Manveer Heir is a game designer for Raven Software, the company responsible for Soldier of Fortune and the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series. Heir, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2004, wants to create a game that shows the process of grief your character has to go through following the tragedy. He found himself fascinated by the communities support for each other after going through such an ordeal. On his blog, Heir describes his vision of Bereavement in Blacksburg.
The main focus of Bereavement in Blacksburg is the expression of emotions during a time of grief. The game begins with your character in bed. You receive a call from your girlfriend who wants you to get everything off your chest. This begins a series of optional events that help make up the game. You have free reign to deal with your emotions in any way you see fit. For example, you could decide to stay inside and drink alcohol until you become drunk. The consequences from doing this may put you on shaky ground with your girlfriend if you attempt to speak to her in that state. You could also choose to walk around the campus and engage in activities to help get your mind off things in a positive way. These decisions help determine how events will play out in the future.
Heir explains how the in game point system takes the form of a grief score: “You start at zero, and positive influencing interactions will increase this score and negative influencing actions will decrease it. However, the player is not aware of this scoring mechanism. In my experience, often during the grieving processes we do not see the whole picture of how our actions can positively or negatively affect us. Hiding the true outcome of different interactions helps proceduralize that state of mind.”
The major scripted events of the game depend on where your grief score is at the time. If you do one thing regularly, it will trigger an event that may not have happened otherwise. For instance, if you’re too caught up in grief and never talk to your girlfriend, she’ll eventually break up with you. All these decisions make up one of multiple endings the game will have if it sees the light of day.
I can see his intentions are good, and the concept is interesting, but I’m not too sure how the public will respond to this. Most people still see videogames as being childish and immature, plus they could accuse Heir of trying to cash in on the unfortunate events on Virgina Tech’s campus. Perhaps it’s simply too soon to approach a project related to VT?