“Papo & Yo,” a new, Latino themed video game scheduled for publishing by Sony sometime this year, is something different altogether from the gang-bangers and cartel games featuring Latinos. As far as we can tell, there are no stereotypes.
“Papo & Yo,” set in a favela, a shanty-town in Brazil, is a puzzle game that tells the story of young Quico, his pet robot and his monster father who loves eating frogs. To play the game, you move houses and objects for clues to a cure for your frog eating father who turns even more monstrous after consuming said frogs.
Designed to educate rich kids about life in the favelas, and, perhaps as a way to explain bi-polarism and alcoholism to children, “Papo” was created by Vander Cabellero of Minority Games. Cabellero references the magical realism in the literary works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his experiences with his own, bi-polar- alcoholic father. “Too many modern games use morality from the ’50s and ’60s — good and bad — but life is not like that,” Cabellero says in a game development video diary.
Magical realism is a term invented by white literary critics as a way to explain some aspects of Latin American literature credited to Marquez and others. We find the term odd; after all, would you describe Shakespeare as a magical realist author? No. So why start with Latinos? Besides, the PS3 has tons of surreal games similar to “Papo” in scale and content so, in essence, the only new to this story is the Latino presence,characterization and narrative. That’s not a bad thing: we need a Latino presence in gaming that’s positive, informative, non-hurtful and fun. “Papo y Yo” seems to deliver on all fronts.
Trailer for the PS3 game is above, and an interview with the game’s creator, conducted by Wired at this year’s E3 is below.
Wired: What’s new for this year’s E3?
Vander Caballero: Right now what you see is kind of a more polished version of what the game’s going to be. I wish I could show people on the E3 floor the emotion of the game. But the game is a lot of sadness. It’s a sad story, so it’s really hard to make people feel sad when there’s thousands of people all around. The gameplay’s going to show you the interaction with the monster, and how we manage to create this relationship and how we get attached to the monster a bit.
For example … we put in a soccer ball. So you take the soccer ball and you throw it to him, he’s going to play soccer with you and throw the ball back and you create this relationship with the monster. And then we have the system of the monster running that if the monster is hungry, he wants to eat; if he’s sleepy he’s going to go to sleep. And we have all these systems inside the game. It’s sandboxy — we have elements of sandbox and platforming. It’s a really complex game with all these flavors inside.
Wired: And you actually redesigned the monster to look more scary and less cute?
Caballero: With today’s game development, suddenly people are peeking through your window while you’re making your stuff. It was completely different before — the artist does his stuff and then boom, it comes out to the public. But today it doesn’t work like that. People want to be part of the creative process. So the first try I had with the monster, I didn’t have time to iterate on the monster, but we had to show the game at E3. And I was not happy with the monster. Because he was not a real representation of how I felt my father was. But right now I think, in the game, we nailed him down. You see him, you’ll be a bit afraid. And we added these mechanics that make you feel comfortable at the same time: You can jump on his belly when he is sleeping and you’re going to get really close to him.
At the same time, in this demo you will not see him get angry. Instead you get this awkward relationship with the monster. I’m happy with the way it came out today.
Wired: Tell me more about the gameplay.
Caballero: It’s all about exploration. When you go to the favelas, they’re really beautiful places, the architecture is really appealing. But when you go through those favelas in Call of Duty, you just go really fast shooting people. It doesn’t feel right. I wanted to make people explore these favelas, so you have to explore the environment. I remember Ico, and Ico was so impressionable for me because I was exploring the world, and there was this beautiful world around it. I want to bring that to the players. The moment I played Ico, I said, that’s what I want to do.
Wired: What is the development process like for you emotionally, constantly coming into work to create something so personal?
Caballero: It is beautiful. I wish every creator had the chance I got. It is a beauty to be able, as an artist, to go deep inside of your emotions and transform them into art. Not many people get that opportunity in the game development community. You wake up in the morning and you go to work and you do a game about shooting minorities. And I get the opportunity to wake up in the morning, play with my son, think about relationship with my son, think about how that affects me and how that is represented in the game. It’s a beautiful journey.