May 8, 2020

Stack ‘Em Up for a Co-op Game of Hilarious Fun!

Ever saw a cartoon or tv show where one kid gets on another’s shoulder, throws on a trench coat and pretends to be a legit adult? Whatever their intention in doing it, hilarity usually ensues.

ShortStacked takes that scenario into gaming, comedy and all. Director and Lead Artist Christine Xu talks about the team’s inspiration and process.

How do you describe your game and the gameplay?

ShortStacked is a casual couch co-op game where players play as two kids who stack up in a trench coat and carry out various shenanigans as they pretend to be an adult. It’s cute, whimsical, and a little bit chaotic. The game encourages the players to actively work with each other to reach their objectives and build a comic-worthy story along the way.

What was the inspiration for the game and how it’s played?

The game’s concept is inspired by the popular “totem-pole trench” trope – I’ve always found it both endearing and amusing, and I wondered what it’d be like from the kids’ perspectives. The game is in first-person, and by giving players individual roles as they share the overall responsibility of keeping together a convincing adult-figure, it tries to mimic the collaborative experience I’d imagine it to be.

The goal has always been to foster laughter and a healthy amount of frustration – I hope the game nurtures an appreciation for playful pretend whilst offering a first-person perspective on the challenges of the mischievous and playful childhood trope.

What platform is the game made for and why did you choose it?

The game is made in Unreal Engine for PC and played with XBox controllers. Frankly, I chose this direction because I knew that several of the engineers on my team had previously mentioned that they wanted to familiarize themselves with the engine, and I figured that giving them a way to work on a fun year-long project was a solid way of providing additional motivation and structure towards doing so. The use of controllers is a personal preference – I appreciate the whole “sit back on your couch and play with a friend” vibe it allows for.

What are your favorite story(ie)s of success and challenge during development?

Honestly, the whole overall development process from start to finish has been a challenge and success – the fact that we began with only a vision and little to no experience in Unreal to coming to where we are now with a cohesive, enjoyable game has been amazing, and I’m proud to say that, as a team, we’ve grown so much in ways of learning to implement our thoughts and communicating effectively with each other. For me, the biggest success has been the curation of a dynamic and supportive team culture. I’m happy to have this group of friends.

Are there any plans for distribution to wider audiences?

We’ll likely be releasing our work online (on soon so that anyone can download and play for free!

Where can we find more information about the game, and if applicable, play it? (website, social media etc.)

Our site is, and we’ll be leaving updates on our Facebook/Instagram pages (@shortstackedgame).

Christine Xu ’20 is graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science (Games).

Play ShortStacked as part of the USC Games Expo, Presented by Jam City on Tuesday May 12, 2020 at Register at