“Room 301, 6 Buildings”: They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

I attended the Dingfuzhuang Game Developers Conference last month. This is the old tradition of the Game Department of the School of Animation and Digital Art of Communication University of China. The graduation design of the senior year is open to the outside world in the form of an exhibition, and it can also communicate with developers. In recent years, its name has been standardized. It is called “Graduation Design Experience Exhibition of the Game Department of Communication University of China”. Last year, due to the epidemic, the exhibition was closed and reopened this year. This is a big event for those who are concerned about student games. I encountered a game during the exhibition, “6 Buildings 301”. It moved me so much that I started to want to write something to it when I took a taxi home. I chatted with the game developer about her game, student work and game major.

Some regrets, the schedule was rushed, I couldn’t play all the games, and I didn’t ask the names of every developer. There may be some treasures hidden among them waiting to be discovered. In short, the following is what I saw and heard that day.

1

The exhibition was held in the advertising museum inside the Zhongchuan School. Going up the stairs to the third floor is a big square house. Inside it is divided into 4 pieces with a table. Laptops and iPads are on the table waiting for people to try it out. On the side near the door is the senior group, and on the farther side are the sophomore and junior students-here, the students work in groups of three or four for graduation design and joint creation.

It was a bit sultry in the summer afternoon, and the venue was closed, full of the noise of laptop fans. After playing around for a while, I chose to go to the stairs to get some breath. During the half day, I tried playing about 10 games. Half of them were the “co-creation” assignments of sophomores and juniors. This project is similar to the warm-up of graduation design. Usually it starts in the third year, and there is not enough time. The joint creation works are also rough due to the construction period. The other half is a senior year’s graduation design works, with obvious differences in styles and high and low standards.

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

The exhibition area is small, but there are many people. The actual scene is darker than it looks in the photo

A few of them look good. One is the Roguelike card “Turtle Way”. There are a lot of people lined up in the trial area. I didn’t play it personally, so I stood and watched it for a while. The art is very good, the gameplay is innovative, and the “Nine-square grid” system has been added to create a connection between the cards and the cards. Under the promotional video of “Game Department 2021 Graduation Design Show” uploaded by the official B station account of China Transmission, “Turtle Way” received the most praise.

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

The art of “Turtle Way” has its own style, and the gameplay is quite good

Another one that looks good is the 2D horizontal version of the action game, called “Blood Engine” (ie “Blood Flame Engine”) . The game has been in the game for more than two years, starting before the joint creation, and the participating members of the group have come and gone. The team leader is a tall and strong boy named Xiongda. When other classmates were busy getting familiar with campus life, he thought about playing games. Halfway through the sophomore year, the creative atmosphere in the department gradually became stronger. He said: “I want to be an action game. There is no starting point, I just want to do it, and it must be an action game.”

Later, he really did it. It was “Blood Engine”, which was used by Lianchuang and Bishe. Except for the magnificent team, everyone is doing puzzle solving, tower defense, card game, and construction. No one is doing action games because the workload is too much.

I asked him why he chose an action game, and he said, “I want to be cool.”

I asked: “What is cool?”

“The things that are difficult, that no one challenges, and I like are the coolest.” Xiongda said.

The promotional video of “Blood Engine” was uploaded to the official website B account of Zhongchuan. People left messages in the bullet screen, “It looks like an animation professional”, Xiongda was very happy. His work has appeared in many places, has been on exhibition promotional videos, participated in some competitions, won some awards, and has also launched a page on Steam. Everything seems to be developing in a good direction. Xiongda told me that he wanted to do indie games. There is a trustworthy trait in him, as if he can do everything. I told him: “It’s hard to do indie games.”

He said, “I know.”

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

Players at the scene are trying out “Blood Engine”, the game developer is on the left side of the screen and behind the chair

5 pm is the dismantling time stipulated by the school. I haven’t fully experienced all the games. Some booths have already been dismantled for dinner. A teacher at the door weakly greeted the students to “get off work and come back tomorrow.” People began to pack their things. Affected by this atmosphere, I was about to leave.

On the way out, my gaze shifted to a booth near the door. I have noticed that they have been playing for a long time. Every time I look at it, there are three or four players in the demo team, and each of them can play for more than ten minutes. At the time when the move-out was approaching, there were still people queuing. Whether it’s the developers watching the stalls or the players in the queue, they are not too anxious, as if standing and watching people playing games is also enjoyable. I was curious, and quickly walked over to join the team.

