Use emoji to make your own playful worlds


Emotica is a free online level editor where you can assign movements and behaviors to emoji and then drag them anywhere you want on a screen. The result is even more delightful than you might think—the simple interface and clusters of familiar objects give your creations a distinctly-textured 1990s web feel, and it's the perfect tool to build little inside jokes and playful areas to send your friends (I made a level called "Pool Boss", a tribute to a fictional boar who makes frequent appearances in my text messages with my partner and has developed his own mythology).

Emoji and stickers on services like LINE or Facebook are part of a modern visual language whose charm and appeal is obvious when you get to play with them in contexts like these. Emotica is very easy to learn and experiment with in-browser (you don't need any pre-existing skills), and loads with several screens of rooms that are not only funny and cleverly-thought, but act as examples of the kinds of things you can implement in the game.

The game also features sounds by Liz Ryerson and co-design and programming by Leon Arnott. Anna Anthropy designed and prototyped the game, which makes sense when you look at her body of work focused on making game creation fun, accessible and nontraditional. Emotica premiered at Anthropy's recent show at New York gallery Babycastles, where she showed work that challenged participants on the topic of empathy in games—"empathy games" is a widely-used genre term that Anthropy believes acts for some as a "shortcut to allyship".

Right after returning home from the gallery premiere, Anthropy was hit by a car and broke her arm. You can support her ongoing work via Patreon, and definitely try Emotica for yourself here.