Thesis: Process – 19

There are two questions that have been raised regarding my thesis and the design process that I will attempt to answer here.

Realism vs. Fictionalization

This dualism (if it can really be seen as one) comes up in two ways in Faded Memories. One in regards to the Grandfather figure, the other in the level layout and interactions.

Grandfather

The grandfather started out as a placeholder model that was very realistic in its depiction, despite it being untextured. However, I redid the model to be more cartoonish and less realistic for two reasons: one, it is more to my style and is easier to produce quickly (which will help with future models), and two, it allows the player to project more onto the in-game avatar.

Using Scott McCloud’s ideas of abstraction from Understanding Comics¬†(pg. 46), the more abstract a character, the easier it is to project your own understanding, beliefs, etc. onto the character. While the stories and feeling within Faded Memories are my own, the universality of these experiences – dealing with a loved one who has memory problems, for example – lends more to allowing the player to project their own needs and memories onto the characters within the game. When I look at the model, I can see bits and pieces of each of my grandfathers in the model, the player should be able to do the same to a certain extent as there are no specific identifying features that could break this illusion of generality.

Levels

Currently, I am in the process of recreating the first memory in accordance to a letter one of my grandfathers wrote about his childhood friend. The original level could have been used however I changed it for one specific reason: It makes me feel closer to my grandfather. Recreating a memory from his writing makes me feel as though I am living his memory and not a imagined scenario or conception of what I think it would’ve been like. The risk in doing this is that it does create a specific memory and one that might not be relatable, but in the same way, it is a memory of childhood and despite it being my grandfather’s memory, it should still allow players to enjoy and connect with their own experiences in their own way.

The need I feel for staying true to the source material shows itself in the main area of the nursing home. This home is one I’ve physically been to, many times, where I visited one of my grandfathers. I was allowed to have basic floor plans of the home and take pictures (without any residents in them, of course). From these I am recreating the nursing home because it has so much emotion and memory built into it. I find myself walking the hallways reliving visiting my grandfather, and it is hard to, knowing that he’s not there anymore. Perhaps this is the only way I’ll ever see them again.

Memory as a Gameplay Element

The question is related to whether the game needs to be about Alzheimer’s or whether it is more about memory and memory loss. The simple answer to that is I don’t know if it needs to be specifically about Alzheimer’s or not as it’s still too early in the process to have really introduced that. However, it is worth noting that memory should be seen from its possible game mechanic uses.

For instance, as noted by my professor, Emma Westecott, replaying a level has, in a way, connotations of reliving memories. You can not possibly repeat a level in the exact same way you did on a prior run, so in this way, the game could change each time it’s played. This would be highly difficult to implement however, so how could it be brought in differently? Perhaps by having time sensitive elements within a level, or interactions that can only happen under certain circumstances. By creating elements that make new scenarios each time you play, it can lend itself to a memory being remembered slightly differently each time it’s ‘recalled’ or experienced. Additionally, dialogue choices could be made that bring about recognition and forgetfulness from the grandfather. Each time you talk with them, you might be remembered, you might not, but either way it creates a playable experience.

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Thesis: Process – 18

Over the break, I focused more on research than on production. During the second half of the previous semester I had tried to make as much as possible because I had been front-loaded on reading and writing, so over the break I tried to get back into that swing. I made a to-do list for the break and finished reading 5 research articles and 1 book related to Faded Memories. That being said, I did do some cosmetic upgrades to the game itself.

The next steps are to put in the final models of characters (replacing placeholder ones), laying out the first memory, redoing the dialogue tree for it, getting the interactions in and then building up the scene. My goal is to finish that by mid-February. This is because I am going to be ambitious and finish two (2) memories before the end of term. I need to do this because I need to show the difference in memory within the grandfather to simulate Alzheimer’s.

Faded Memories has been getting some attention lately from OCAD University. You can check out the article HERE. As well, I’ve heard interest from several others for the desire to look at my thesis and game later on. It would seem that this game needs to be made beyond reasons for myself.

A big question the professors have been giving us is why and how is this project is a Digital Futures thesis? To answer this, you have to know what Digital Futures is in the first place and that is where it gets difficult. Digital Futures is an amorphous concept of a program that gives you everything you want out of it that you are willing to take and put into it. It has allowed me to develop my skills in ways I never thought I could before and has made me better both professionally and artistically. A question that was raised was “How do you picture the future?” That made me think that Digital Futures is whatever we make it, that we shape the way the future goes based on our intuition, creativity and what we develop. I want the future of games to be more personal with less a push towards commercial profit and more a push towards opening a dialogue and helping people – whether that’s to help people cope or understand different viewpoints or difficult concepts. I want Faded Memories to do this and more.