What is this show?
Rei Poh (Rei): During the Circuit Breaker when we had a sudden lockdown, we decided to start online game nights where we could just play games, and actually give ourselves a reason to check in with one another, make sure everybody is okay. During that period, there were articles and reports about people being isolated at home, or isolated with their abusers. Some people couldn’t “tahan” the long isolation. We started thinking about doing a project about this.
I had seen someone play this folder game, Foldscape. You download a zip file and there is a folder in it. You extract the folder and you click into the different folders. In WINDOW there are different folders – there’s a folder named “caves”, there’s a folder named “forests”. Basically you embark on a very lo-fi, role-playing game when you click into those files.
What I like about Foldscape is that it’s a very illogical game. A lot of things don’t make sense. The experience is about finding out what’s in the folder. And one folder could be different from another folder and it’s all about deciphering what it means. I love the theatricality of it, which doesn’t have to be a “I’m going on a Lord of the Rings journey” kind of thing. Whereas this is–
Cheryl Tan Yun Xin (Cheryl): Up to your own interpretation.
Rei: And compartmentalised. You can jump into one space or another very easily.
Because of the folders?
Rei: Because of the folders yeah.
How did it become a video game?
Rei: We started working with animators The Doodle People. We had never made a video game before. We didn’t know how to do it. We did our writing process and we put our story onto a Miro Board. The animators looked at it and went, “okay, give us a few weeks” and the next thing you know they came back with all these worlds–
Cheryl: For us the human connection is very important. We had this thought like, “okay, we will not go into a full video gaming experience because we will lose the human touch.” But then, when The Doodle People came back with full graphic packs for us, we got very excited. Because that’s not something that we could have achieved on our own.
What’s the difference between what you gave them and what they came up with?
Cheryl: Because we knew we wanted to talk about mental health, we started off with gathering stories from real people. And then–because there is also another game called Depression Quest, which tries to make you feel what it is like for someone with depression–and we took certain snippets of what real people feel, and made them into–
Rei: For example, someone might say, “this part is as if I am pushing a rock up a hill.” And the next thing you know, The Doodle People made a huge mountain, and there is an element of a game where you’re pushing a ball up. We were like, “that’s amazing!” And imagine if there’s a person telling a story while you’re doing that. We match each person with someone called the Technician, and the Technician will bring you through the process. And as you go through the process, maybe you find yourself connecting to this person. Or not.
Cheryl: Or just get an insight of how this person feels. Because a lot of mental health narratives that we hear are these huge things. What I want to achieve with WINDOW is that hopefully you see the everyday struggles, see if you relate, how you respond to it. So it’s not like “MENTAL HEALTH” in capital letters.
So the Technicians–
Cheryl: They’re actors playing Technicians.
That’s one actor per person?
Rei: Yes, one-to-one.