PhD Student | Game Designer / QA

Honours Blog

Depicting Symptoms through Gameplay & Environment.

The whole point of Forget-Me-Not is to create in a sense; an Alzheimer's simulator. Although this may set alarm bells ringing in your head, understand that the point in Forget-Me-Not is not just to tell a story, but to project the player into the mind of someone suffering from the illness. I intend to try to put the player in the shoes of someone suffering from Alzheimer's disease; thus making the player forget things, feel uncomfortable, and provoke emotions is the main goal.

One of the key struggles of creating a game using a medical condition as a basis is that there may be some ethical concerns. People who have had loved ones suffer from the illness, or are currently caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's may potentially see controversy in my concept if not handled correctly. Although Alzheimer's disease is a progressive one with no cure as of yet, I intend to portray the decline of mental state in a tasteful way (Ending on a slightly more positive or heartwarming note).

Examples of interesting ways I could implement symptoms as mechanics:

  • Make the player move an object somewhere, when the turn around the object will have moved to a 'random' location elsewhere - It is common for dementia sufferers to misplace items or put them where they wouldn't normally be.
  • A 'Match 2' style mini game where the player is tricked into thinking that they have completed it, but the pair can never me matched - Matching odd socks, slippers: the player may have come across one, realise they have to pair them later in the game, only for the texture have changed so they can never make a pair. (This would make the player feel they have forgotten and potentially make them frustrated)
  • Objects could have 'stories' attached to them so that when the player interacts the story can be narrated. If the player interacts with the same objects later on, they may hear a different story, or the character forgetting its use/connection with it.
  • A phone located in the room could ring, at the first 'stage' the player can hear a relative speaking to them on the other end. As the game progresses, the voices may become more muffled/ contorted. This depicts the problems understanding and also could be symbolic of forgetting the voice of the loved one.

Examples of interesting ways I could implement symptoms as environment detail:

  • Deterioration of condition can be portrayed through multiple 'days' and versions of the same environment with differences. As the game progresses, the less warm and homely it will appear. This can be handled through making the player go back to sleep, passing out, or memory 'flashes' etc.
  • To assist people suffering from dementia, sometimes families like to label objects around the house. In the further progressed areas, sticky notes on important items in the room can be added (with helpful notes).
  • The final environment could potentially be a care home that the character wakes up in. This environment will contrast from the ever-darkening start environment of the characters living room by being warm, homely, and welcoming. By contrasting the unwelcoming and the homely environment of the care home it can depict that the constant attention and care they receive makes a big difference on the sufferer.

The Memoirs:

My character will be in the process of typing up their memoirs during the game, as it progresses the player will be able to read a different page of the memoirs. The character understands their condition and is trying to pass down information about his life to his family before his memory deteriorates. Reading the excerpts will be as new an experience to the character as it is for the player. Nearer the start the memoirs will make sense and help build narrative, the further it progresses, they will make less sense and be less relevant as the character starts to forget the original purpose for writing them.