:


*indicates tentativeness


Note: As I use the term ‘mechanically’ throughout this document, I’m referring to the game’s mechanics and design.


Aura– the player-controlled entity. It will be an abstract shape/set of shapes that dynamically adapt to its varying environments. All vital info(health, the character’s current actions, and the state of those actions) will be audio-visually communicated to the player. This entity is intended to represent the aura/alter-ego of the player, based on the player’s overall playstyle and decisions. For instance, when the player takes a more aggressive, offensive approach, the Aura will have a harsher, more rigid shape-structure, stronger & warmer colors, and emit more jarring sounds.  When the player takes a more cautious, defensive approach, the Aura will have a smoother, rounder shape-structure, lighter  & cooler colors, and emit softer sounds. Players with mixed styles could be both angular and bluish, or rounded and red. Shape & color will act as displays for different player-metrics.



This Unity-developed game, under the working title “Chromesthesia” is a 3D action-adventure game with full, sophisticated 3D movement, ‘combat’, subtly predetermined exploration, platforming, and inductive-reasoning based puzzles which mechanically manipulate art, sound, and mechanical design. The core mechanic of the game is the environment’s synchronization to the music. Audiovisual cues are the game’s primary means of communication to the player. The Aura will navigate a full 3D space with a 3rd person automated and controllable helicopter camera.  The ‘combat’ and ‘platforming’ of the game should feel like dancing- platforms and enemies act with the music. Figuring out how to deal with varying types of ‘enemies’ would test a player’s musical, rhythmic, and artistic awareness along with timing, and prioritization. The art style will be low-poly and minimalist, but deep and varied through the heavy manipulation of the core visual elements: color, shape structure, and movement. “Chromesthesia” aims to fuse image, sound, and touch(via player input) into, almost, its own medium. The game aims to mimic the feeling of certain types of synesthesia and incorporate some light philosophical undertones- which would be conveyed through minimal narration, poetry, lyrics, and minimal text. Neither image nor sound has more power than one another – they coexist. The successful combination of image and sound will make the player experience audiovisual flow.


Audiovisual Flow – A process, that, to experience, one must

  1. Participate in the creation of the audiovisuals
  2. Staying in synchronization with the complexity and pace of the audiovisuals



    The first demo ( a playable prototype) will be ready by the end of May.

We will have the game ready by Gamefest 2017.





Everything ranging from understanding basic controls & player objectives to all of the skills which the player must develop will be communicated to the player through the game’s audiovisual-centered design. We strive to develop adaptive difficulty based on the player’s performance through the means of controlling platform and character spawning to give each unique player a fair level of challenge. We also will develop an accurate system of detecting certain frequencies in sound to procedurally-trigger actions using existing software such as Wwise Unity integration, FMOD, and libpd. Slight procedural sound and visuals would be incorporated into the game via a simple series of nested conditions with randomization.  Additionally, we may plan to develop a system which would ease the process of manipulating colors in certain ways**


1st Dimension- the section of the game’s mechanics which entails ‘combat’,    movement,  &  ‘platforming’.



The ‘combat’ and ‘platforming’ of the game should not feel like their respective, traditionally-defined counterparts- hence the quotes which surround these terms. Rather, everything the player does within the 1st dimension of the game’s mechanics should not feel like a game; it should feel like an experience which fuses sound, color, and touch. Experiences of Chromesthesia,  auditory-tactile, and visual-tactile synesthesia will be simulated or triggered once the player is naturally eased into her own ‘flow’ mindset.  Clever implementations of audio-visual communication will allow for standard User-Interface elements and other vital gameplay information to be naturally incorporated with the player character and environment – enabling all info to be understood by the player without breaking immersion.



Fluid movement and choice/style in ‘combat’ is essential to the player feeling as though they are ‘one flowing with the visual music’. There will always be an optimal strategy for each new ‘enemy’ type that the player could choose to learn based on a combination of the difficulty she chooses to play on and her in-game performance*.


Basic Character Abilities so far:

  • The ‘Aura’ has a constant hovering ability when they hold down jump but it only is effective when ‘wind’ is active. ‘Wind’ would be active during prolonged melodic notes in a song, allowing the player to glide or fly at certain point in the music.
  • The ‘Aura’ has a melee attack. Every attack would either add a sound that goes with the music or an actual layer to the song
  • The ‘Aura’ can reflect projectiles via a well-timed parry attack with the projectile.
  • The ‘Aura’ can wall-kick
  • The ‘Aura’ has a variety of jumps to utilize(the Aura activates different jumps by moving in certain ways before hitting the jump button e.g. moving in one direction and then instantly moving in the opposite and then jumping would execute a higher jump). All jumping would be executed via player movement with the analog stick and the jump button
  • The ‘Aura’ can ‘counter-attack’ when well-timed


