Series on – Remembrance Museum. Here you can read the memories of our players against the background of what happened then in our personal lives and in the world! This time James takes us on a personal journey from pain to creativity. If you want to read the other articles in this series, you can find them here.

After being inspired by my companions, I had no choice but to contribute to this wonderful series. But the big question is what to talk about. I have stories from the microcomputer era. I experienced the 16-bit wars between Sega and Nintendo. I’ve got a lot of stories to tell. Instead, I decided to do something completely different for me and show a part of me that I rarely talk about openly. I take you back to 2011, when I made my own video game.

A very old review from my red notebook

In 2011

2011 – I was about 25 years old at the time. I’ve had a long apprenticeship. From university to graduate school and field training. It was about getting away from my family and friends and trying to understand things in a new city. I earned less than the minimum wage, and I even sold my car and Wii so I could buy books for college. It was an interesting time. My plan was to train, hoping that one day I would take the time to find out what I really wanted to do with my life. My girlfriend and I also had a daring and distant relationship, because she was going her own way through college at the time. So after seven years I decided to temporarily move in with my parents in the hope of finding a solution.

The laptop I used still works after many years.

I found a job in a big British town and it only took six months for them to let me go. The day it happened still haunts me. All my work, all my efforts fail. I broke down on the side of the road and cried for hours because I couldn’t face my parents and the idea of abandoning people. Life was pretty shitty that day.

It’s weird to know where my favorite games were back then.

Long journey

I ended up in another city, but this time I decided it would be reasonable to travel about four hours a day to work. It got me thinking, although I also spent a lot of time listening to a lot of gamepodcasts and playing PSone games on my PSP. My favorites in the rotation are Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy VII. I decided to try distance learning to fill my time by travelling. I wanted to do something more creative, something other than work.

I finally looked at the Game Design module. My mind told me it was impossible, and often told me I was too old for it. But deep down inside, it’s something I’ve always wanted to touch. As a kid, I used to write for magazines and I loved video games, so I thought it would be fun to do. At least it wouldn’t have stopped me from taking long car rides and distracting myself from the pain I felt at that moment. Unfortunately gambling is something I’ve never been proud of or spoken openly about with my family, so this project has been a bit of a secret to me. The only exception was my girlfriend, one of the few people I felt comfortable with. For my family and my work, I was just a boring James who went to work and did nothing childish like playing video games, let alone designing them.

I was very happy with my scribbles.

It certainly was an interesting study. I used to print out the lectures before I went to bed and then read them on the train on my way to work. On the way home I pulled out my junk laptop and practiced programming games. I used to laugh while traveling and imagine I was one of the few game developers who made their games on the train on a laptop with an 11-inch screen. You see, I was never rich, I made the best of what I had. Although the course covered the basics of game design and programming, the main event was the creation of a fully functional game. Something pretty scary, but a challenge I was ready for.

Original Shock Design Notes

First developments

My game product started out as a game called Shock. The idea was to play a ghost, and the goal was to scare as many people as possible before moving on to the next life. This is a simple arcade game where you get a high score. The concept was born out of my love of horror, but the project didn’t feel right. So the idea evolved to something more serious, but without losing the spirit of Shock. That’s how Help Me was born, the only game I’ve developed and perfected so far. Still staggered by the loss of my job and a lot of untreated baggage from my past, I wondered if it was possible to create a game that could help someone mentally.

Help Me was a game for the mental health charity and was not really aimed at the general public. However, I wanted everyone to be able to play the game so that even if the subject doesn’t speak directly to them, they can think of others and get the help they need.

This was actually a training screen.

No experience, but a burning passion

With this concept in mind, I spent a few hours making sketches of games written in my handy red notebook. I have made drawings of elves and thought about features, many of which have never been worked out in the smallest detail. Help me, after all, was a small arcade game based on a maze, made by a very inexperienced game developer. Given this lack of experience, I was quite satisfied with the result.

The main character’s name was Elims. A blob that looks pretty blue. Before the start of each level you got a tutorial screen for interaction. Each of these screens offered small pieces of encouragement. I spent a lot of time studying cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to integrate it into gambling. This method is a common starting point for the treatment of many mental health problems in the United Kingdom.

Labyrinth level, follow the arrows


I have tried to develop levels that simulate psychological problems with which people can identify. Increases the Elim character by one level. Visibility was very limited, and it was your job to find your way out of this terrible maze. The intention was to create some stress, but at the same time to encourage the player to take a break and look for practical directions for the arrows left on the walls. The logic I learned from studying some CBT techniques was to encourage people to stop and think about the problems.

In the other levels there are ghosts like Pac Man or Bad Thoughts that can be attacked by good thoughts, as long as you take a few smiles. My favorite drawing was The Last Boss. An evil creature that was the most despicable of all. At this last level, the solutions were numerous. The thought could be attacked by positive thoughts, but it was very difficult. But if the player looks closely, there are a lot of friends scattered around the level. If you reacted with all of them, the demon would disappear. The goal of this project was to empower you, but it will be hard work. Asking for help, which some people find very difficult in real life, leads to a solution that requires much less energy.

Typical soil structure


Of course, mental health isn’t as simple as the stupid video game I programmed. It is complicated and not all solutions are suitable for everyone. The purpose of this experiment is to encourage people to seek help.  I think in general, Help me was something that helped me more than other people. I enjoyed working on it when I was in such a dark place. In the end, it’s a project I was very proud of. Even if I had to keep it a secret from everyone except my girlfriend.

Some advice for the last meeting


I wish I could say that this story had a happy ending and that James has found a job in the creative industry and now works as a writer and lives in a beautiful beach house. But that’s not how this story ends. I finally passed my module, but couldn’t get any further qualifications when I moved to another city in the UK to start another career. With this job, commuting was at least a lot shorter. You could even say that this story is still being told about what life is like for all of us. I still find it hard to be myself with people, I still work too much and I haven’t taken the break I should have taken years ago to think about where I want to go.

The Last Patrons Area

If you want a happy ending, the girl I was telling you about got married in the end. If she hadn’t supported me, I’d have given up on my dreams a long time ago.

Thank you for reading this message. I often don’t like to talk openly about my personal life, but I thought I was brave this time. I rarely talk that way about the heart. When I looked at my entries for Help Me, I had tears in my eyes. Looking back, I think the project helped me through a very dark period despite the stress. So I’d like to end this post with some advice. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and do something creative. Even though he’s small. Take small victories when they come and keep those memories. They can help you a lot in the future.

Final screen


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