Lots of things are happening, but I wanted to take a moment and talk about a project from last month. I participated in my first game jam! Serenity Forge hosted this event over the weekend of August 5-7th and the theme was to build games about “Healing.” Due to the timing and the theme of this game jam, I was compelled to develop my first game!

The Tool – Twine

To build my game I used Twine—an open source tool for developing text-based games that are often labelled as “interactive fiction.” Twine is an interesting game development tool because it is far easier to learn than any other game engine. (In fact, this is the reason John and I decided to use Twine in the professional development for game design that we’re hosting this semester.) Since it is free and accessible, I invite you to give Twine a try. You can learn more about how to use it here.

The main menu of Twine.

The main menu of Twine.

The Story

Since the timing of this game jam coincided with the passing of my grandmother, I chose to create a game around the healing I was seeking at that time. The most difficult part of this project was reflecting on my pain to decipher what steps I was taking to heal—examining my emotions and exploring how writing memories of my grandmother was cathartic. The narrative of my game evolved from these experiences, and rather than rewriting the story here, let me show you the game:

 

Reflections

Did making a game about my pain help me heal? – At the time it was being developed I would have answered “no.” Having to listen to voicemails from my grandmother and watching videos of our adventures together was disheartening. In fact, I struggled to listen to her final voicemail to me, which I had not yet listened to at that point. But building “Healing Words” and coming to terms with her death required me to address my feelings.

Looking back on this experience after about a month I can adamantly say “Yes, making a game about my grandmother’s death did help me heal.” It wasn’t the process of making the game that helped—rather, that part was painful. Instead, it was the process of sharing my experience with others through the game that helped me heal. Using a game to communicate my emotions and then to engage others after their playthrough was the point where I felt the most healing. From people expressing their condolences or sharing their own memories as part of the game, soulful relations bloomed as a result. These connections then manifested in healing.

Would I recommend doing this? – Game design made me think about human experiences and communicating ideas in ways I never would have dreamed. Thinking through how text, media, and choice impact players was a metacognitive exercise for me. I had to translate both my emotions and the responses to those emotions into physical mediums. In so doing, I learned a lot about myself and how I want others to play my story. In other words, I would recommend developing a game to commemorate a loved one. Although it will be painful, the personal growth and connections to others that will be made are worth the investment.

Questions? – If you have any more questions, please let me know. Healing Words has been a big part of my life in the last month. Thank you to the 50+ people who’ve played my game and helped me heal.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Moritz Schmidt via Unsplash.

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