2

While waiting, the two developers handed over a postcard with the name of the game: “6 Buildings, Room 301”. The background of the postcard is an old door, like an old house in the 70s and 80s, with the words “language”, “life”, “touch”, “picture” and “storage” written on the side. I chatted with the developers. They were the artist Chen Zhixin and the planner Huang Yuhan. The program Li Ang did not come because of something. This is a team of 3, all members are girls. They told me about the basic settings-interactive narrative games with puzzle-solving elements. The entire game interface consists of two windows. On the right is the real appearance of a room, and on the left is its simplified version. The maze is composed of lines that resemble the outlines of objects. The cursor controlled by the player is roaming in it, looking for real objects. Projection in the maze.

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

In the game screen of “6 Buildings 301”, the right side is the real screen, and the left side is the maze. The player controls the small dots on the screen to move, looking for items in the maze

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

Taking medicine is something that must be done every day. Every time you finish it, your vision will be larger, which means your thinking becomes clearer.

At the bottom of the postcard, there are a few lines of small words that vaguely read: “This is a corner of the room of an elderly Alzheimer’s. The narrow field of view, the intricate observation routes, the daily changing of the room… all imitate The mental image world of the patient’s cognitive impairment. The player will repeatedly explore and re-recognize the same room by walking through the maze, completing the daily task of packing up and reviewing the memory of his life that is about to pass away. “

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

The postcard of “6 Buildings 301”, I don’t know what kind of game it is at first, but the old texture attracts people to play.

My chat with them was frequently interrupted, and the people who tried it were not playing smoothly. Every once in a while, they took off their headphones and looked back to ask questions and called a developer away. Occasionally, there are friends who come to join them-compared to ordinary game exhibitions, the visitors of this graduation design exhibition are not limited to gamers, but more students from other majors in the school.

In addition to the exhibition held by the game department, the animation department also shared the 3 floors of the advertising museum. They don’t understand how input devices are operated. Outside the circle of gamers, “how to use the handle” may not be common sense. I saw a girl who asked the developer at the booth “Do you want money to play your game?” After getting a free answer, she was dubious, looked around, and then walked away.

The people who try it out come and go. “What should a game that cares about people with Alzheimer’s disease look like?” I thought, looking from a distance behind the player, only a vague outline could be seen-would it look like a documentary?

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the mazeThe objects in the maze represent memories of the past

“Building 6 301” is the house number of Huang Yuhan’s grandmother’s house. Grandma suffers from bipolar disorder and brain atrophy. The symptoms are similar to Alzheimer’s. Chen Zhixin was brought up by the elderly. They are more familiar with this delicate emotion than most people. “You will feel that a familiar person is gradually moving away from yourself.” Huang Yuhan told me, “not suddenly, but a long and painful farewell.”

This experience is Huang Yuhan’s source of inspiration and her fear. This disease has a certain degree of family inheritance, she is afraid that her mother will become like that in the future, and she is afraid that she will be too.

The sick elderly can’t tell, they don’t even know what they have forgotten. In their graduation works, Huang Yuhan, Chen Zhixin, and Li Ang want players to experience this sense of powerlessness as much as possible, and experience the passing of memories, just like tears disappearing in the rain-not in the form of a documentary, but to actually let the player control An old man with slow thinking, his thinking and actions are as complicated as walking through a maze. This is of course not a rhetorical device, but a real maze.

The whole game has only one scene and one small house. The old man played by the player walks through the maze to find the items full of memories, puts them in Li, and waits for her daughter to pick her up, even if she doesn’t know why. The items placed in the house change every day, the themes are about self, lover, children, and students, but the room is still that room. Due to technical limitations, the design of the maze is relatively fixed. Huang Yuhan considered increasing the difficulty to make it move to more closely simulate the dullness of Alzheimer’s disease-the process of walking through the maze is like an electrical signal traveling through the brain, slow and often stuck. To die, you need to constantly struggle, remember, and find a new way out…

Many movies and documentaries have focused on patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and Huang Yuhan has also watched a lot, but she always feels that there is a distance from the world behind the camera. Her mother was a journalist. When she was a child, her mother always talked about what happened during interviews. Huang Yuhan said: ” My mother often goes out for interviews. For most interviewees, the visits of reporters and cameras will create the illusion of’I want to receive someone who observes me’, which makes them feel normal life and in front of the camera. The appearance is cut apart, and then reveals a different face in the subconscious. “She wants to eliminate this difference and shorten the distance. For her, games may be a better medium than documentaries.

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

The three of them attached great importance to the atmosphere shaping of the booth of “6 Buildings 301”

At the end of the game, the old man will be picked up by a car. Where is the car heading, home or a nursing home? do not know. Huang Yuhan explained that he wanted to keep all his memories in the room.

