Ether One (White Paper Games) is an exploratory game, but there’s some deeper exploration to it than you might think at first glance. As the game encourages you to travel and inspect the world, you’re investigating much more than the locations, you’re exploring the human brain. Your role as a ‘restorer’, allows you access inside the mind of a dementia patient named Jean.
As I entered Jean’s mind, I was taken to an English seaside village Pinwheel, reliant on its mining and export industry. I was delighted that the village shared many similarities with my own childhood memories, with a small town post office reminiscent of the post office operated by my grandparents and a local pub similar to one in which I ate many meals growing up. I have particular fond memories of seaside holidays with family, and my own grandfather was a miner. The similarities don’t end here, because my grandfather also suffers from dementia, and with 44 million sufferers worldwide (FightDementia.org), many Ether One players will share personal experiences with this disease.
One of the most powerful things about video games is their ability to engage and immerse us in new world experiences, enabling us to learn about and experience alternative lives. As I played Ether One, my goal seemed to be to learn as much as I could about the patient I was restoring, and the disease itself. I was piecing together her mind, working little by little to gather small pieces of information that I could form into parts of the puzzle piece of Jean’s identity and past. I spent many gameplay hours trying to get into the mindset of my patient, and this immersion allowed me to learn how dementia itself had affected her memories, and life.
As I travelled through the game I collected everything I could, an odd shoe, a random hat, a light globe, books. I was unsure if they’d be relevant, or if I’d need them, and I was reminded of my great grandfather’s growing collection of pencils and pens, despite him being unable to write anymore. There were points in game where the puzzles were too difficult for me, where the answer seemed to require something I was missing, and I needed to look online for some clues or advice.
But even though I needed to do this at times, this wasn’t a game where getting feedback and ideas from others made me feel as though I was lacking in ability, or that I should quit, but rather I saw my inability to solve these problems alone as a metaphor for dementia itself. As a society we are sometimes callous and find it easy to cast off dementia sufferers, but the ending of Ether One focuses on the need to provide sufferers with support and assistance to tackle the puzzles and challenges of their own minds, and unlock the memories that make up their everyday lives.
Note: You can learn more about dementia statistics in Australia by visiting https://fightdementia.org.au/national/statistics. This site also has helpful information and support for dementia sufferers and their friends, family and carers.
Image credit: www.whitepapergames.com