Computer game creates better understanding of Alzheimer's

Five students from the IT University's MSc in Games have created ‘Forgotten’ – a game that provides insight into what living with Alzheimer's is like. The students hope that the game can help give especially young people a better understanding of the disease.

Digital Design DepartmentEducationcomputer gamesstudent life

An ordinary morning. You get up, go into the kitchen, find a cup and start the coffee maker. While the coffee is brewing, you water the plant. You return to the kitchen, but the cup is no longer where you put it a moment ago.

Suddenly, a woman with blurred facial features appears in the living room, talking about people you don’t remember. You blink; it is now evening and the woman has gone.

‘Forgotten’ is full of these kinds of disorienting experiences. The game is played in a first-person perspective and follows the daily life and routine of an elderly person with Alzheimer's trying to keep everything together, which gradually becomes more difficult as the game progresses.

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We hope that the game can create more greater empathy towards people with Alzheimer's by providing an understanding of what it is like to live with the disease – forgetting what you are doing, but also who you are

Marlene Delrive, student, MSc in Games
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"We hope that the game can create more greater empathy towards people with Alzheimer's by providing an understanding of what it is like to live with the disease – forgetting what you are doing, but also who you are," says Marlene Delrive.

Like most of the others in the group behind the game, she has had the disease in her close family, and her personal experiences inspired her to create the game.

Simulating the experience of forgetting

According to Marlene Delrive, the computer game medium provides a special opportunity to simulate having the disease in a way that books and movies cannot.

"We literally put the player in another person's shoes. Just seeing the world from someone else's angle works really well,” she says and elaborates:

"One of the main symptoms of Alzheimer's is forgetting. And while we can't make the player forget, we can manipulate the surroundings and thereby simulate the experience of objects not being where you put them. The game is constantly playing with the feeling of doubt and confusion that a person with Alzheimer’s might experience,” she says.

The game also explores the feeling of isolation in social contexts, which is experienced by many Alzheimer’s sufferers. For example, the player has trouble in keeping up with the conversation when the family comes to dinner, as well as challenges in keeping track of names and faces.

Thorough research

Although the game was created in just 7 weeks, a thorough piece of research has gone into it. The group collaborated with the Danish Alzheimer's Association in order to ensure an authentic and respectful representation of how the disease is experienced.

Stillbillede fra Forgotten
In Forgotten, the faces of family members are blurred, contributing to a sense of disorientation. Still picture from the game.

he game is not about winning or overcoming challenges, but should rather be viewed a narrative about what it is like to live with the disease.

"If we hadn't cooperated with experts and been extremely aware of the ethical aspect of what we were doing, we could easily have ended up making a more conventional puzzle game where there is an ultimate solution and reward," says Ryan Wright.

Inspires empathy and reflection

Earlier this year, the game was discovered by popular American YouTuber CoryxKenshin. His play-through of Forgotten currently has over 1.6 million times, and the comment feed is overflowing with positive words.

"I think it's the most wholesome YouTube threads I've ever seen. They are all positive, emotional comments,” says Ryan Wright.

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People are reflecting on how the game reminds them of their mother, grandmother or grandfather. The game seems to inspire empathy and conversations even among people who don’t have any personal experience with Alzheimer's.

Ryan Wright, student, MSc in Games
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"People are reflecting on how the game reminds them of their mother, grandmother or grandfather. The game seems to inspire empathy and conversations even among people who don’t have any personal experience with Alzheimer's.”

In the wake of these responses, the group is now considering further developing the game. Initially, the game is going be translated into Danish and distributed to a Danish network of relatives of Alzheimer's patients.

"With the game, we can reach young people and perhaps make them understand their grandparents a little better and be more mindful of their situation," Marlene Delrive says.

Further information

Vibeke Arildsen, Press Officer, phone 2555 0447, email viar@itu.dk