Why don’t you just quit?

 
 

Purpose

“WHY DON’T YOU JUST QUIT?” is a critical virtual reality game. The main character is Samantha, a young addict on the way to a job interview. The aim of the design is to create an uncomfortable physical, mental, and emotional situation for the player exploring different strategies and mechanics only possible in virtual reality. The objective of the game is to get “yourself” to the job interview, but the system will make it increasingly difficult and none of the players will succeed to reach their goal either because they will not be capable of coping with the physical discomfort.

Why is this project important?

This project has the intention of creating awareness for the difficulties many live in trying to overcome addiction. Several studies acknowledge the negative effects of stigma on people suffering with substance use disorders (Room 2005). The general public holds stereotyped and negative views, considering persons who use drugs as lacking self-discipline (Jones et al. 2010) and as “dirty” (Sloan 2012, 407). Cano et al. have found less negative attitudes among those people who currently, or in the past, had lived, worked or been friends with someone with a history of substance use disorders, compared to those who did not.

A society that discriminates, stigmatizes and excludes, imposes negative consequences for sustaining the recovery process of her citizens.

Addressing structural barriers as well as personal exclusions and stigmatization are essential to maximize the likelihood of long-term recovery (David et al. 2019). It’s often that the community hinders a successful reintegration of a person in recovery of this kind of situations. Therefore, attention should be paid to changing the attitudes and related actions in the community.

Our project is a critical design in nature: a game that cannot be won. We attempt to create a space for reflection and understanding and motivate our approach to other’s lives with a stronger sense of empathy. We propose an interactive experience that anyone will hardly want to repeat.

Achieving strong emotional responses

As the player puts on the headset they will be in a dark subway platform with people passing by looking at them and an open wagon door about some meters away.

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  • To walk, they must press the navigation pads up repeatedly and the walking pace is slow and difficult.

  • The image is grainy and swaying.

  • The people passing by are of no help at all.

  • While standing straight, there is a very overwhelming peeping sound heard through the headphones. This will feel better if the player drinks, smokes or uses heroin.

  • The player can reach a box containing cigarettes (3), a small bottle of rum, and some heroine.

    • If the player smokes a cigarette or drinks the alcohol, the swaying and the grainy image will stop for a while and the image will be sharper, but all of these symptoms will soon come back with a revenge.

    • If the player decides to use the heroin, the senses get overwhelmed and then everything goes white and the player dies.

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  • A winning state is not possible. It will always be too difficult to reach the door. Most actions will result in giving up by using the heroin.

  • Eventually, Samantha will just be overwhelmed with a feeling of meaninglessness. She will just not make it in time.

Creation

“WHY DON’T YOU JUST QUIT?” was developed completely in Unreal Engine 4. The subway environment was designed and modeled in 3D with some free license assets as well as with new items created that were needed to evoke the specific feelings of loneliness and emptiness in the user.

The programming was done with the visual scripting of Unreal Engine, Blueprints. This includes the walking and turning human figures, the ability to grab, drop and use objects, the movement of the player with the navigation pad, and the symptoms that withdrawals can cause.

I participated as a UX designer, during the definition and development phases. In the definition phase, we decided as a team the relation between the symptoms and the effects, how the players should be affected through the gameplay, and the aesthetic of the environment. During the development phase I worked with the 3D design in UnReal Engine, creating the world, applying textures and 3D models for the environment’s final look and feel as well as the edition of the subway background sounds.

Gothenburg Startup Hack

This project was developed during Gothenburg’s Startup hack 2019. Our team had 6 members (4 programmers and 2 designers). During this event we worked 10 hours continuously in order to achieve finalized product. Afterwards some people tried our design but we found some reticence from users as it seemed “too dizzying” or a “bit scary”.

References:

  • Cano I, Best D, Hamilton P, Sloan J, Beckwith M, Phillips L. in prepar- ation. Overcoming stigma as a social problem: Health and social sci- ence students’ social distance from offenders and substance users active, in desistance or in recovery, Social Science and Medicine (in preparation).

  • David Best & Charlotte Colman (2019) Let’s celebrate recovery. Inclusive Cities working together to support social cohesion, Addiction Research & Theory, 27:1, 55-64

  • Jones R, Simonson P, Singleton N. 2010. Getting serious about stigma: the problem with stigmatizing drug users. London: UK Drug Policy Commission.

  • Room R. 2005. Stigma, social inequality and alcohol and drug use. Drug Alcohol Rev. 24:143–155.

  • Sloan J. 2012. ‘You Can See Your Face in My Floor’: examining the function of cleanliness in an adult male prison. Howard J Crim Just. 51(4):400–410.