SUBTER: A VIDEO GAME ABOUT ANXIETY
BFA THESIS PROJECT
For my year-long BFA project at Notre Dame, I created a video game that seeks to instill empathy in the player, toward those suffering from anxiety disorders. The immersive medium allows the player to experience emotions and reactions that they ordinarily are unable to access, causing them to be more understanding of those who are subject to the experiences on a more regular basis. This theory culminated in a completely playable final deliverable, with three different levels with unique gameplay, voice acting, music, environments, and characters.
Even before I had a concrete idea of what I wanted to create for my thesis, I knew I wanted to focus my project on video games. Throughout my life, I've noticed a special effect they have on people and their surprising ability to direct emotional change. Early in my video game research process, I met with Amy and Ryan Green to talk to them about their game, "That Dragon, Cancer", which was about an extremely personal and emotional experience. The Greens are viewed as the founders of the genre of "empathetic games" due to the effect "That Dragon, Cancer" had on audiences - the meetings I had with the couple were a turning point in my thesis as they inspired me to use the medium of video games to inspire empathy toward a group of people in need. I continued to use their advice and methods throughout the entire thesis process.
Another subject that I feel strongly about is mental illness; even though it's unable to be seen, it has a profound impact on one's life. In my research, I discovered that only one third of people suffering from anxiety in the US seek treatment for their disorder - largely due to overwhelming stigma. Suddenly, I had my direction. I would use the medium of a video game to increase empathy toward those suffering from anxiety disorders, which in turn would reduce stigma. By doing this, I could make it easier for them to feel understood by their peers and open up in order to seek treatment.
Each asset in the game and the print ads was first drawn by pen. It was then sketched over using Sketchbook Pro, and colored using vectors in Adobe Illustrator. The animations used for the game were then created in After Effects.