By John Walker on November 19th, 2012 at 6:00 pm.
A subject I’m hearing about increasingly frequently is people not playing games to deal with real life issues, but rather developing games to deal with them. And it’s always a fascinating process. A really superb story on NBC today highlights a project by Lars Doucet, who’s making a game that tries to capture the experience of living with Tourette’s Syndrome.
Tourette’s is an umbrella term for those who experience involuntary tics. While it’s perhaps most frequently associated with involuntary swearing, it is in fact a far broader condition that can include all manner of tics, noises and body movements. And as you can imagine, being misunderstood is perhaps one of the most debilitating aspects of the syndrome.
Doucet’s game, Tourette’s Quest, takes the form of a rogue-like. At the moment it’s in a prototype phase, so while playable, is clearly a very simplified version. As you move your yellow smiley face about the grey-tone dungeons, you not only have to make your way through rooms to reach each floor’s exit, but also manage your stress levels as you go. The more stressed you get, the more symptoms you’ll exhibit. At the moment, the only included symptom is a need to compulsively cough, but more are planned to be added as development continues.
What makes it immediately interesting, beyond the very basic stress mechanic, is that the enemies are not aggressive. What look like elves and, er, noses, move slowly around, and don’t pursue you. However, direct contact with them causes you to feel stress. Chopping up foes and picking up dropped and found coins, while not lowering your stress, does make you feel better. But throughout all this, your involuntary coughing changes things. At random, you’ll emit a big red circle as you cough, and enemies that are caught within this get worked up by it. They start to move faster, making getting past them without touching them, and indeed attacking them with your sword, more difficult.
And as NBC points out, this all starts to become a far more compelling experience when you think of this as a gaming metaphor. As a rogue-like, in its current form, it doesn’t offer anything special. But as a way to consider how stress levels impact on behavioural tics that alienate those around you, it’s something to meditate upon.
You can get the prototype of the game directly from here.