Last night I went to sleep thinking about this video game I worked on years ago. I always meant to finish it. It was covered by Vice when it was half finished, they did a lil video showing me and this woman came and played it at ImagineNATIVE. ANYWAY I sort of shelved it for a while cause I kept trying to get grants to finish the last half. But the last year or so I’ve thought maybe I don’t need a grant anyway. Not for this in any case. But I was still stuck.
So last night I started dreaming about it. In the original it follows someone who gets depressed, takes antidepressants, has a manic psychosis episode, and is taken to the hospital. But it ends there. In the rest of what I wanted to make there were three more levels, the psych ward level where you talk to patients, the mental health group home after getting discharged from the hospital, and then the last level was gonna be about going back into the community and trying to stay on meds and level. So I don’t even remember what was going on in my dreams last night, all I knew is I woke up determined to work on my psych ward level. And I did!
I made a list of assets and backgrounds I would need for my last three levels. I started drawing and scanning some of them. And then I spent the rest of the day in photoshop making a hallway background in Baker Miller Pink, and making doorways with cartoonish interiors based on photos of psych rooms. And then I did a test and put the doorways onto the hallway background to see how it looks. It looks awesome! I even looked up the exact hexidecimal values for Baker Miller Pink which I am pretty proud of ha ha! I wonder what the hexidecimal values for Yves Klein Blue are.
I was so hyperfocused on my work and only had coffee and a couple babybel cheeses when I woke up, so around 4 my stomach started gurgling and I realized I needed to eat. I ordered KFC and kept working until 5pm.
I’m making myself take a break but honestly I want to keep working. I was gonna put some weird things in the doorways instead of only rooms, like a big iguana, and some graffiti and a dog, and maybe a photo of a set I got to tour. Who knows! I think it looks pretty cool tho. And I drew heads for the five characters I need to have floating around to talk to on that level. I’m having fun.
It’s using my brain in a bit of a different way than when I make a video. Like, I haven’t even started doing the programming for it yet, today was just making assets. And probably tomorrow too. And then when I finally start putting it together I know I’m gonna start hitting walls when it comes to coding. I bought a couple of books on C# coding and building 2D unity games. I’m hoping that helps me out.
It was a super exciting creative day today though. I feel like I’ve made a big step in finishing this video game. I don’t know where I could release it. It’s really just an art project, I don’t see myself as making money off of it. I think it just might be cool for psych consumers/survivors and people who work in mental health to play it and relate to it. I am hoping that it demystifies the experience of having Bipolar 1 and going through the psych system. I am keeping heavy shit out of it though. Like rape threats and restraints aren’t in here. And other forms of psychiatric coercion and abuse. So I know even then it’s still a very “sanitized” version of what I went through. But I’ve already made a video about psychiatric abuse, so I feel like this video game can be sort of different.
The last level is gonna be about crossing a park to get to a hotdog cart to buy a hotdog. But your character keeps floating up and sinking down and you have to try and catch pills at the right level at the right time to stay even enough that you can get the hotdog. I picked a hotdog cause the first time I got hospitalized I had to eat all that institutional food. And then my friends took me to the hospital cafeteria and I got to have whatever I wanted, so I ordered a hotdog. It was the best hotdog I ever had even tho it was a lil wimpy Montreal steamie. It was the taste of freedom.
I think people who haven’t be institutionalized in some way don’t understand that kind of first taste of freedom after confinement. You just take it for granted that you can do a lot of whatever you want most of the time. That you can leave a place anytime, eat whatever you want, wear whatever you want, smoke whenever you want. When you are institutionalized that all gets taken away and it is very disorienting when you get out. I remember too there’s this other weird feeling when you get out, where you miss the safety of the institution. Like it’s oppressive in there, but there’s rules and eventually you learn them and other people have to follow them. And out in the world, people are unpredictable. It probably sounds weird to an outsider that I ended up feeling safer in the ward than when I went back out into the world, but sometimes it was true.
Anyway, this video game can’t possibly tackle all of the things I think about being a psychiatric consumer. I think it’s more of a leaping off point for thinking and talking about these issues. And I am really glad I am working on it again, I’ve wanted to see this project to the end for a long time.