Web developer Hans Oksendahl is making his first foray into video game production with "Twitterpated," a term that refers to a state of romantic infatuation.
In the game, the player controls Cupid and flings arrows at bunnies who populate the world down below.
When Cupid hits a bunny with an arrow, that bunny becomes twitterpated. If opposite gender bunnies are shot with an arrow, then a new bunny appears. However, each time two bunnies of the same gender are hit with Cupid's arrows, a rainbow appears. New bunnies start appearing in different colors as more rainbows are generated.
Players can then combine yellow and blue bunnies to make green bunnies - but as the game moves forward, more rainbows equal more points.
The goal of "Twitterpated" is to encourage conversations about same-sex relationships in a disarming way, said Oksendahl, adding that he chose bunnies for the game because "they are known for being very active as far as their reproductive strategy." The game contains no sex, and instead, the bunnies rub their noses and hearts when paired together, he said.
"I came up with some game mechanics that I thought would be kid friendly, but at the same time expose kids to the idea that there's more than one way to be," he said. "I grew up as a youth with a lot of questions myself. I think there are a lot of people that would probably benefit from having these kinds of conversations with their parents."
Also built into the game are mechanics related to Oksendahl's graduate work at The Evergreen State College, where he is pursuing a master's degree in environmental studies. The game will encourage players to keep the rabbit population in equilibrium with vegetation on a so-called "garden planet," he said.
Under the name Electrotrash Games, Oksendahl has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $4,500 for the game's development. In the meantime, an incomplete demo is available online. Oksendahl hopes to release a finished product for the Internet and mobile devices by January 2015.
Oksendahl said he plans to donate 10 percent of all proceeds to the Olympia chapter of Stonewall Youth, a non-profit organization that helps gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
Dusty LaMay, executive director of Stonewall, said entertainment like "Twitterpated" can empower LGBTQ youth and help them feel less like a minority.
"It will speak to youth about relationship identity," LaMay said. "Their choices are being validated."
Stonewall Youth serves dozens of people ages 11-21 each week at a confidential after-school location in downtown Olympia. LaMay said the organization will accept "anything and everything" when it comes to donations. In addition to volunteers, the organization welcomes donations such as healthy snacks or meals for youth events; a small video projector and pull-down screen; sporting or theater tickets for youth field trips; and LGBTQ-themed books, magazines and DVDs for Stonewall's library.