how we met
We were friends of friends for about a year, but we only really go to know each other after she sat across from me when some friends and I went out to get dinner for my birthday. She was all I could think about for the next few days, and when I saw her at Bockfest (a local Cincinnati festival celebrating spring, goats, and dark beers), I gave her my number and quipped that she should ask me on a date. Two days later, she sent me a text saying that she wanted to get pizza at A Tavola, a new restaurant that had just opened up downtown.
I knew she was something special halfway into our first date, when she turned a comment I made about Tito’s Vodka into a long discussion about Balkan history. Lauren is one of those people who is so smart, it’s spooky, and I found that immensely attractive. I tried (and failed!) to play it cool at first, maybe only texting her once a day. It only took 3 weeks before we were seeing each other every day, and a year into dating, she moved into an apartment only a few blocks from me. There never was an exact moment where I realized she was the one, there was only a gradual process where she eventually became as essential to living as breathing.
how they asked
My grandfather, Rodolfo Chapa, had proposed to my grandmother, Lydia Chapa, by having a group of mariachis sing the song “Nosotros” to her. I bought the ring back in February, but I had been frustrated because I couldn’t find any mariachis in Cincinnati. I set a deadline of May 16th for myself, we were leaving for vacation that day, and I had spent a few weeks trying to get bands to come down from Indianapolis or Chicago. After not getting any hits, I began working in April on building a game for her.
Each one of the levels was a memorable moment from our relationship. The first level is loosely based on Bockfest, the second level is based on our first date, the third level is the first time she met my family at a festival at Three Floyd’s in Indiana, the fourth level is the first time we traveled together, etc.
The music is also important. I used music from games we’ve played together or tried to make little jokes with the music. For example, the Portland level has “Feel It All Around” by Washed Out as the theme music, because that’s the theme from Portlandia. But when Lauren’s character begins to run out of oxygen, the music changes to the drowning music from Sonic the Hedgehog. The second to last level features an 8-bit version of a song from My Neighbor Totoro, which was Lauren’s favorite movie when she was a child. The final level has the mariachis, even if they are just pixels!
On the day of my deadline, as she was packing up, I was finishing the last lines of code on the game. I set up the computer in our living room and started filming. She thought I was working on an indie game, so I told her that I was filming her as “market research”, I wanted to get her reactions as she played to see what was fun and what wasn’t.
She told me that she had no idea what was coming, her look of surprise at the end is entirely genuine.