Meet the dynamic duo spearheading unconventional app industries
We scroll through social media and often don’t consider that we’re experiencing a kaleidoscope of emotions simultaneously. “You’re [online] for ten minutes and you already have forty emotions,” said Eve Thomas, a Concordia communications and journalism graduate. “You can be angry, and frightened, and jealous, and hungry all at once.”Brie Code, former Artificial Intelligence (AI) lead with Ubisoft Montreal and founder of the company TRU LUV, partnered with Thomas to release the company’s first app, #SelfCare. “For me, [the app] is to help people renegotiate their relationships with their phones,” said Thomas.
#SelfCare is a game-type of app where users maintain their avatar’s well-being by carrying out everyday tasks, such as sorting laundry, tending to your plants, and petting the avatar-kitty (which purrs in response). “In this universe, our goal is simply to feel better. There’s no winning, no failure, no score. No difficulty, no ads, no notifications. There is just us and our feelings,” reads the #SelfCare app description. The more tasks you complete, the more your avatar’s mood balances out; there are no penalties for neglecting to play the game, which is what makes the app unique. You can also be guided through breathing exercises, daily Tarot card readings, and even play a simple word jumble or plant-watering game.
Thomas and Code met about three years ago when Thomas, a magazine editor at the time, wanted to profile Code for an article. Code revealed during their interview that she had plans to quit her job to make games for people who don’t like games.
“I was growing increasingly frustrated with what the industry was making,” Code said, referring to “[shooting] and other fighting games.” She also explained that puzzle games can be boring and often leave her feeling more stressed than when she started playing them. Thus, a beautiful partnership blossomed into a transnational collaboration, with four other core members throughout Europe and Africa.
Most conventional gaming and social media apps are designed to keep users locked in for as long as possible. As users, we’re either incessantly scrolling, resisting the urge to check our phone or trying a digital detox. “We’re very feast or famine,” said Thomas. We’re not good at moderation, or respectively limiting our social media intake, she explained. Thomas added that, “if you’re on call, which a lot of jobs are now, […] you don’t have the luxury of turning off your phone.” This is a large part of why she and Code made the app the way it is. Both saw the need to renegotiate a way to open up your phone, and maybe click on a different app—one that you exit feeling calm and relaxed.
Both Code and Thomas actively use their app. “We definitely made [#SelfCare] because we needed it,” said Code. “And I’m finding that I’m not using any other of the mobile games I used to turn to when I had a twinge of anxiety.” Thomas also explained to me that, particularly during the game’s beta testing and prototype development, an understandably stressful period, she was used the app as one of her coping mechanisms.
Code and Thomas both spoke of the pushback #SelfCare received from incumbent members of the conventional gaming industry due to their unconventional app structure. “They told us that this would fail,” said Code. “We’ve also been told that […] what we made is too feminine [and] that it’s not worth making products for women because [they] are too unpredictable.” Despite these sexist comments and being largely self-funded, the app is succeeding and has received more than 500 thousand downloads in only six weeks. “The day I read the review that said ‘thank you for this app. I can tell it will change my life,’” said Code, “I knew that all the risk [we’d] taken on committing to this project was worth it.”
Feature image courtesy of the interviewees.