Finding gratitude through a virtual bedroom

Spending the past year confined to our homes left the majority of us yearning to get out. Every day felt like the same day repeating itself, and we became more isolated from the outside world. As a college student trying to navigate this pandemic, it proved to be incredibly difficult for me to attend class, go to work, find inspiration, study, and rest all within the same 4 walls.

One of my solutions to this burnout was finding gratitude. During a pandemic when the world is unpredictable, gratitude is especially important. It brought back much-needed stability in my life and reminded me about all the good things out there. I began to journal more frequently and identify small things that make me happy, such as getting out in nature or talking to family. To be grateful is to see the best in yourself and the world around you. Becoming more optimistic has a monumental impact on your overall mood and perspective. Cultivating this attitude builds your resilience and helps you to cope with large-scale unpredictable problems, such as this pandemic. Studies have even shown that gratitude leads to better physical health in adults.

Without fail, responding to these prompts significantly boosts my mood:

  • One place that is safe and relaxes you
  • One thing that’s going well in your life
  • Three things you enjoy
  • Three things you’re looking forward to
  • Two people whom you love and who love you
  • One memory from the past day, week, month, or year that makes you smile

To promote the importance of gratitude, a group of designers and I created an interactive virtual experience titled “Sanctuary”. The game helps the player view typical bedroom items with a new perspective. The virtual environment of the game is intended to draw parallels to the player's actual physical room, prompting an immersion of one’s own life into the game. Each item displayed in the room has a nostalgic note tied to it, and some have reflective prompts that you can use to type out your feelings. The player should make real-life connections with the game and leave with a more positive outlook.

Promotional video for Sanctuary my team and I created.

Our design process started with finding inspiration photos and creating a mood board. We settled on our color scheme and aesthetic, which was heavily inspired by the comforting lofi theme found on the internet today. We created a simple background image and then designed each asset — e.g. a notebook or collection of trophies — following our aesthetic guidelines. Once clicked on, the assets prompt a self-reflection topic centering on the themes of gratitude, nostalgia, and friendship. We put all of the assets and text together via Glitch, utilizing open-source HTML.

The narrative of the game follows a character moving out of their childhood home. The player is expected to uncover this story while gathering hints throughout the game — such as goodbye letters from friends. The room gets lighter as the player progresses, hinting at a more positive mood. Sanctuary aims to push you on an upward spiral to more happiness.

For most of my team, this was our first experience creating a game. Ultimately, the goal of the game was to create an interactive and self-reflective environment, and I believe we achieved that. However, there are many improvements to be made. Moving forward, we want more interactivity with the objects, such as the possibility to move and scale them. Also, we want the responses to be saved, possibly stored in some archive, and viewable at the end of the game. The transition from each scene wasn't as smooth as we wanted it to be; perhaps each scene should be entirely different, moving from the bed to the desk to the closet. In general, more items, more backgrounds, more themes, and more interactivity on perspective would improve the gameplay.

You can play the game here!

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Student at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, specializing in Media Arts + Practice.

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Adam Vossen

Adam Vossen

Student at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, specializing in Media Arts + Practice.

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