In the original version, the name of the institution was printed on the car that picked up the old man, which was later erased. Huang Yuhan feels that some white space will make the ending a little bit farther away from reality, floating in the air, letting him catch his breath. In reality, sending parents to nursing homes is not an uncommon choice for ordinary people or children of Alzheimer’s patients. People always have some selfish reasons, whether they are children, parents, or bystanders. “I don’t want to judge anything, nor call people what to do. And I try my best to avoid this sense of appeal and let the players experience it.” Huang Yuhan and Chen Zhixin said that they made the game a puzzle-solving object display. Restore past memories in the way of “cleaning up the house”. In tidying up things bit by bit, I can experience the poetic feeling like nothing.

“There is no need to interpret anymore.” They said.

3

I played “Six Buildings 301”. After waiting for an afternoon, I opened the door of 301 with the key. The light flows from the ceiling to one wall, then to the next, and then to the next, until it illuminates the entire room. Music comes from the noise-canceling headphones, following the light spot controlled by the player. The picture on the right is hand-painted frame by frame by Chen Zhixin, warm and clear, and a vague outline is shown on the left. I wander between lines, looking for fragments of memory. I never know what the world of Alzheimer’s patients is like, I don’t know if there is only black in the eyes of blind people. It will certainly not look like the screen on the left side of the computer, but so what? All this seems so harmonious and elegant, like a handful of cream.

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

The opening chapter of “6 Buildings 301”, opened the door of the old house with a key

Harmony is the secret of “6 Buildings 301”. You may have played some good games, but they are particularly blunt in some aspects. Every item is OK, and every item is almost a little bit worse. OK, but I always feel that the corners are not polished. But the young “6 Buildings 301 Room” performed very well in this regard, the left side of the maze puzzle solving and the connection of the real world on the right, the setting of the memory fragments in the plot, the support of music and sound effects, and even the cursor movement controlled by the player It is slow, and it can bring people into the perspective of an old man living in memory. You know how she looked when she was young, how she got to know her lover, and how much she loves her daughter, even if she is completely unrecognizable now. Perhaps we will never know what the real Alzheimer’s patients are recalling, but the swampy sense of powerlessness can be conveyed to the players’ hearts.

Of course, if you look at it by the standards of a large indie game, “6 Buildings 301 Room” also has some shortcomings. The game process is very short. The entire process is divided into 5 days in the game, and it takes about 15 minutes a day. No matter how procrastinated, it can be played in one afternoon. It is difficult to add new levels to the puzzle game driven by the story, which means that even if it is released commercially, the length of the game should not change much.

There are many labels in “6 Buildings 301”, such as student works, serious games, female developers, game graduate design, Alzheimer’s disease care…Aside from these, what attracts me is the game itself.

All the scenes of the game are set in a small room. In this small world, the game matures quickly. Although Huang Yuhan kept saying “not finished yet”, the five-day game process missed the most important day; although some bugs had not been resolved, the details of the carving did not satisfy her. But from the conception to the program integrity, to the quality and quantity of the art resources… If they are asked to finish the missing plot and put it on Steam directly, I will directly purchase the deluxe version including the original soundtrack-the sound effects and music are They asked their classmates to help make it. There is no shortage of talent here.

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

The student in charge of sound effects is simulating the sound of moving a fish tank from the windowsill of the old house

Huang Yuhan told me that they never considered themselves as a student team. Once you think about it this way, you will unconsciously think that the student team has its limits. Some things cannot be predicated. They don’t want to give up any idea or any opportunity to make the work shine. “Even if we are a larger independent game development group, this game will still look like today.”

4

This group of game majors seems to shoulder people’s expectations. Some people want them to be professional players, game producers, event organizers… Seriously, will they enter the game industry in the future? Among the 20 digital entertainment professionals, only three or four actually made games. They went to the “big factory”, and more people were scattered in various industries, and they may no longer play games in the future. Even these classmates who have gone to the big factory, they rarely have the opportunity to play a game that is completely their own.

What mentality should I play with these student games that may be their final work? What should i expect? The Zhongchuan Game Graduation Design Exhibition was announced everywhere, Weibo, Station B, Official Account…Two voices occupied the mainstream, “Great, you are the future of Chinese games” and “It’s just another game on the market , A group of people held up to the sky, speechless”. Some people outside the two seem to have some directional requirements for these students’ works—innovative, experimental, self-expression, and not too commercial.

But what is “innovation” and what is “experimental”? Do you break the rules like “Baba Is You”? This is not realistic. A certain degree of innovation is based on trial and error. The cost of trial and error for students’ works is low, and may not consume too much money, giving people the illusion that they can “innovate”, but in fact, the problem of money is also on students. It may turn into a question of opportunity and time. Take this graduation design exhibition as an example, there are 4 groups that failed to produce finished products and missed the exhibition.

