Interview Befriending the Justices in Supreme Courtship

first_img Politics are all around us, in everything and everyone. This has always been true but has become even harder to ignore. And you shouldn’t ignore it! Ignoring politics just makes you ignorant to their influences. Trying to “remove politics” from video games makes the medium more vulnerable to the worst kinds of politics. Politics aren’t some team sport. They are literally life and death, so you should embrace and engage with them all the time.But that doesn’t mean politics have to be boring. At least, that’s what the developers of Just Us Games think. They’re the folks behind Supreme Courtship, an indie upcoming game about trying to befriend that United States Supreme Court Justices while trying to become one yourself and learning more about the system. The premise is… intriguing to say the least.However, almost as unavoidable as politics is the negative side of politics. And while I found Supreme Courtship’s desire to presents an educational “politically positive” view of the Supreme Court ambitious admirable, it could also be a very dangerous and disingenuous “comedy adventure” if not handled with the gravity the thorny real-world topic deserves. I mean, just from the start I was pretty uncomfortable looking at sexy young versions of the Justices considering how scared I am over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s actual elderly health leading to another lifetime appointment for a monster.Fortunately, the folks at Just Us Games were gracious enough to respond to my pretty skeptical questions about Supreme Courtship and its methods. But in the spirit of the game, I’ll let you be the judge. (Note the answers have been edited for clarity and flow).On Calling Supreme Courtship A “Dating Game”Supreme Courtship is a “dating game” more in form than in content. While we’re borrowing some aspects from dating games (character-focused storylines, and the ability to grow a friendly relationship by spending time together), the game itself does not have any overt sexuality or romantic relationships. Think of it like Persona – you can optionally become closer with some of the Justices over the course of the game, by spending time with them outside of the Court. Doing so will unlock side stories and endings for that Justice, but the core game will remain largely the same.The “dating” is more akin to friendship-building. We want to emulate the friendship that Justice Ginsburg and the late Justice Scalia shared. You can befriend any of the Justices regardless of your gender (or their politics). The demo currently has a male and female option for players, and we plan to include a non-binary option as well.How does the game avoid erasing the complexities of these real-life prominent figures and how we relate to them?The truth is, most Americans can’t name even one Supreme Court Justice. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, since unlike the president or congresspeople, Justices don’t need to be elected or campaign for your vote. Our goal with Supreme Courtship is to make the judicial branch more interesting and relatable, to help players develop informed opinions about the only members of our government that serve for a lifetime.The Supreme Court is very complex – as are each of the Justices – and we will do our best to capture this complexity in Supreme Courtship. After all, complex characters are fascinating. However, we’ll never be able to do as good a job as we’d like. Our hope is that we can take players with a surface-level knowledge of the Supreme Court, and introduce them to some of that complexity. Perhaps society can do the rest?(At the other end of the scale, many of our most ardent fans are law students, lawyers, and law clerks that love seeing pop culture references to the Supreme Court. It is unlikely our game will cause them to be misinformed about the Court!)If I find Clarence Thomas, his anti-same sex relationship rulings and past sexual misconduct, abhorrent, can I express those feelings?We very much want players to come away from Supreme Courtship with strong feelings about the Justices, and not try to sugarcoat anything. As far as expressing those feelings within the game, that’s something I’d very much like to explore, but I don’t know exactly what form it’ll take. (Due to the nature of crowdfunding campaigns, we need to raise more money in order to finish this thing up!)One thing that we are certain to include is the ability for players to make informed choices about who they want to spend time with and befriend. Due to the political nature of the game – and the fact that players might want to avoid certain Justices – we will make sure that players are always choosing which Justice they want to spend one-on-one time with, and will never be stuck with one of them.If this game had come out later would I have been asked to “date” Brett Kavanaugh given what he’s been accused of?The original concept for the game did focus more heavily on the “dating” aspect. With Thomas – a man infamously (and unapologetically) accused of sexual harassment – on the Court, this was already a sensitive topic. We met with local leaders of Black Lives Matter and Moms Demand Action to discuss how to handle Thomas in the game, and our takeaway was that he should be included in the game, and that we should address the controversy within the game rather than sweep it under the rug. We kept working on Supreme Courtship, and prepared for a launch in mid October 2018, to capitalize on the heightened political energy around the midterms.But Kavanaugh blasted those wounds wide open again. Not only was Kavanaugh accused of sexual assault, he chose to deny it with a fury and an openly partisan bias that will have a lasting effect on public trust in the judiciary. After all, it’s difficult to trust in the integrity of the Supreme Court when men accused of violence against women are in a position to tip the scales against them, as Thomas did with his deciding vote in Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.After Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the idea of making a game where you “date young, sexy versions of the US Supreme Court Justices” (our original tagline) was no longer appealing to us. After taking some time off, we decided to rebrand – our art became less “sexy” and more stylish and cartoony / expressive. And we focused more on the Phoenix Wright-style humor that had always been at the heart of the concept. After that rebrand, we’ve all been much more excited to work on the game again.But no. There’s no room in our idealized version of the Supreme Court for a man who has been credibly accused of sexual assault, and chose to deny it with a fury and an openly partisan bias that will have a lasting effect on public trust in the judiciary. There is no place for that divisiveness in our game, let alone our nation’s highest Court. It’s a shame that a small indie studio from Seattle must maintain higher standards than the US Senate.Some have accused us of writing revisionist history. No decision we make is going to please everyone, and doing so was never the goal. We can only make the game that speaks to us and our values, and hope it resonates with others as well.We won’t be ignoring Kavanaugh’s confirmation entirely – his demeanor and the manner of his appointment have raised issues that we’ll address within the game. What is the effect of having two men with a history of harassment or assault against women serving on the Court? What happens when the public loses faith in the judiciary? How can a Justice be impeached?We’ve written about our stance on Thomas and Kavanaugh, if you’re interested in reading more.Is Merrick Garland in this game and does the game delve into politics of senators holding court picks hostage from rival presidents?It’s worth noting that in Supreme Courtship, the only “real-life” characters are the Justices themselves. Members of other branches of government (cough Trump cough) are not in the game – we instead use fictional characters to represent them. The notable exception will be Merrick Garland.Thanks again to Just Us Games for taking the time to answer our questions. If Supreme Courtship still sounds like the Phoenix Wright meets Dream Daddy of your wildest legal desires see it for yourself on Kickstarter. For less political Valentine’s Day gaming check out these games to play with your partner. Sorry, You Can’t Date Keanu Reeves in ‘Cyberpunk 2077”Star Wars Pinball’ Has Your Favorite Brand in Ball Form Stay on targetlast_img