What lies beneath

Depression through game level concepting

For the final term in my third year we had an individual project in which we had free choice of what kind of project we wanted to do. I wanted to create something related to game design and choose to pick depression as my subject. From personal experience I know how incomprehensible depression can be for an outsider, because a lot of it is internal thoughts and feelings. I created a character and made them go through different phases/levels of a depression (in this case three of the five generalised phases of depression: anger, “depression” and acceptation, due to time constraints). I wanted to convey to the audience that there is more beneath the surface of a person who suffers from depression, although it is not immediately visible. By creating this conceptual game level design I wanted to create more understanding for people suffering from depression, and make it easier to talk about by bringing it out in the open. 


I started by experimenting a lot, through sketching for example, with the different emotions associated with the phases and how depression can be visualised. After that I started with character design and level design. I wanted to achieve that the player would feel a part of the world and have the main focus on the emotions/feelings that they are going through by passing the phases/levels. Since there was a time constraint I did not have enough time to work out my game design in the Unity game engine for example, therefore I wanted to create something where the audience would still be sucked into the world during the final expo of the project. 

I came up with the idea to print my design on large pieces of paper and put them on a wall and the floor (making it more 3D), with the character being over A0 for example. To make the project more meta I created a scene where from far away it would seems like a serene fishing scene with the main character, but by coming closer you would see the internal struggles of the character going through depression. Just like how from an outsider’s perspective a person with depression can seem fine, but if you come closer you can see the truth.