Basic platforms and movement-mechanics so far:

  • platforms phasing in and out or between multiple locations
  • platforms expanding and shrinking
  • platforms rotating/spinning to the beat
  • bouncepads and boostpads are activated to the beat
  • speedboosting platforms which allow the player to run up walls
  • having invisible wind for prolonged notes to allow player to soar, fly, or glide in coordination with the music.
  • platforms that vertically crush into each other


Basic enemy types, behaviors, and characteristics so far:

  • how enemies can be attacked effectively (whether it be through a jump attack in which the player stomps on the ‘enemy’) will be audio-visually indicated
  • enemies will move in varying paths, attack,  and display subtle weak-points/ be open to player attack  insynchronization to the music
  • ‘enemy’ type which shoot a projectile at the player to the beat
  • 4 cubes which must be jumped on consecutively to a particular rhythm or melody the music. If the player does not jump on the enemies in the correct timing, the enemies will not be damaged
  • ‘enemy’ type which which flies around the player and attempts to maintain distance in some way from the player, and uses a reflectable ranged projectile to attack. The ‘Aura’ can reflect enemy projectile with a well-timed attack against the projectile. Properties of projectiles could vary. Some examples include:
  • certain projectiles could only be effective to certain types of enemies
  • other projectiles could bounce from enemy to enemy


The various environments’ art-styles will correspond with the tonalities and overall feelings of the music through the manipulation of these elements.  ‘Enemies’ will be visually represented as simple shapes that adapt to the varying environments via the ‘core visual elements’ and operate with complex movement; ‘enemies’ will act with the music, both visually and mechanically-from a design standpoint. Environments will be visually coordinated with the music, adapting, pulsating, oscillating, roaring, awakening, sinking, etc…- to sound and player interaction. In areas where there is minimal music, colors would be made more dull, and everything will be less visually lively as well. Platforms and other mechanical elements integral to gameplay would do the same, but with a much greater focus on mechanical coordination



This design encourages time-pressured strategic thinking. Players will be given choice in their ‘combat’ playstyle. Those who’d prefer a more visceral approach would have a play-style of brisk offense, while players who’d prefer a more strategic approach have a play-style of patient defense. Certain play-styles will be more appropriate for certain environments depending upon the ‘feel’ and tonalities of the music. For instance, a faster-paced, more aggressive piece would encourage a play-style of brisk-agility and risky offense, whereas a slower, calmer piece would encourage a play-style of steady-cautiousness and practical defense. Still, the player will be free to approach ‘combat’ in their preferred manner.  ‘Enemies’ should not be too easily predictable via the procedural generation of enemy behaviors to form slightly randomized & unique behaviors in accordance with the audiovisuals.



The 2nd dimension of the game’s mechanics has, at this point, not been fully realized- for creating more mechanics in this dimension requires more time and experimentation with developed game assets. Chromesthesia’s open-world design will be complex – with a focus on encouraging exploration, allowing for players to choose what order they wish to complete sections and how they desire to approach them. All areas of the game world will be open, but not fully accessible. The game’s design would carefully hint the player in the right direction, reward her for her exploration, and stealthily guide her to the intended area via carefully design player progression.





‘’Items’ will be granted to the Main Shape as he/she progresses. A thorough exploration of areas along with a solid understanding of how to use the ‘items’ given to a player would be required to progress in the game.  Items found by the player and what areas are player-accessible will be stealthily, but heavily predetermined via design;  the player should not sense the game designer’s influence (deus-ex machina). Despite the design’s predetermined nature, it should still allow for different ‘song-zones’ to be completed at whatever times and in whatever order the player desires. What lies behind the nonlinearity of the game’s design & progression is its fairly structured and ‘scripted’ nature. This style of design is the optimal way to achieve simplicity while maintaining depth and avoiding overwhelming complexity.



Although the 1st dimension of the game’s mechanics would focus on having the player be ‘one flowing with the music’, the skill demanded of players will be tailored to them based on his/her in-game performance. Players will be rewarded for using better-suited play-styles simply with the game’s enhanced ‘flow’. As players utilize better-suited play-styles, they will be able to do more and will be challenged via procedural audiovisual generation. More will occur audio-visually and mechanically – platforming and ‘combat’ will become more demanding, the visuals will become increasingly complex, and more layers will be added to the song. A naturally enhanced experience is the reward for a solid understanding of the mechanics, not an advancement in meaningless ‘statuses’.


