Nominee Threshold Award Social Practices
Meet Kela van der Deijl! Kela was nominated for the 2021 Threshold Award Social Practices with her graduation project ‘Mail Time’. In this interview, Kela tells us about her work and future plans.
Can you tell us a bit about your graduation project and how it came about?
The idea for Mail Time came about during my minor in game development, which is offered by Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. I really enjoy designing games, and before starting my graduation project I had already filled a notebook with ideas that I could choose from. In that period, I was experiencing quite a bit of stress due to my performance anxiety.
I chose to make something purely for my own enjoyment rather than any pursuit of artistic merit or societal impact. I wanted to manage my own performance anxiety as best I could and Mail Time was my most whimsical, fun idea at the time. Mail Time is a cottagecore adventure game about delivering mail to forest animals. It’s decidedly whimsical and fun without feeling the burden of large and serious, social issues.
Over time, it became clear to me that Mail Time is a reflection of my own feelings around failure and the fear of it. I pivoted the narrative to explore that further and talk about failure in a safe and gentle manner.
Which themes or societal concerns are you addressing in your work, and how?
The game is about trying your best and especially about dealing with failure. We all fail sometimes, which is inevitable since nobody can succeed all of the time. For every winner, there needs to be a loser. And in society, we have established the norm that good people should always succeed, but that is just impossible. So I wanted to design a game that addresses this struggle and allows players to explore their fear of failing. Is it really as bad as they initially believed?
The goal of most games is to win in some way. You have to beat an opponent or perform well enough to pass on to the next level. But what if failing would be part of the game? In Mail Time, players need to fail, that is the whole point. So the game creates a safe space in which people can face failure in a gentle and kind manner. It helps people explore their anxiety and make failing into a positive experience.
What will you be working on in the near future? What are your next steps?
Mail Time has recently signed with the game publisher Freedom Games. This has granted me funding and help from them to continue developing the game and make it exactly what I want it to be! I am very active on social media by posting about the game on TikTok, my community Discord and streaming it’s development on Twitch. The Mail Time community helps me make decisions and shape the game as I go along, their support is invaluable. After Mail Time is done, which seems weirdly far away, I will be making more wholesome games for an audience of gentle gamers that deserve to have games made for them.
To read more about Kela’s work, pay a visit to her Graduation Catalogue Page. Furthermore, her journey can be followed on Discord, TikTok, Twitter and Twitch. The winners of the Threshold Award Social Practices will be announced during a festive ceremony as part of the Graduation Show. Keep an eye on our Graduation Show page for more information.