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

Student developers will occasionally be busy all night

After studying for a few years, I always have something to say in my heart. Therefore, “self-expression” is the more frequent one. The Alzheimer’s care in “6 Buildings 301”, the “action game is cool” in “Blood Engine”, and some things I haven’t mentioned above, such as a game that looks a lot like “Dream Island”. “Planning the World”-the two main creators are not too shy about this. They use programs to express their own level and want to use this as a stepping stone to the big factory. This is also a kind of self-expression.

As for business-this is a very contradictory thing. People expect that the works of middle school students will be a little green and innocent, and less commercial. But in this Internet age, everyone can search for “secrets of popular games” and “how to make user retention higher”. Even students want to make their games available to more people, so they may Intentionally or unintentionally, let his game have a little commercial atmosphere.

This is another reason why I like “6 Buildings 301”. They don’t care whether the game sells well or not, which game type is more popular. I just chose the most comfortable way to express myself.

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

The three main creators of “6 Buildings 301”, from left to right are program Li Ang, art artist Chen Zhixin, and planner Huang Yuhan

When applying for her volunteers, games were not Huang Yuhan’s first choice. Her first wish was the film and television direction of digital media art. She had a dream of making animation, but in the end she was admitted to the game department of “freely filled”. Before enrolling, Huang Yuhan hadn’t played games much, and only registered his Steam account after going to college.

Zhongchuan’s dormitory is small, with a room for 4 people, with upper and lower bunks. The table is leaning against the wall, long strip, with huge storage compartments on the wall, and can only hold monitors smaller than 24 inches. PS4 and Xbox One can’t let go, let alone the behemoth PS5. Huang Yuhan and his roommates bought the Switch and played party games in handheld mode.

I asked Huang Yuhan: “Do you regret the 4 years in the game department?” She didn’t hesitate, and even replied as if to grab a word: “No regrets.”

“The past 4 years in the game department is more like an exploratory process, from not playing games at the very beginning to playing games at the end. I am also quite surprised. Some departments have very tight class schedules. After class, you have to design and shoot For the film, our major is not so tight, and I often go to other colleges.” Huang Yuhan said, “Sometimes I see friends who major in digital media and film and television are busy, and I am a little lucky.” Compared to the degree of differentiation. Higher digital media film and television majors, the game department gives students more space to explore, learn, and cooperate. Some media will treat these majors of the game department as gimmicks, saying that they are “e-sports majors”, but they are actually quite different. Of course, they also have courses like “event planning” and “event guide”, but more The most important thing to learn is how to play games.

Whether it is a “game major”, “e-sports major” or “female developer” or “student work”, Huang Yuhan does not want to be bound and enslaved by labels. A game major does not necessarily have to play games or engage in e-sports, she I want to continue her animation dream.

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

The night scene near Communication University. The 2017 graduates have left here to go to a wider place

The graduation season was full of parting. After the exhibition, when I came to Zhongchuan again, Chen Zhixin and Li Ang had already left the school. The three of them have completely different career plans. I don’t know what will happen in the future. Can “6 Buildings 301” be successfully released? Will they become good game producers? Or will you enter other industries to work hard? All this is vague and full of charm.

These young game creators, Huang Yuhan, Chen Zhixin, Li Ang, Xiongda, and some of them I didn’t know their names-without exception, kept a passionate heart. Maybe this is given to them by the environment of Dingfuzhuang, I don’t know. Even if there is a long way to go for indie games, these people always make me believe that they can do something.

Huang Yuhan was the last of the creators of “Six Buildings 301” to leave school. Prior to this, Chen Zhixin had returned to his hometown to rethink his future career plans; Li Ang had taken care of his research and was helping another team. In the process of my writing, on July 2nd, Huang Yuhan will leave Beijing and return to Guangdong. She had a preliminary exchange with the animation studio there, and she was going back to talk about salary. Compared to Beijing, which is cold and dry, it is closer to home and dreams.

5

The graduation design exhibition lasted for 5 days, and the player’s thoughts were filled with a small book. Huang Yuhan took it home as a souvenir. To her, this little book is like those objects in the game that symbolize memories of the past. Years later, these messages reminded them of their school days, the works they worked together, and the old house of No. 301 in the 6th building with grandma. Even when my memory disappears, it is still a fragment of the good memory of the past.

At the end of the book is a short message without a signature. Huang Yuhan said that after seeing it, she wanted to cry.

“I hope my grandma can be cured, thank you for your game.”

"Room 301, 6 Buildings": They put the memories that grandma lost into the maze

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