2nd Dimension- the section of the game’s mechanics which entails area layouts,      player-progression, and open-world design


‘Song-Zones’ – carefully designed areas which harbor many puzzles, ‘enemies’, and ‘items’  in a nonlinear fashion. Players would navigate the ‘song-zones’ via platforming, ‘enemy’-destroying, and  puzzle-solving. To progress in each ‘song-zone’, players will uncover ‘items’ and can choose the  order which they want to complete its puzzles, and how they will do so. Player- choice stems from the player’s ability to choose what areas she completes and what ‘items’ they bring and uncover in those areas.


‘Items’ – (quotes indicate to not think of them as items in the traditional sense) -these are tools which the player grant the player new abilities that allow them to manipulate the music and visuals in various ways. Manipulating Chromesthesia’s audiovisuals gives the player more mechanical control. ‘Items’ will be ‘uncovered’ as she progresses through the game.


‘Uncovering an Item’ – a player-process that consists of finding the item, learning how to use it, understanding its implementations in environmental puzzles, and the new abilities granted to the player when used with other ‘items’.


Puzzles – tests of the player’s understanding of what they have learned about the mechanics of the game. The initial puzzles of every ‘song-zone’ are, to and extent, tutorials; they serve to help the player ‘uncover’ the item.




To abstract player-progression from a design standpoint, let’s breakdown how it works:

  1. The player explores different areas via the 1st dimension mechanics of ‘combat’ and ‘platforming’ to find an ‘item’
  2. The player ‘uncovers’ the ‘item’/’items’
  3. The player utilizes the ‘combat’ & platforming skills she’s developed so far and her learnt understanding of the ‘item’/’items’ to explore
  4. The player gains access to new areas by solving puzzles through the utilization of an item/items and the process repeats


How & where to find and use those ‘items’ to solve puzzles, access new areas, and gain more abilities is the player’s responsibility to figure out; the game’s responsibility, from a design standpoint, is to subtly, sparingly, and stealthily guide the player. This style of design will make the player think critically to progress.

NOTE: Not all of the below examples have to manifest themselves as items which are mapped to the controller. Some of these could take the form of switches placed within the environment.



Examples of auditory manipulations granted by potential items:

  • pitch manipulation
  • scale manipulation
  • tempo manipulation
  • reversing & replaying sections of the song(with the DJ- scratch effect included:)
  • adds music-layer[s] specific to the particular ‘song-zone’ .
  • apply degrees of delay
  • apply degrees of  reverb
  • apply crescendo and decrescendo
  • apply scattering/shimmering effects (breaking a prolonged sound into many individual counterparts)
  • amplifying bass – ‘bass cannon’
  • glissando/slurring from originally separated note phrases

‘Items’ are not constrained to sound manipulation(and their corresponding visuals), they can manipulate visual effects directly (and their corresponding sounds).


Examples of visual manipulations granted by potential items:

  • add saturation
  • wash-out colors
  • blend colors
  • redefine the outlines of shape-structures of ‘enemies’, platforms, and environments.



Controlled audiovisual manipulation presents a myriad of design opportunities for environmental puzzles.


Examples of the mechanical implications of audiovisual manipulation include:

  • (musical) scale manipulation affecting the height of platforms
  • applying crescendo/ decrescendo manipulation affecting the size of certain platforms
  • tempo manipulation changing enemy behavior to open up visually-cued ‘enemy’ weak points. ‘Aura’ could temporarily slow down time to evade rapid attacks of ‘enemies’ and attack faster
  • reversing and replaying sections of the song would reverse in-game time(but not affect any environmental changes caused by the player
  • delay causing moving platforms & ‘enemies’ to have a ‘streaking’ effect which would leave a temporary trail of the platform’s/ ‘enemies’ path of movement. This would grant the player new navigational opportunities and enable the player to unveil the vulnerabilities of certain ‘enemy-types’
  • amplifying bass would temporarily stun larger ‘enemies’ and push back smaller ‘enemies’, but would  have limited use through requiring a charging time
  • reverb manipulation causing platforms and enemies to leave periodic trails. An ‘enemy’ that shoots periodically, for example, when applying reverb will temporarily create multiple projectiles which the player could then reflect and direct at ‘enemies’
  • blending colors would combine the properties of platforms and ‘enemies’. For instance, two platforms, one which moves forward and another which appears & disappears periodically, when blended together would form another platform which would do both, increasing the ‘Aura’’s navigational opportunities


‘Possibility-Space’all of the methods that the player could use to approach any given situation


Experimentation with these mechanics give the player with an immense possibility-space.  The controlled use of these ‘items’ all would occur over a base musical layer.




