In the talk, Jenny discussed how cuteness is a radical, underappreciated and underestimated tool for telling stories and engaging with your players. You may have heard of "kawaii", the Japanese term for cuteness, but perhaps not its invention as a cute way of writing started by Japanese schoolgirls in the 1970s and '80s. Though the writing was banned in schools for being illegible, it started taking over adverts, commercial products and, eventually, the internet. Despite its origin as something subversive, a way for kids to put their own identity on language, it is now intensely popular.Games, Jenny said, work in a similar way. Cuteness is unthreatening, it's welcoming, it's a method of expression that comes from parts of the community that are bored with Generic Beardy Gun Boy and his band of beige man-friends. It connects us by inviting us in, and though it's been undermined by the sexist assumption that anything vaguely feminine is automatically "lesser", this means that cuteness can challenge those assumptions by being far more powerful than anyone expects.
This talk on cuteness in games is amazing and perfect and totally my aesthetic ✨ pic.twitter.com/RhHyhWhMXn
— Kate bep bep (@hownottodraw) February 28, 2017
Over at Day of the Devs, showcasing a curated selection of the best of the best of upcoming indie games, cuteness as a uniting theme ran through everything like a caramel ribbon through a tub of Ben & Jerry's.There was Mineko's Night Market, a sweet, good, pure game about cats and food, made by a team of cuties that spent a lot of time at GDC handing out adorable stickers and hand-felted fanart to other developers (side note: it's incredibly cute to see very, very talented creators being fans of other very, very talented creators' work). Mineko's Night Market is a game that isn't afraid to revel in its own sweetness, with its stumpy little kittens, its crayon-like style and its soft, pastel palette. The personalities of the two-person team behind the game shine through in every bit of dialogue and silly visual joke, and it's such a wonder to see people being unashamed of loving cute things.
Cuteness represents so many things that have been undermined and undervalued for so long: femininity, childishness, being ourselves.