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Behind The Scenes: Developing Afterlife

 

The Start of A Game

I’ve spent the past few months researching and developing the game Afterlife. It’s been an awesome and amazing journey. I first received and started the game about 3-4 years ago. The idea was to create a table-top RPG game called “Sanctuary”, it was a game that would use games to help people heal their wounds and go on a journey of self-discovery. The best part was it could be played with your closest friends and family around a campfire.

 

The Journey

There was one problem. I had never played a table-top RPG game and I didn’t have any friends I was social with. So I went online in search of forum based RPGs to solve this problem. It took a bit of searching but I eventually settled on a site that I wasn’t really interested in, but really enjoyed the depth of the information it had and the level of organization. I joined. And would quickly learn that in the real world the average member in society is not capable of understanding mental illness or handling it when it is encountered. I quickly found myself mocked, called strange, talked about, and shunned. People I had never even met were warning others about me and gossiping. I had shared my personal struggles with mental illness privately with only two select people I had trusted; and together they ignited me on fire.

I dealt with a lot of hurt. It was strange for someone to be so connected to their writing, to use roleplay as an extension of themselves and dealing with their own problems. I was in one place told that I needed to develop social tact or leave. I was attached and perhaps wrongly to, to a friend who never stood up for me and would say one thing to me while telling someone else something different. And while at the time this entire experience was devastating, it was perhaps the best thing to ever happen to me. Because it helped me realize what exactly I was dealing with within society. The amount of cruelty and closed hearts and minds, the need for destructive gossip and exclusion, the lying and mistrust. At first I thought maybe I just don’t play well with others, maybe I am not flexible enough. Brainstorming with my therapist while also enjoying the spiritual and emotional resilience I had developed within the social world, I went back to the drawing table.

How could I create a game to help people mentally, emotionally and spiritually? And could I create a tool designed to do just that? Other challenges I encountered related to game mechanics, and fun, how to make it fun, and how to tackle the reality that the average person isn’t emotionally aware or even open enough to play such a game or to want to, let alone encounter someone different and strange.

From Pain to Creation

I didn’t know. That is until my attempts to heal in a fun and non-threatening way led me to developing the game “Afterlife”. The making of this game was a healing process. Designing and developing a game meant to help and aid others, and meeting the challenges, and emotional blocks that would stop me at one of the levels or Gates in the underworld was an amazing experience. I remember at one point I was at a level I was designing in the game unable to proceed. There I realized that an emotional block stopping me at the “Gate” was my ex-girlfriend. It was working through that grief, while also following the steps in the game to let her go, that I realized not only was I developing a game to help others heal and discover themselves, the process of developing it was helping me too.

Afterlife Is Born

Today I am excited to say that this past few months has given rise to Afterlife which is in the final stages of completion and heading towards testing. I have a few more games in the works after this. One Game to tackle the Syrian Refugee Crisis, another game to tackle Mental Illness some more. But AfterLife is a little bit different. It’s a game that focuses on self-discovery. It asks who we are by peeling away all the layers of who we are not, it’s a symbolic death and rebirth, inspired by my personal journey.

I read many books during this journey that helped build upon the idea and expanded me. Pema Chodron (Start Where you are, Going to the Places that Scare you, The Wisdom of No Escape, & Practicing Peace in Times of War), Jack Kornfield (A Path with Heart and his guided meditations), Don Miguel Ruiz (The Four Agreements), Happiness by Matthieu Ricard, Alan Watts, Wayne Dyers (Spiritual solution to every problem) and more. I read most of these to heal and empower me to heal, and there were other books and videos I listened to and watched.

Meditation and Sri Yantra were godsends for me, as well as practicing Shaolin Kung Fu to help heal my heart with movement. One meditation in particular was a Guided meditation by a Shaman who merges both native American medicine and celtic medicine into her medicine wheel. It was this introduction to the medicine wheel and how completely it helped me heal my heart and how amazingly it together with all the concepts and techniques I was developing allowed me to really undo all of my wounds, to let them go and move foreward.

Taking everything I had learned and practiced separately I decided to merge them into a single concept. It helped me overcome roadblocks and Afterlife became enhanced. To date Afterlife takes eastern concepts, and derives itself from mechanics like the medicine wheel. It comes together to create a game that I play and meditate on and not just for self-discovery but for everything.

I plan and hope to develop many variants of this tool that tackles the flexibility of Afterlife’s system.

Games as a Supporting Tool for Health

Most importantly Afterlife is a tool for mental health and wellness. It is also a tool for developing oneself spiritually (if you think of spirituality as a flavor of emotional and mental health and training). I really hope to continue exploring games as a tool for self-development and healing and am excited about the progress I am making with the game so far.

What I have so Far

To date I am still working on the cards which are almost ready to be printed. It was going to be just a card game, but as a bonus I am adding experimental board game features and a design. Once I get the card game printed hopefully between the end of this week and beginning of next week I will be beta-testing the game and receiving feedback on how it plays, and honing it as a tool. I’ll be testing it among various people I know in the spiritual community as well as a therapist to get a feel on what could be improved, what features removed or not.

My target Audience is largely the spiritual community and people in the mental health community specifically those who practice mindfulness. People who enjoy playing physical games with their family but also enjoy games that encourage them to grow will get a lot of this game. People who are turned off by mental illness, and who aren’t interested in learning more about themselves or each other, or who are not comfortable will not find this game to be to their liking.

I am also working on making this game something that can easily be played with just a single player.

I am really excited about this project, and while it’s taken a few months for if not more to put it together. I’m really excited about the idea of producing a tool that can benefit others, and that has been able to help me along with my other everyday meditation practices in managing the depression and bipolar aspects of my mental illness. I am working hard to take this game and concept further beyond just a tool.

Blogging Takes a Back Seat

Because I am one person my site has largely taken a back seat. My focus is on developing this game as a sole developer and producing a tangible tool. I have so many ideas I am working on, but one project at a time. Hopefully soon I can work on getting my book out that discusses Walking a Path as a Disciple of Love, in the way of Love, Serving and working with Love. For now my focus is on designing and testing this game as a tool worthy to be in people’s homes and offices.