Lecturer in Game Design | PhD Student

Honours Blog

Posts tagged Honours Project
20/08/15 Press & Reception

I have decided to remove the previous blog posts showing each website that has featured my honours project in favour of a condensed press post. Thanks to Chris Wilson's press release of my project there has been a large amount of interest in my work. This interest has come from people in the games industry, carers, doctors, the public etc. It has been an incredible experience responding to positive emails and receiving constructive feedback on ways to improve Forget-Me-Knot to have a greater impact.

As of today the collective total of YouTube views on my development videos has reached over 75,500! Thank you for taking interest in the Forget-Me-Knot project and more importantly, Alzheimer's disease. I hope that with further development and potentially a release at some point in the future that my goal of raising awareness and understanding of Alzheimer's disease will reach an even larger audience.

Recently I took the Forget-Me-Knot prototype to London for the Creative Skillset Showcase where both students and industry professionals showed positive interest in the project and its message. Forget-Me-Knot has also been entered into the Clio Art Awards: Games: Student Audio/Visual category and nominated for an award at the University of Stirling International Dementia Awards 2015 in the Dementia & the Arts category.

Photo of Abertay at the Creative Skillset Showcase (Thanks to @JessHider)

Photo of Abertay at the Creative Skillset Showcase (Thanks to @JessHider)

Press Articles: (To open a news article please click the title)

Note: This is a condensed list of media coverage on the project.

Linking Dissertation with Honours Project

Originally I intended this honours blog to only reflect the physical work required for the creation of Forget-Me-Not, but I have now decided to include some details from my dissertation research in as I feel they will be relevant to explaining some techniques I will use when developing my game.

My dissertation will be about creating more complex emotion in games such as empathy whilst at the same time exploring the more primal emotions like fear, aggression, happiness, sadness. Triggering the more primal emotions is regarded as a simpler matter, as these instinctual emotions come from relatable experiences.

Take for instance Ikea's 2002 advert by Spike Jonze: The small film depicts a lamp being replaced by a new one, due to clever visual portrayal of the lamp, it triggers a feeling of empathy for the lamp.

The reason the viewer connects with the lamp due to the relatable emotions that come with loneliness and abandonment. The aspect of this commercial I found most interesting is how it projects the viewer's feelings for an inanimate object and challenges why humans become emotionally attached to material objects. It can be argued that it is human nature to anthropomorphise objects due to an overly developed sense of empathy. Especially with objects that we interact with on a frequent basis: If you have a locket that was given to you from a loved one, you wear it every day. An emotional bond forms between yourself and the locket. When you lose the locket, you lose part of your identity, thus engaging an emotional response.

As well as playing on our natural instinct to anthropomorphise objects, the use of clever camera work and slight movement of the lamp between shots fools the mind into believing the object is sentient. The camera angles depict what the lamp 'sees' thus making the viewer relate more to the object and trigger primitive emotions of sadness.

To relate this to Forget-Me-Not, I want to find out how to trigger these emotional connections with objects so that the player will feel how the character should feel about an object they hold dear to them. I especially want to play on the sense of loss, but less depicting the loss of the object, but the loss of the connection between the character/player and the object.

Rough Game Concept

Forget Me Not is a first person exploration game where the player will be immersed into the world of someone suffering from dementia. The main character is an elderly sufferer who has become ‘chair bound’ and spends most of his time in the living room of his house sitting beside the fireplace. The player’s experience will be an abstract visualisation of what sufferers of dementia are going through. The gameplay of Forget Me Not will be a similar experience to games like Gone Home, Dear Esther, 9.03m and implement interesting symbolic mechanics similar to Anti Chamber.

The game will start with a cinematic of the player sitting in the chair beside the fireplace. The camera will stand up and turn around to allow the player view their actual character lying slumped in the chair. This is the first of the surreal experiences in the game. The character slumped in the chair will either be a dark ghostly silhouette or a wooden man. The wooden man would allow the player to read further into the narrative through this visual cue as the character will be depicted as a tree-person who has grown roots that have twisted around and become part of the chair. This symbolises how the man has spent what feels like an eternity unable to move from his chair.

Instead of the player taking control of the actual character, they will be in control of his consciousness.  The main room of the game will be the character’s living room. Due to the surreal concept of the game, the living room will be an abstract representation of inside the character’s head.  The room will be a huge cavernous expanse with part of the living room hanging precariously on the edge of a cliff, above the abyss will be a large brain partially shrouded in shadow (to represent that the character only can ‘see’ into a small portion of his brain, the rest is forgotten). Around the walls of this cavern are paintings and pictures of people, places, and dates all with bit scrubbed out – faces painted over in white, sign posts in photographs of places scribbled over etc. Again these visual cues are implemented to symbolise the dementia taking over his life, as what were once pictures that brought back memories, they are now almost meaningless.

The player will explore the abstract living room scene until they find the door key and one of the pages from the characters memoirs. This area at the start of the game symbolises how the character is trapped inside his mind and his memoirs are his key to ‘remembering’, thus progressing. When the door is unlocked the player will walk from the surreal living room scene into a normal house. Doors will be unlocked by finding hidden pages of the character’s memoirs while the main paintings in the living room will be unlocked (remembered) by finding photographs with the person/place name written on them. The player will input the name through a textual input system to complete the images.

The main image the player will have to try to discover will be the image of his wife located at the end of the corridor. The player will have the ability to walk up to the picture until they find the last memoir with a photograph pinned to it. As the player returns to the corridor to try input the name into the picture they will encounter an endless corridor where they will not be able to reach the picture. Either the corridor will be elongated and will fade to black the closer the player gets to the picture, or the corridor will be endless and only when the player realises it is futile they will turn around and be engulfed by darkness. (Another potential ending depending on time could have a flash clip of the names appearing from the darkness and breaking back up into letters and becoming jumbled and lost along with the pictures.)

This symbolic ending will portray the struggle of dementia sufferers, who may have the memories locked deep inside their mind but the pain of not being able to remember even the people who once were held dearest to them.