I spent a little more time thinking and exploring in a hippy dippy kinda way on how exactly should I portray “depression”.
- First some gamey bit, should it be a first person or a third person?
- How much impact does viewpoint have on immersion or empathy?
- How do I navigate?
My previous post about Simogo games made me question (or rather think about) how you can navigate through a game. Also, how you can take advantage of gestures, such as swiping or turning your phone (some guy from Apple says that there is no correct orientation (or something like that), meaning that you can rotate the phone and use it however you want (or something like that))
- I feel like there is 2 parts of me, the part that’s always happy and smiley that I show the world, and the part that’s just… like this dark cloud. How do I portray that in a game?
I remembered this weird game called “Jool” that is composed of two worlds, and you can flip your phone to move between them. Because you are actually controlling this weird bird through this platformer, and when you die, you can flip to switch to his alter ego and continue playing the the other world.
I also remember another game called “About Love, Hate and the Other Ones”, wherein you can control 2 characters, one being love and another being hate, and how they interact with “the other ones” are different. Love says “I love you” and draw the other ones towards you, while “Hate” says “I hate you” and repels them.
About Love, Hate and the Other Ones
And in my search for “Jool” (I can’t remember the name, so my search terms was “ios game heaven and hell”), and I came across this game “Pinstripe”, which literally describes itself as: “absorbing adventure game about heaven and hell with interesting story and heroes.” I haven’t played this one yet, but the trailer looks cool:
What’s interesting to me, is how hell is portrayed in the game. Oh and this game was made by just one guy (over the course of 5 years, but still really awesome).
So my project is also on HitRecord now, and I’ve been asking people how depression feels like to them. I also been searching through existing records of people talking about depression.
- How does depression feel like to you?
And people have different answers to this question. Very different answers.
One person wrote a poem: “I imagine it as monster with bad breath and sharp teeth that lives in me. That found me one day.”
Another person describes it as being locked in a glass cube, “everyone can see it, try to communicate, however, you can not understand, you see people gesticulating around them. In the background, he knows that he is surrounded by a prison of glass, easy to break, difficult to abandon.”
- How do I portray “depression”?
- Another gamey bit, so if it’s a third person, where you control a character.
Actually, according to Adrian Chmielarz, when writing about “To the Moon”, he says:
I suspect one of the reasons why I loved the game so much was that it managed to convert the usual “cognitive empathy” me into “emotional empathy” me. And it achieved that (consciously or not) by, among other things:
a) Having at least two heroes in the story, thus making it clear that it is not about a single protagonist the player might want to immediately identify with;
b) Using a caretaker theme (look at the image above and see a) and b) there);
By inducing strong emotional empathy, the game engaged me emotionally, and yet managed to get away with its extreme linearity. I was the caretaker (almost literally in that game), and through amazing writing and directing I cared more about what happened next rather than what I wanted to do next. And the interactivity part distinguished it from a movie by allowing me to feel like I am, indeed, a powerful force helping people achieve happiness.
You can either be the character or you can take care of the character.
He also wrote about different types of players:
Instead of trying to induce a certain type of empathy, you may want to create a space for most of all types of empathy to work well in your game. If you, say, divide your players into five categories…
…Tamagotchi: high emotional empathy, prefers to affect the narrative either as omnipotent invisible being acting on the desires and beliefs of the protagonist or as a blank slate protagonist acting on the desires and beliefs of fleshed out NPCs. Autonomy is less important to them as long as their actions will produce results positively affecting the protagonist or NPCs.
…Writer: high cognitive empathy, can role-play anyone but it’s easier for them if the protagonist is close to their beliefs, desires, and knowledge of the world, or if the protagonist is a blank slate/self-created one (will replace the protagonist with themselves); providing them with autonomy and agency is crucial, as they wish to execute on and experiment with the perspective taken.
…Distant Witness: low emotional and cognitive empathy, does not really care about emotional side of the narrative or its cohesiveness, but requires a broadly understood spectacle to maintain interest.
…Actor: anything goes, but requires relative agency and autonomy to not hurt the cognitive empathy and fleshed out protagonists or NPCs to not hurt the emotional empathy.
…Plasticine: most common type, fluid emotional and cognitive empathy that can be manipulated by the designer to the desired levels.
And I think about what one of Gishola from HitRecord wrote again: “Imagine being locked in a glass cube, everyone can see it, try to communicate”.
I think the game itself will be the glass cube, and you can try to direct the character.
kmarushige suggested on HitRecord:
As for your game, my gut says to have a “happiness/depression” meter as the scoreboard. As the player moves through a typical day, they are presented with choices that will either shift them towards happiness or depression. These choices could be actions, mental choices/interpretations or interactions, including being receptive to help from others.
In “Depression Quest”, it presents itself like a choose-your-own adventure type novel, and you are presented with different choices. However, some choices are disabled.
Because, I suppose that is how it feels sometimes. I mean, logically, you know what you are supposed to do or what you can do to get out, but you just can’t.
When I feel depressed, I force myself to go out, to have dinner with friends, to talk about literally anything until it gets really late. But all the while, I’m just, fighting back, keeping my emotions in check. It’s sad that I can force a smile, even though I feel so… so horrible on the inside. But that’s what you’re supposed to do
, because no one wants to hear your problems.
MaeveO from HitRecord wrote:
People like to be around happy people, don’t they?
But hey, she was happy, she was always smiling….. wasn’t she?
She did smile, yes; she said she was fine too, but no, she wasn’t, she was lying.
I’m thinking if I can portray this in the game.
I remember in the show “Girl Boss” and even when everything was going well, she could hear this song “I’ll come crashing down… down…” in her head.
- How long should the game be?
- Can it be repetitive (rather, endless)?
Stevens21 wrote on HitRecord:
As this relates to a video game, I think the uncertainty of depression can be represented as a sort of limbo. When a protagonist is on a quest/adventure, perhaps the task at hand isn’t completing the quest, but simply trying to be on it. I’m imaging a game where the character is only trying to avoid limbo. It’s not about finding the treasure at the top of the mountain. It’s about getting to the top only long enough to chase after the mountain on the other side.
It’s like this endless cycle. It’s not about “winning”, it’s more about getting by.
It reminds me of “Everyday the Same Dream”.
Everyday the Same Dream
A little art game about alienation and refusal of labour. Made in 6 days for the Experimental Gameplay Project.
But then in the game, you can change the outcome by interacting with different objects in the game.
All these give me a lot to think about. I’ll keep thinking about it.