Maze game

Chinese indie game developers recreate life with Alzheimer’s TechNode

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared on SPOTS.

Three students in Beijing have developed an indie game that puts players into the consciousness of Alzheimer’s patients, hoping they will walk away with a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and have sympathy for those living with the disease.

The game, titled “Room 301, Building 6”, is an immersive game in which players would experience what it is like to lose control of their memories. “This is my home; I’ve always lived here. But even this place is unfamiliar to me,” is the opening line of this meditative indie video game.

Developed by three students from Communication University of China in Beijing and published by Gameragame, Room 301, Building 6 began as an immersive experience in different states of consciousness. Although an official release date has yet to be announced, a free trial of the indie video game is available for PC users on Steam.

Huang Yuhan, one of the game’s developers, told RADII that they initially had several ideas, but ultimately settled on Alzheimer’s disease because some of their relatives suffered from the disease.

“We have very personal memories, and it was very easy to express them through the game’s creation,” Huang said.

In the game, players step into the shoes of a retired grandmother on a five-day quest to regain her memories by finding items scattered around her apartment. Just like in real life, Alzheimer’s medications can boost the character’s memory capacity, helping players progress through the game.

“We thought long and hard about it, but eventually came to a consensus to prioritize faithful, no-frills reproduction over conventionally fun gameplay,” Huang said.

The game is split into two screens to simulate the cognitive limitations that plague patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

On the right, players can only preview their character’s apartment instead of seeing the full picture. This limited visual field recalls the reduced attention span of patients and the difficulties they encounter in organizing logical thought. Sign of memory loss, players sometimes need to revisit the same items. Using the left panel, players must navigate a maze using their keyboards while constantly exploring the same room and searching for familiar items and shapes.

The game’s developers hope that in addition to providing players with a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, Room 301, Building 6 will have a broader emotional impact on audiences.

“This story simulates just one of the millions of patients around the world, but if there is even a small facet of the game that evokes memories or feelings for our players, we will have achieved our goal,” said Huang added.