I once had a nightmare of falling towards Jupiter, never arriving even as it grew larger than I could comprehend. It was terrifying and sublime and I don’t know how I’d ever capture the feeling. I wonder if this sketch touches it a little. It’s possible that the larger dark disk is mostly unapparent until a click, when the light circles draw attention to the edge and what was once the background becomes a figure of sorts. I wonder if that’s key to some sense of sublime—the ‘background’ (perceptually speaking) emerging as a singular entity.
Let’s take for granted the arguable notion that interesting actions are interesting insofar as the actor ends up with something else. (If only a changed understanding of the situation.) This would pose a particular problem for representing otherwise hopeless, ineffectual, or Sisyphean “doings”, or conditions like depression, where a primary feature is being unable to affect change.
The edu-game Spent tried to communicate the constrained opportunities that poverty imposes by providing a series of bad decisions and undesirable tradeoffs. However, contrary to design goals, some evidence suggests that providing even this limited control imparted to players a sense that people in these situations do have control over their circumstances. We might say that the game’s having-things-to-do was a more salient feature than the narrative or fictional aspects of those doings. In other words, the very ability to ‘do something’ with an artifact will underpin reads about action. (If you want to call an interactive media a ‘media’ in the McLuhan sense, you could say that interactive media is prone to ‘massage’ messages such that they appear to favor privilege or emphasize agency.)
In other words, trying to communicate situations of constrained action opportunity by providing opportunities for action may be counter productive. Maybe a depressed character could be interactively depicted by presenting an automated character that responds to a player manipulated environment?
This is all loose thinking—there are notable games about depression that I haven’t spent time with. I also imagine there’s plenty of actual research on this too.
This sketch is about one of the ideas behind this blog.