Discover the biological rhythms of the body. See the pulsing effects of everything from the air we breathe to the food we eat to the drugs we ingest and produce.
The objective of the game is maintain homeostasis and desirable mental and emotional states for the in-game avatar.
The player must keep vital and secondary variables (depending on the level) at their ‘sweet spots.’ The player does this by controlling bodily processes, eating food, taking drugs, etc.
The game is real-time. The various chemicals and their effects are represented as colored bars and with overlaid text. These rise and fall rhythmically as the levels of different chemicals/affects increase (through player's direct actions or their effects) and naturally decline.
View the body as a system of interacting organic chemicals, both ingested and internally, with various effects physical, cognitive, and psychological effects.
Game Look and Feel
Your body pulses to the rhythmic tapping of your fingers. Colored bars with bold text that details your body’s condition rise and fall. Through your veins and arteries, colored molecules flow through the body. Each actions emits a note in the same key so, as you tap, you hear a tonal rhythm of your own creation.
In the first level, the player clicks the lungs to breathe and the heart to pump blood. They must get the bloodpressure and oxygen levels to the yellow lines and keep them there. To do this, they must rhythmically tap the “beat” and “breathe” actions: fast for the heartbeat and slow for the breathing.
Breathing includes a tap to begin inspiration (breathing in) and another tap for expiration (breathing out). If the player breathes too rapidly then they have hyperventilation..
If blood pressure goes too high, then hypertension. If blood pressure goes too low, then hypotension.
The natural breathing rhythm that the game calls for is at a real-time pace. The player can set their age and weight in the settings and this will adjust the natural breathing and heartbeat rhythms objectives for the body.
Breathing or beating the heart too fast or slow can cause different effects. For instance, if the player breathes very fast, then the heart beats faster and the body displays “hyperventilation” as a colored bar (and maybe it’s symptoms as well),
On later odd-numbered levels, the player must deal with different physical and psychological stressors that operate at this time-scale.
In the level shown below, the body is running and the heart needs to beat much faster to maintain good oxygen levels. The player combats the build-up of lactic acid and muscle fatigue. The player gains control over a variety of bodily processes like the release of adrenaline.
In another level at this time-scale, the player might be dealing with a psychosocial stressor like public speaking and trying to maintain low levels of cortisol.
Relaxing before going on
The "next level" button unobtrusively fades in at the bottom right as they complete the level, encouraging the player to keep breathing and beating their heart for as long as they want. Their breath should naturally begin to match the tapping of their fingers and breathing of the in-game body.
Levels 2n: A longer time scale
In the even number levels, 1 second can represent between 10-30 minutes, based on what biological states the player is trying to maintain, keeping the time scale necessary to see real-time changes in the target values.
In level two, the player is trying to maintain nutrition levels over the course of several days. They choose food items outside the body to add them to the system. They’re trying to maintain levels of glucose, protein, etc.
In later even-numbered levels, the players begin to affect and try to maintain cognitive and psychological variables like energy, stress, focus, etc. These could be absolutely anything (see cuddliness below). They also begin to see their bodies rhythmic production of various chemicals like serotonin, adrenaline, etc.
In later levels, a player might combat a headache, on a longer timescale, depression.
In these situations, ‘natural’ actions are sometimes unavailable. When depression is high, the player has low appetite and is unable to eat. This furthers the fatigue and anxiety, exacerbating the depression. Actions like sleep have a cool-down and can’t be used all the time (like real life). They might have problems producing serotonin. They have the option to use different drugs to supplement the chemicals that their body can produce. Any potential side-effects of these drugs appear as additional bars.
Chemicals pulse and flow through body
It’d be cool to show the chemicals dispersing throughout the body. Imagine all the little colored dots flowing out into the body from the mouth, lungs, and stomach area.
We might give an in-depth look at what’s in the blood.
Accuracy of the game system
The game system is essentially a system dynamics model. Though I’m not an expert in human biology (by any stretch), I do know that systems dynamics models are used to represent a variety of biological processes.
For the prototype, I think we can fudge the terms and parameters that we use. If we go to full production, we’ll probably want to consult a medical professional.
Content for the game can all go in a spreadsheet. For each thing that can go up or down, add a column and a row. Indicate which 1) a] things go up or down when it’s changed b] how quickly that happens 2) how fast it goes up or down naturally 3) which player actions can add it (if any). 4) whether it displays as a bar, colored dot through the body, or both 5) whether it enables other actions and at what levels.