This semester for our Game Lab class, we will be working on essentially a "mini capstone" project that will include delivering a product/experience that ultimately serves a higher purpose than mere entertainment. Teams are self formed and must acquire and regularly consult a subject matter expert (SME).
Myself and 14 other people will be continuing work on the artists Wizard of Oz VR project from last semester. We will be putting an interesting spin on the idea - essentially creating an immersive experience that will allow players to identify mental illness and learn how to respond/act towards people in their lives who may be suffering from such an illness. For scope reasons, we will just be portraying depression since it is a widespread and relatable illness. In this case, the Tin Man will be depressed and the player will be navigating a dialogue tree game flow.
One of the ideas the art team discussed was to portray the science behind depression through environmental storytelling. This first week, I whipped up some ideas of how we could do this.
This first concept portrays my idea of "synapse" trees. The tree tops resemble a synapse and the mushrooms below portray serotonin receptors. When the Tin Man is depressed, the glowing particle effects will be limited, and floating towards the ground, symbolizing the inhibition of serotonin reuptake in depressed people. As the Tin Man's mood elevates, the particles will increase and begin floating upwards towards the tree tops.
Above is the real life reference I used for creating the concepts below.
Another idea I had was to subtly portray mountains in the environment to resemble brains (not in a gross way, however). And have them glow/light up to resemble CAT scans of a depressed and non-depressed brain depending on how well the player is doing in the game. Perhaps these mountains could signal entrance into the Tin Man village and exit of the Tin Man village torwards the Emerald City.