Chimeria: Gatekeeper

A playable interactive conversational scenario on social category membership.

A screenshot taken from the Chimeria: Gatekeeper game. In the scenario, the player must make a sequence of choices in a conversation with a gatekeeper who belongs to a different fictional identity group than they do.

The screenshot on the left shows example choices within the game range from asserting one's identity openly to attempting to "pass" as a member of the gatekeeper's identity group. The screenshot on the right shows an example of an inner reflection of the player, which may appear following choices they make or a responses they receive from the gatekeeper.

The screenshot on the left shows an example of a gatekeeper response to a choice made by the user. The screenshot on the right shows one example of many possible final game outcomes. This example outcome resulted from the player being open about their identity to the gatekeeper, and not ending up making it past the gate, but expressing pride in staying true to themself.

Project Overview


Chimeria: Gatekeeper is a playable interactive conversational scenario, authored using the Chimeria Platform It uses a cognitive science-grounded model of social category membership to customize how conversational narratives unfold. Conversations between characters are important aspects of many videogames. However, most such conversational interactions in videogames are quite limited in how they take into account the identities of those characters. Conversation in videogames typically varies, if at all, based only on one aspect of the character such as an NPC referring to the character by race, class, or a gendered pronoun.

The Gatekeeper narrative models an extremely common RPG scenario: a player trying to get past an NPC guard in order to gain access to the inside of a castle keep. However, within this application, the Chimeria Engine is used to enhance this scenario by modeling more complex, adaptive, and nuanced conversations between the player character (PC) and the non-playable characters (NPCs).

My Role and Contributions

I worked in a team of 6 through an undergraduate class instructed by Professor D. Fox Harrell, Ph.D. to develop the gameplay narrative and story line and worked on authoring the initial prototype of the web app layout in HTML and CSS to meet the visual scheme and requirements created by our designer. I contributed as an additional author to a publication that illustrates how Chimeria: Gatekeeper allows the construction of conversational narratives that convey social identity phenomena such as stigma and discrimination. This publication, entitled Authoring Conversational Narratives in Games with the Chimeria Platform, was designated as an exemplary paper in proceedings of the 9th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games in 2014.

This project presents a robust and nuanced computational model for the everyday forms of conversational narrative that are crucial to players’ experiences in many computer games. The results we got from initial user testing indicated that almost all users were able to relate their gameplay to the themes of membership, naturalization, and marginalization. Chimeria:Gatekeeper helped to demonstrate how computationally modeling issues such as naturalization, marginalization, and passing can contribute to scientific approaches to issues of social empowerment and diversity.

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