Overzealous dieting is a rite of passage for people of all ages and genders. You stare in the mirror and wish you didn’t have that extra flab of fat. Later turning to the realms of Internet-aided food over-management and hellish exercise routines to (hopefully) fix yourself up and return to the slenderness of your metabolism-enabled childhood. Diet balancing can either be a positive force of getting your health back on track, or, in most cases, an obsessive, terrifying one that risks becoming an eating disorder. Striking a balance between eating healthy and being happy with your body is extremely difficult, but incredibly important. Now, student game developer Jenny Jiao Hsia is creating a game about just that complicated process.
Aptly named, Consume Me is, in essence, a game about balancing your diet. Not of the fickle “eh, I probably shouldn’t eat so much junk food” variety, but more the “No gluten, no dairy, and absolutely no second helpings” breed. The kind of intense diet balancing that might attract the worry of friends, or be a negatively-enabled mutual bonding experience (the GTL lifestyle in the yesteryears of reality tv’s Jersey Shore comes to mind). In Hsia’s initial game pitch, she writes, “During the most intense part of this experience [of dieting in high school], I wrote down a bunch of very rigorous rules for myself to follow,” wrote Hsia. “By creating a simulation game out of these rules I want to explore this dissonance between knowing what you need to do in your mind—with rules clearly laid out before you–and your actual ability to follow these rules.” Hsia’s Consume Me is a game about trying to follow the impossibility of your own rules, and failing at them.
Consume Me began as a low-poly, saccharine game, but over the course of its short development has since evolved into a flat-styled world—all while retaining the original inception’s honeyed charm. The recent prototypes of Consume Me swap the original’s soft-pastel color palette for a more subtle, beige-hue. A puzzle game addition wherein the player builds their meals through Tetrominoes, and shapes them into a cube according to the meal’s given rules (such as “must have fewer than 400 calories”) has been implemented, according to its prototype videos. Consume Me’s development process is already ripe with changes, both aesthetically and in content, which adds to the excitement to see the end result of Hsia’s highly personal, vulnerable project.
Though young, Hsia’s already a prolific game developer. Her past work includes everything from low-poly bouts as a banana killer, to Sunday Session Power Yoga, a neon-tinged autobiographical game about her experience with yoga (complete with silly names for all the bends and twists, like “salted corpse pose”). Alongside development of Consume Me, Hsia is also currently working on Beglitched, a gleeful hacking game wherein you play an apprentice to the appropriately named Glitch Witch. Abstaining from the silliness of killer bananas and glitch witches though, Hsia’s Consume Me is shaping up to be the brave, personal game about a teen girl’s relationship with food and low self-esteem that we never knew we needed.