An interview with the creators of Pigeon POOlitics
Pigeon POOlitics is a new mobile game which fits into the the 2020 atmosphere perfectly. This pixel art game, while being political, doesn’t take sides – though it will ask you to pick one. Playing as a pigeon pooping on people to change other people’s minds is surprisingly therapeutic in our time of political upheaval.
This free-to-play game (with in-app purchases available) was created by Sassan Yousefi and Hossein Shahbazi with the hope of making politics a little more lighthearted. We were given the wonderful opportunity to ask them some questions about Pigeon POOlitics as well as their work as game developers in general. Here’s what they had to say.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new mobile game Pigeon POOlitics?
The game play starts with Biden and Trump having a debate. You choose your party by pooping on the opposing candidate. Then the player has 90 seconds to poop on people and change their people’s political party. At the end of each level there is a boss who is a famous U.S. politician.
When the players poop around the country, we count their poop and show that in a map. We are trying to predict the election by this map.
What inspired you to make Pigeon POOlitics?
The main goal of this game is to get the youth involved in politics by creating a fun experience that informs them about politics and breaks the initial barrier. The youth usually avoid politics because it is often stressful and needs confrontation. We want to change that. Everyone should be able to express their ideas freely and without anxiety and stress.
We have a news banner that gives the highlight of news in the menus. Knowing about political issues, politicians, and knowing that it is okay to criticize them is important.
We have both been born and raised in a country without freedom of speech. We could not make fun or criticize a lot of politicians. This made a lot of these politicians go above the law like a holy person and get away with it.
In the U.S., we dont believe that either of the parties or any of the politicians are completely right or wrong. Unfortunately recently some politicians have started this trend of being always right and never apologizing. We believe by making fun of them [we] can stop them from becoming a holy person.
How long did it take you to create Pigeon POOlitics? What was one of the hardest things about it?
We have worked on the project full time for around a year.
As a small company which has only ninety days from the product launch to the project end – which is election – the hardest part of the project is about user acquisition. If you want to scale your user fast, you need a lot of money for advertisement or a lot of connections in the media to get coverage. I think most of the small indie game companies don’t have the means and that makes the market hard for us.
Why did you feel it was important to make Pigeon POOlitics?
I think there were several reason behind that:
First of all, as we mentioned in the first question, we think this kind of funny content about politicians makes freedom of speech and democracy more ingrained in the players.
Secondly, we have played most of the political games in the market, and they are not really about the politicians’ characters. Usually they re-skin a casual game to have politicians in them. In Pigeon POOlitics, any politicians’ dialogue or animations are based on his/her real life.
Third, we believe using a new media like games can be a good way for educating the young generation who are not interested in news and politics. We believe these young people should be more involved in politics, as politicians could affect their future life a lot.
Finally, we are in the hard time of Corona pandemic. People are staying at home and a lot of them are bored. Pigeon POOlitics can make these bored people laugh for some minutes and help them pass these hard days.
How did you get into game development?
Sassan: I am always interested in creative products. When I was in the middle of [my] MBA program, I read an article about the game industry and I got really interested in being in this industry.
Hossein: I have been a gamer since my childhood and becoming a game developer was a dream of mine. Once I got stable enough, I quit my day job and started making video games.
Can you tell us a little bit about your history as game developers?
Sassan has made 2 mobile games previously in other countries’ game markets. Both of them were casual mobile games.
Hossein has made small mobile/web games. Some for Iran’s market and some on itch.io.
Who or what would you say your current game making influences are?
We think this game can influence the younger generation to pay more attention to politics.
Can you describe the process of making Pigeon POOlitics a little bit for those who may not be familiar with game development?
We had a rough idea about pigeons pooping on politicians. It is a long journey from an idea to a finished game.
We started by designing all screens and menus, writing character descriptions for our game characters, bosses, and the levels. We came up with a rough plan and timeline.
After all of those were ready, we sent them to our graphic designers. They would create characters and animation frames for us, which we would send to our animator after.
For voices, we needed to finalize the dialogue for each character and find a voice actor or actress to record that. Then we would use those to the game.
From our side, we did the development in Unity game engine and kept incorporating the new graphics, sounds, and music into the game.
When a new version of the game becomes ready, it is the time for game balance and making the game dynamic better, which needs a lot of testing. We worked with independent testers and our friends.
After that, you go to market, upload your game and start marketing and user acquisition.
Is there anything you want people to know about Pigeon POOlitics before playing it?
There are a lot of funny details in the characters and levels. The dialogs are funny which may not get noticed when focusing on the gameplay and pooping.
Your game takes on United States politics without choosing a side, how did you create that balance? Was it difficult?
That was part of our core concept. We think each side of the election has done some good and some bad things. And people should be okay with that instead of painting one party black and the other white.
If either candidate becomes the next president they will make good and bad decisions. We decided to be nonpartisan to make it possible for the people to choose and pass this view down to them as well.
Can you walk us through your creative process?
Let me give you an example. Imagine we need a character who lives in Los Angeles and just defends him/herself after you poop on them. We searched a little about LA stereotypes and we decided this character can be a model girl who is walking around with shorts and a bra. After that we searched on the internet to find a picture of some girl who looks like what we want!
The next step is, what should be her reaction after poop hit her? We think this girl would probably be interested in social media and growing her Instagram page, so maybe she can take out her phone and take a selfie of herself after poop hits her. Then we think about what kind of dialogue she should say. And that is how one of our characters was just designed!
Game making is a creative endeavor, what do you do when you’re looking for inspiration?
Looking at other video games or even movies, YouTube videos, and stories helps. For design of characters looking at people in the real world and interacting with them helps.
What part of game development do you geek out about the most?
Sassan: I love character design. It is the part of the whole process as your imagination can work completely free.
Hossein: I get lost in perfecting the mechanics and making the gameplay smooth and exciting.
What is one of the video games that inspired you to get into video game making?
There are a lot of games that inspired me, but if I want to say one of them I choose Royal Clash.
You’re very hands on with your projects, how hard is it wearing all the hats?
Very! Each person has some strength points and weaknesses. It [can] be frustrating to spend so much time and get really bad results. How to manage your time, energy, and money to get a good overall game in the end requires a delicate and thoughtful balance.
What’s your mission statement when making video games? What do you want people to experience when playing your games?
We like people to laugh and get educated about politics at the same time. In addition we want them to be more cool about making fun of the politicians and politics.
Are you able to tell us about any upcoming project(s) you have? What are they?
We are thinking about new games, but we think we need a break after Pigeon POOlitics before starting the next game!
Do you have any advice for people who may be considering a career in game development?
Game development is more fun than you can imagine, but at the same time more competitive than you can imagine! If you want to work as an indie game developer, you should be aware the chance of project success is very low, and if you want to work for some company, you should know that the payment in this field is less than a lot of other tech industries.
What kind of music is your favorite background music while you’re working?
Sassan: I prefer jazz music.
And finally, an easy one, cats or dogs?