Thesis: Process – 16

Since the beginning of the semester, the progress on Faded Memories has been touch and go. It has also developed conceptually and visually since then as well. While I had anticipated that things would change, it was never known to me how they would. As I’ve found out with this project, as well as with others, change happens and it’s only by creating that you find out what needs to change.

At the beginning of the semester, I realize now, that the scope of Faded Memories was too large. It is still too large to finish by the end of the year, however, with certain changes I should be able to complete at least two of the levels (I’ve come to call them memories instead of levels, episodes or similar). From my initial plans, I’ve come to strip down some requirements I’ve laid out for myself. The main change is the need for textures on certain objects. By applying rendering filters with a simple white texture, the nursing home appears more from a dream or a memory being recalled than it would have been had I applied textures to everything. My memories of the nursing home revolve around my grandfather while the rest of the space becomes unimportant to my recollection. The colour of the wallpaper or the pattern on the floor are less important than seeing my grandfather and witnessing the effects of Alzheimer’s.

A major question that has concerned me throughout the process is how to ‘quantify’ whether my research is successful or not. While I can not quantifiably answer the question of whether my thesis helps heal trauma in the player or myself, I can qualify the answer through writing down my experience and asking others about their reaction to playing. As such, I’ve taken to keeping a journal of my experience while I’m creating. Writing down my reactions and keeping a record of how I feel throughout the process. This project is a difficult experience for me, currently more from talking and opening up about it, than from the creation of it, but the further I delve into it the harder it will become.

Linking my project to my research has been a challenge for me. When I’m creating something I don’t really think about the process or how I’m being influenced whether through similar projects or by literature I’m reading. Nonetheless, I’ve identified two to three aspects of my research that influence my design practice. Empathy games and critical game design are two such influences. Empathy games are those that tell a personal story, often from the game designer’s life (Albert). Critical game design urges those who do not design games to design them because this allows players to experience more viewpoints and open up dialogues about issues that are not being discussed (Anthropy, Flanagan). The link between the two seems readily apparent to myself, but the they are not pre-existing. Faded Memories is not a serious game, which is to say a game that tries to change perceptions or help a marginalized group, it is a personal game. Critical game design works along with empathy games because they both want people to express themselves through the medium of games. They want those designers to help others understand their experiences and perhaps help them along the way. This is why the final influence of my research, art therapy, is interesting but problematic. Art therapy is a method by which those with traumatic experiences or who need help use art as a means for recovery (Johnson & Sullivan-Marx). Faded Memories is not a game by which the player can play and the goal is recovery. The game is to be played and experienced, but if a player feels any sense of peace or identification with the stories within the game, those are all secondary. It would be nice if my game could help people, but I do not feel that this is the main goal of it. In this way, art therapy becomes two-sided to myself. While the game is not designed specifically for the recovery of others, the process of creating it might help me with the memories I have. Take Maus by Art Spiegelman or That Dragon, Cancer by Numinous Games (specifically Ryan Green), they are designed with the heart and soul of the artist, to tell a specific story, but were they designed to help other recovery? I feel it’s closer to the truth to say that they were designed for the benefit of recovery for their creator, to come to terms with traumas in their lives and make sense of it all.

Currently, I am not on track. I don’t feel I’ve ever been on track for this project since starting it, personally. However, I don’t feel this is a bad thing. It’s helping me to see what is absolutely necessary and what is more of a want. (Perhaps I should start keeping track of a need/want/would-be-nice list). In any case, my plan for now is to focus on the interaction elements in the design. By focusing this way, I should have a ‘playable’ demo by the end of the semester. After that, I will work on polishing elements (ie. work more on the nursing home, grandfather model, smoothness of play, etc.)

I’ve included a link to my updated gantt chart, which I’ve started using a new program to track with called Wrike.

Updated Gantt Chart