I was the creative director and a designer, writer, and developer for this game that combined turn-based combat and narrative gameplay to explore the role of hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.
In collaboration with a lead game designer and writer, a sound designer, an animator, a UI designer, an artist, and a composer, I led the design of this project to explore how to highlight the research-informed concepts of hope and perseverance in an entertainment game. We produced a tutorial experience for the game in Fall 2018 using Unity.
Many games challenge players to face extraordinarily difficult obstacles and persevere even when failure seems inevitable. My vision was to bring those mental and emotional concepts to the forefront of a familiar experience: the boss battle. In Chimera, players must manage their hope level because their status will influence how effective they are in battle. Hope can fluctuate depending on the actions of enemies, friends, and the player themselves both during the fight and in dialogue.
The hope system was designed based on optimism research, especially explanatory style (how we interpret why good or bad things happen to us), and what that means for motivation and how we behave in difficult situations. This topic is exciting to me because hope and perseverance are themes found in all sorts of games, but also because they are two of the 24 “character strengths” identified by psychology researchers. Character strengths are trait-like qualities that describe who we are at our best and how we live our values. Paying attention to and developing our character strengths can contribute to happiness and well-being. Even if a player does not think of himself as an optimistic or persevering person, we all have capacities for those qualities and the ability to cultivate them. Since the experience we created was short, the intention was to just bring the player’s awareness to those “real world” concepts by integrating them into a fantastical setting of magic and monsters. In Chimera, the player’s power comes as much from their mindset as from their spellcasting.
Selected for the 2019 USC Games Expo