TRIGGER WARNING This game features suicide as a prominent theme. Your mental health is important, please take care of yourself.
If you are in any danger of self-harm consider chatting confidentially with a volunteer trained in crisis intervention at http://www.imalive.org , or anonymously with an active listener online at http://www.7cups.com or by phone http://www.good2talk.ca.
Proceed with care.
Artist Statement: Clementine.HTML
As digital literacy rises, games are becoming a more accessible method of artistic expression than ever before. Games such as Journey (2012) have redefined players expectations for the emotional, artistic and storytelling quality in gaming. Journey’s necessary subversion of game convention ushered in an age of smaller poetic games of this ilk with a warm welcome.
I was inspired by the emotional impact of Oases (2015), a game with kaleidoscopic visuals the player navigates through representing an imagined afterlife for the creators grandfather. As the game states “My grandfather’s plane was reported lost in 1960 during the Algerian Independence War, days before the birth of his first child. This is what I like to think happened to him.” Oases limits, itself to minimal visuals and sound to create an immersive hallucinogenic experience, redefined post-mortem with this short line of text. This game is similar to a poem or song in the sense it creates an experience but lacks traditional narrative progression.
Whereas, a similarly inspiring game Orchids to Dusk (2015), features a subtle narrative meant to help the player navigate through the nebulous world during gameplay. In Orchids, you are an astronaut who has crash-landed on a fascinating planet, with only has a limited amount of oxygen left. The player must decide if they will wander, enjoying the scenery or die a death of panicked asphyxiation. The game concludes with the player becoming incorporated into the landscape if they embrace the nature of mortality removing their helmet, causing the flora and foliage to flourish as a result.
Using these games as a model, I intended to only employ narrative in service to the experience, using the story to engage the player through their emotions. Intentionally limiting the palette of the game to only text and sound. These self-imposed limitations made to focus the player on the emotion of the game. As the objective of the game was to interpellate the player, for the purpose of exercising their capacity for empathy, through a simulation of suicidal ideation and grief.
As I am strongly death positive, for those unfamiliar with the term, I believe that culturally we repress death to the detriment of the living. Cultural awareness of death could lead to wider acceptance of mortality. And discussion of death traditions and grieving practices open them up to review and criticism. Just to clarify this does not mean I am pro-suicide, just pro-acceptance of inevitable death.
So intention aside, I attempted to execute this by maximizing the effect of the tools at my disposal. By providing multiple options as a red herring; the player is meant to potentially believe that there is a way to avoid Clementine’s death, despite its narrative inevitability. The dynamic score enables the sound to shift with the player experience in real time. A similar static score would still set the stage emotionally, but would remain unchanging across the emotional variation of the story. The subtle colour scheme of the text is designed to appear faded, implicitly representing the fleeting nature of life. As embracing one’s own mortality also means embracing the reality of being forgotten. The actual content of the text, the story, is secondary to the message of the text itself. The story here is only necessary, so long as it provokes the interpolation of the player, triggering a thoughtful empathetic response.
In retrospect, this game may have been better supported by a nonlinear narrative, or by removing the narrative entirely. Replacing the story with more experimental text, such as found in concrete poetry. Upon reflecting on Clementine and my work as a whole I have concluded, my tendency toward linear narrative is embedded in my thought processes. For me to produce anything without narrative goes fundamentally against my internal conceptual understanding. In subsequent artistic undertakings in gaming and other media I think it will be crucial to defy my narrative inclinations, wherein it is beneficial to the work.