Visualize the design of each ‘song-zone’ as a metaphorical target like so (the levels won’t literally be targets, this is just a visualization of strictly the design):


Each circle is a layer of the target. To progress, the player must reach the center point; doing so will allow the player to experience the full audiovisual composition. As you move layer by layer to reach the center point, more musical layers(and corresponding visuals) are added to song. Player-based difficulty adjustment will be mechanically implemented mainly through the difficulty of ‘enemies’ and complexity of platform behavior & placement*.


Now, suppose the Aura has 3 ‘items’ at a given time. From a mechanical & design perspective, visualize all three items and their interactions with one another as the triple venn diagram below:

Color rings

Each individually colored ring of this venn diagram represents the ‘item’ and its ability. The gaps in each of the circles are the actions which the Aura must take through the use of that item to progress. The venn-diagram format of this visualization serves to illustrate the depth which lies within the many combinations of interactions between ‘items’ and the varying approaches that the player can take.


An explanation of how the venn-diagram mechanically operates:


Note: To clarify, a ‘song-zone’ does not constrain the entire area to a specific song-  a ‘song-zone’ would just be whatever musical pieces/songs work with one another and can seamlessly transition to and from one another.

Within parentheses of the next paragraph, I’ll be describing what would literally be going on in-game.


At the start of the ‘song-zone’, players will be on the outside of the venn diagram and can choose which item they want to attempt to ‘uncover’ first by entering the venn-diagram from either of it’s 3 initial entrances. Supposing they enter via the blue circle, they  must now find and understand how to use the blue ‘item’ to progress. Once they ‘uncover’ the blue item, they have the option of either retracing their steps and entering via the green or red entrances, or ‘uncovering’ the red ‘item’ in conjunction with the blue item to progress. If they successfully ‘uncovered’ both the red and blue ‘items’, they would ‘uncover’ the green ‘item’ in conjunction with the red and blue ‘items’. The design must ensure prevent players from missing any important sections. Although some puzzles and required-to-progress ‘secrets’ can be uncovered in whatever order the player chooses to do so, the game’s stealthy design will manipulate the player into playing through the other sections which the player could have initially entered through.  This could be implemented via a mechanic of ‘small keys’ – keys which make the player choose to gain access to only one of several areas. The order in which they complete those areas is up to the player. This shady but clever mechanic gives the player the illusion of freedom and choice and makes them feel smart.

Finally,  this overlay of the triple venn diagram over the bullseye illustrates how the final game’s design would work. The climactic ‘boss battle’  would put all of the skills players have been developing over the course of playing the ‘song-zone’ to the test.

circles and colors


All music mechanically used in ‘song-zones’ must have some consistency and structure to maintain a reasonable level of predictability.  Predictability must be incorporated into the game’s music to ensure fairness in its design. The ‘Aura’’s 1st dimension based navigational abilities are dependent upon Chromesthesia’s audiovisual design. Fair difficulty can only be achieved with  predictability in the song. Players develop their ‘combat’ and platforming skills only after learning the pattern which ‘enemies’ and platforms follow; players learn these patterns through a close observation and developed familiarity of the the ‘song-zone’s’ music and visual cues.



Genre’s of music to be used include:   – any genre of music would work as long as it followed some identifiable structure

  • prog-rock
  • post-rock
  • prog-metal
  • house
  • liquid drum & bass
  • synth wave
  • experimental electronica
  • ambient
  • Jazz & classical*
  • Reggae*

Finale: could combine every genre of music into one well-crafted song/level and be a test of everything the player has learnt.



The story would have an overarching theme of ‘understanding oneself and one’s environment ‘ which is reflected through the game’s mechanics for the focus of the game’s design is having the player – uncover’ items –  figure out how to use the items given to them and what they can do in certain situations. The philosophical bents and audiovisual representations of the players’ personality through the mechanics of the ‘aura’ are intended to provoke a personal, emotional response from the player. Within this overarching theme will lay a vast collection of stories told in each song. Every song tells a story or at least stems from an experience or myriad of experiences. And this will be represented, audiovisually, mechanically, and narratively via poetry, narration, brief text, lyrics /vocals, and in-game events. I will elaborate on this concept much more.



Figuring out how to implement slight procedural audiovisual generation, procedural difficulty, and accurate frequency detection.


Final Note: I believe in art’s potency, but I wish for my ‘art’ to be more clear – not necessarily direct, but clear about it’s purpose and simultaneously impactful by being relatable and personal to the reader. I’ve barely developed my writing skills, but my ultimate goal is to someday strike this balance between the audience’s interpretation and the creator’s purpose.


Context for ‘In the final hours of my trip’:


In the link to the following doc, I write from the perspective of someone who is tripping on LSD and attempt to flesh out my idea for the above game, but I instead delve into a philosophical tangent. This should be viewed over google docs due to google doc’s convenient commenting system, which explains what I, writing from a fictional character’s perspective of course, mean to say.