It’s an old building in this tiny town called King’s Lynn where I went to college. It used to be a cinema, and by the time I lived there it was abandoned. That got me onto 1930s modernist architecture.
I was also really getting into artists like Timothy J. Reynolds.
And of course I was super influenced by games like Monument Valley, INSIDE and Kentucky Route Zero.
So having these cold soulless, redundant industrial backdrops house little pockets of intimate conversation seemed interesting to me.
I’m also interested in how death relates to life, how death gives meaning to life. Not in a morbid sense (although sometimes). More in a curious sense – exploratory. This landed me on the topic of suicide. It’s also something I’ve wrestled with myself over the years for any number of reasons.
So step two I guess. I initially set out to talk about suicide from an analytical standpoint. The plan was to essentially compose a psychology/philosophy essay on the subject of suicide and deliver it through a branching conversation between two characters while hinting and an underlying narrative.
This was very overambitious. My ability as a writer wasn’t any where near up to par. Despite doing a bunch of the initial research and notes, I found writing actual organic, natural sounding dialogue terribly difficult. As well as this, the whole thing was coming across too analytical and standoffish.
So what could I do? I could remove text all together – really play to my strengths and make the whole thing an abstract visual piece. But that would also remove whatever little game play I had, since the dialogue options were the only real moments of player agency.
It was stumbling onto this quote that gave me a focus –
“Analogies for personhood, for the self, for consciousness, exert great power on our thinking, and to think of consciousness as a locked chamber, to think of the contents of that chamber as perception that will thus seem ineluctably private, to think of our experiencing of the world as hidden, but hidden inwardly.”
– Garry L. Hagberg
This took me on a much more introspective path – less academic. More sensory. I started writing as if someone was retrospectively describing a conversation, talking more about how each person felt or acted as opposed to explicitly what was said, with occasional “dialogue options” to move things a certain way. This worked with my style of writing as well as my skill level. This more confessional approach led the game down a more personal route too. The game took overall a more intimate feeling.
The base narrative of the game would blur with my own internal sentiment. My own memories would become backdrops to memories of the lead character. It felt a little messy when I first set out writing it. Some parts would be thematically relevant plot points, some would be explicitly personal to me, while others would be a mish-mash of both. But it felt good, cathartic to be writing in this way, so I kept at it.
As I came to the end, the whole thing had a sort of purposeful incoherency. I was less intent on telling a direct story to make a point, or even make a point at all. Simply to have the game evoke a sensation. Unease and resolve. Self-deprecating and uplifting. All at once.