Meaningful Play 2022 at Michigan State University

Game Information

TitleLittle Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends
Presenter(s)Team Nemo (Chris Totten, Ben Cole, and Adrian Sandoval et. al)
SessionConference Reception, Game Exhibition, and Poster Session
TimeWednesday, October 12, 7:00p-9:30p
LocationMSU Union Ballroom
FormatGame Exhibition
DescriptionLittle Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends is a commercial-style video game produced with the goal of critically interpreting the work of animation pioneer Winsor McCay (1869-1934) through animation and gameplay that influence one another to create a meaningful whole. The game's production follows the established art practice of recreating and remixing public domain works as a means of critical interpretation. Nightmare Fiends integrates hand-drawn keyframed animation based on techniques used by McCay, and explores his work, and Little Nemo in particular, in three critical areas:

  1. McCay's intertextuality with his influences and contemporaries (much of the art in the game mimics the style of Winsor McCay's original art)
  2. Connections between McCay's foundational work and later works inspired by it (the art in the game also incorporates techniques and influences from artists working after McCay)
  3. Challenging problematic attitudes in the original work by intentionally subverting them through the work of artists from underrepresented groups (the art team includes diverse creators who creating a version of McCay's world more diverse than the original)

Games in the artgames or "serious games" spheres have attempted this before, but Nightmare Fiends is one of the first to explicitly do so in a commercial-style game where the art direction is treated as the critical tool and game mechanics are adopted that are made to be accessible to a wide audience. Through this exploration, it is hoped that frameworks for using art production and animation may be adopted in addition to dominant ones focused on game mechanics.

The consumer-facing summary is as follows:
Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends is a non-linear platform jumping game with hand-drawn animation, based on the original 1905 Little Nemo comics by Winsor McCay. Players take on the role of Nemo, a 7 year-old boy who explores the magical world of Slumberland when he goes to sleep. Slumberland has been invaded by the evil Nightmare Fiends, and the royal family has summoned Nemo back after a long absence to prevent nightmares from ruling dreams forever! Luckily, Nemo can call upon his friends - the Princess of Slumberland, Flip the mischievous clown, and Peony the Royal Guard - to help him reach new areas with their distinct powers. Swapping between characters can occur at any time, allowing players to create powerful platforming combos!

State of the project:
Information on the project can be found at

The game is currently (at the time of this submission) in a pre-alpha state, mainly consisting of the playable characters' primary movement and a large obstacle course level for players to explore. Features will be continuously added to the demo as they are developed with a full alpha (all the in-game features finished) targeted for Fall 2022.

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