Lecturer in Game Design | PhD Student

Honours Blog

Posts tagged Serious Game
Making a Meaningful Game

I started the project with one main fear about creating Forget-Me-Not: How to portray a deterioration of memory in a way that the player can relate, sympathise and draw an emotive experience from. I have always found games with little to no narration very interesting in their ability to create an emotive, meaningful experience. Games like Limbo by Playdead  manage to create a narrative and emotive connection for the player without any written or spoken text, I wanted to research further into how this is achieved.

To explore how games can achieve this I watched 2 videos by Extra Credits on using mechanics as metaphors in games. These two videos discussed how to get a player to ponder the meaning of a game after it has been played. The Extra Credits video mainly uses an experimental minimalist game titled Loneliness as its point of reference [Link Below]. An important point that was made in the videos was how every player can get a unique experience from an interactive game. By creating a world with set constraints, but allowing enough freedom to explore their own path, a story can be unfolded in a unique way. This open exploration will allow the player to use their imagination to craft a unique story or experience depending on the player's personality and thoughts. This trust in the audience to use their imagination to create and sew together a story is a large point, but the most emotional and engaging experiences are ones which allow the player to understand themselves better.

Loneliness: http://www.necessarygames.com/my-games/loneliness/flash

Another key issue to creating a meaningful game is the requirement to count on the player to want to analyse and immerse themselves in the game world and story. If a player doesn't wish to analyse the objects in the room, then a large chunk of the 'meaning' of the game will be lost (especially if your game is created to trigger self reflection). This lack of investment and loss of meaning will lead to an emotionless experience for the player and lead to the player refusing to play further. Most 'Art Games' require a certain level of openness from the player to analyse and absorb the messages portrayed. Games such as Gone Home get slated by some gamers as not actually deserving the title of being a 'game'. The people who push creating game experiences can be given the title "Game Abstractionalists". These people wish to push the boundaries of what constitutes a game - like in the progression of art - but just like with art, not all forms will be accepted or enjoyed by everyone.

From this information, I can come to an understanding that the emotive gameplay experience that I hope to create by the end of the second semester will come under criticism and not be enjoyed  or appreciated by certain people. Another point of further development will be researching further into how to create meaningful mechanics in a 3D game that can depict the progression Alzheimer's. The biggest problem for project Forget-Me-Not is trying to design and create this experience in a student project with very limited time and only one person (myself).

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.