Anamnesis: A Journey Through Grief

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Anamnesis: A Journey Through Grief was nominated for the HKU Innovation Award!

What is Anamnesis?

Anamnesis is a short game / experience about the loss of pets. It attempts to help people move forward in the grieving process and regain a more positive mind set, thus tackling the negative mental and physical symptoms grief can cause. Anamnesis does this by making the user focus on good memories and motivating them to think more positively throughout the whole experience.

The target audience

While everyone can play Anamnesis, it was specifically designed for people in the fourth stage of grief called ‘depression’. People in this phase are known to experience very strong negative emotions, such as sadness, regret, fear, insecurity, guilt etc. This makes this phase the most likely one to get stuck in, unable to move forward. This disorder is called complicated grief and requires professional help. The depression phase is the predecessor of the acceptance phase, towards which Anamnesis tries to help people move forward to. Of course, grief remains a process that requires time, however, Anamnesis tries help accelerate that process and give the users some relief.

The gameplay

Anamnesis is all about revisiting good memories the users have of their pet(s).

At the start of the game, the user can choose a pet type and fill in some information required to make the experience more personal. Only the cat is currently available, but more options will be added in the future. The user is then sent to the ‘memorial screen’. This screen represents a cozy room dedicated to the deceased pet, in which the user can upload a photo of his own pet into the empty frame.

Through this frame, the user can (re)visit four different happy memories, with each a different subject related to the chosen pet. The four subjects associated to the cat are ‘playing’, ‘presence’, ‘petting’ and ‘sounds’. If the player were to choose another pet type, these memory subjects would be different since we do not interact the same way with all animals.

Each memory is a short interactive experience that always starts off by giving the user the opportunity to think back to certain moments with their pet. This makes the experience more personal. The user then goes on to play and experience said memory.

After completion, a memory ends when the user retrieves a missing piece of the broken plant pot that was visualised on the ‘memorial screen’. The user is sent back to the memorial, where the missing piece gets restored to its original place. This is a metaphor for the healing process somebody goes through when grieving. When all the memories have been (re)visited, an end cinematic is triggered: a tree starts growing out of the plant pot, representing new life and hope. A ghost-ish representation of the pet appears with one last important message that summarizes the whole game. ‘The pain you feel shows how much love we shared. As long as you remember me in a positive way, I am never truly gone.’

The reason behind Anamnesis

Mankind has always had trouble dealing with death and the grieving process can be very difficult. However, when losing ‘a loved one’, people usually speak of family and friends, excluding pets, while the death of a pet can also be very impactful. I experienced that impact myself two years ago, so this theme hits close to home. Fortunately, I personally received a lot of support during that period. However, it happens regularly that people do not receive any support or understanding from their environment at all. Grief is a popular subject in media, think of books, films, songs and games, but pets hardly ever play the leading part, which is quite weird since several studies have shown that losing a pet can cause an equally intense grieving process as losing friends or relatives.

Another research has also shown that men often mourn more violently and develop more negative symptoms when their partner dies, because they receive less support from their environment than women. This proves how important mental support is during a difficult period such as this. There is clearly a lack of understanding and acceptance for this topic. That is why more media such as Anamnesis is needed. Not only to help people that go through this themselves, but also to create awareness.

Marie Lhuissier
Artist | Animator | Designer
Kevin Hutchinson