When I helped to produce the game Shadow’s Edge, which helps young people explore chronic illness, I had some experience in both areas – I’d been working in tech for more than a decade and I had also been ill. When we dove into the game design, I thought I was healed, but it turns out that my illness wasn’t done with me yet. As I wrote in a previous post, I have a painful and chronic skin condition called urticaria, the cause of which is unknown.
When my urticaria flared during the game design process, I went from being the game producer to being a player, using the game to find my own way through illness toward growth.
I wasn’t the only person with a chronic condition that contributed to the game. Throughout the design process, we worked with young people – some with illness and some without – who gave their input every step of the way and inspired us as a team to work harder. Their stories and passion for our project gave me energy every day, even when I was having a tough time with my condition. Working with our players opened my eyes to what it means to be young and ill, and their willingness to share their experiences gave our work purpose.
For our players and for myself, much of the healing in Shadow’s Edge comes from stepping away from the real world of illness and confusion and into a new world where the goal is to make sense of the experience. For me, writing the story of Shadow’s Edge helped me escape into another world. Writing like that gives me creative energy, makes me feel what my characters feel and allows me to indulge in imagination. It calms me and relaxes me.
Being able to not only get lost in another world but contribute to it from a design perspective is something that, as a writer, you rarely have the chance to do. Usually, someone else takes your story and makes the visuals — either the reader who uses their imagination to bring your story to life, or a producer who turns it into a film. With the production of Shadow’s Edge, our players and our team had input into the look and feel of the world, the characters, everything in it, from first drawing. It was an empowering process to see our creations come to life.
Having a health condition can be lonely. When I have a rash all over my body, or my face is swollen, I don’t want company, but that also means that I can feel alone. And so I play Shadow’s Edge. Just like our other players, I explore the city until I find a missing journal page with a question that speaks to me, or simply graffiti how I feel on one of the city walls. When I look back at my Shadow’s Edge world, I see that it has become a mix of what I have gone through over the last year – the struggle of illness but also the triumph of creation.
When illness threatens to take everything away, my best remedy is to create. The game, as a journal, gives me a reason and a place to make a new world.
Technology entrepreneur and game producer. Rosy concentrates on working in social and environmental change and philanthropic projects. She uses her ‘techspertise’ to produce content she is passionate about, focusing on impact messaging in entertainment and gaming. She regularly blogs and writes screenplays. She is an investor and mentors young entrepreneurs. More info on: www.lokhorst.ch