Getting started – Initial research and story deconstruction

‘The murdered Cousin’

(Refer to sketchbooks 2)


The story i chose to use as inspiration for my game concept was ‘The murdered cousin’. I chose to pull aspects from this book whilst re-reading the story linearly to encourage a diversity of ideas by pulling from individual aspects of the story as well as greater contextually sensitive aspects. Here I’ll include pages from my research book chronologically to show my thought processes and ideas… Initially i noted a religious overtone in the story and drew parallels to gaming media that have utilized religious imagery in a unique way, ie binding of isaac, bayonetta, i could use this as future reference if i chose to elaborate on the religious theming idea.


I noted character dynamics i found interesting as well as scenery which could be interesting in terms of narrative and character/environment design, i observed both the neglected garden and the air of mystery and secrecy around the family which seems especially useful in developing both a narrative and gameplay style as i could take the game in a point and click or RPG style (crime?) mystery game.


A third way through the story i came up with a rudimental narrative pulling from what ive written and interpreted to this point, inspired mostly by Coraline and Corpse party in the main narrative centralized on an alternative, ‘cursed’, dimension i thought the mansion could be a vessel for a second dimension which traps the souls of those who enter to live out eternity, causing the trapped souls (uncle and cousins) to become insane from agelessness which as the player you gradually uncover as it starts as an engaging crime thriller and divulges into abstract horror… this idea was also inspired from Stephen kings short story ‘The Jaunt’ in which people can teleport, or in the story ‘Jaunt’, large distances but only when they’re unconscious as though the ‘Jaunt’ is instantaneous physically to a conscious mind it lasts for eternity, leaving you alone with your thoughts for an unfathomable length of time… This could work well into a game narrative as it gives a great opportunity for lore and elaborate story telling in a setting which is relatively untouched, abstract psychological and body horror, maybe i can bridge into Junji Ito genre horror.


A random character design around a combination of my initial religious theming idea and the concept of a timeless dimension, i explored the idea that possibly the mansion is a version of heaven or purgatory, the cat child idea was based loosely on kitten drownings and was a reflection of human arrogance and cruelty so a ‘gatekeeper’ or ‘reaper’ type character could be a good way to use imagery, if i continue with this idea however i would greatly improve on the design as it was simply to illustrate a concept.


Here i started to think about gameplay style and game genre. as i dont know much about the story at this point it was mostly influenced by games i feel shared a similar mood to the story and how the game genre helped in story telling.. as my major will be art direction/concept art, mood, themes and atmosphere are reflected in the game style and genre.


As i am making the notes linearly with reading the story i made observational notes about the character of the uncle and male cousin. I could use these notes in the future to help direct my character design in both aesthetics and character traits. I noted that the male cousin has an incestuous interest in the main character and also that he is violent and unpredictable which has good foundation or a threatening character/event for the main character in my game story. With the male cousin comes the first pivotal decision in the story, accepting his advances of marriage or rejecting him, this would work well in a game setting as choice heavy story telling is used in narrative very effectively and i could use this in my research in the future.


After nice first impressions the main character is exposed to a darker side of her uncle, a threatening, manipulative demeanor catching her off guard and reinforcing a growing sense of unease initially triggered with the male cousin, there is now a sense of dread and danger which wasn’t there before as the mood before was of somber melancholy. This could be useful to look back on as reference if the game comes to development as the scene introduces a sense of dread seamlessly which would translate perfectly into a game medium. This also made me think of the importance and value of choices in game as a pivotal choice could be a core game mechanic which offers two completely different stories… IE marry the cousin or reject and rebel.


The next interesting plot point i wanted to note was the replacement of the maid after the uncle incident and how there was this sense of surveillance and being ‘watched’ as property of the uncle… I thought that this would translate well into a game medium as a mechanic and sense of atmosphere as it simulates a ‘big brother’ environment and an element of stealth, for example in a game world there could be a volatile system in which if you say the ‘wrong’ thing to an npc or go somewhere you’re not allowed whilst being watched by a surveillance character/creature/feature/whatever it triggers an event or damages you in someway.

An example of a game that does this is LISA the painful RPG in which you’re given the choice on multiple occasions between your belongings/currency or the party members in your team,  if you sacrifice a party member future party members are much less loyal and leave more frequently or have different character interactions which has a dramatic impact on the atmosphere and tone of the game.


The character makes a discovery at this point in the story, after being previously told her male cousin has left the country to France she returns back to the mansion to get her art supplies she forgot at witnesses him in disguise with the uncle holding an ambiguous object. With the escalating sense of dread the cousin leaving the country offered a false sense of safety and normality, this could also be implemented into a game that is atmospherically focused in narrative to indicate a major plot point as the safety is torn away. This coupled with the sense of isolation experienced by the character in not being allowed to leave the property and this new immediate sense of dread and danger leads to a formulation of an escape plan… A letter given to a random passerby to deliver, her only hope hinged on the reliability of a stranger. This would work really well in a core character interaction as many games use characters as puzzles to achieve a goal, for example ‘The Master’ interactions in Fallout.

The male cousin keeps appearing and there is a growing sense of dread and finality paired with an ambiguity of authenticity, is she deluded and hallucinating? this ambiguity could be an interesting concept to play with as a medium for narrative, The main character gets so distressed she needs to share a room with her best friend, the female cousin. As they sleep and the main character realizes she has been locked in to the room and a sense of real finality has come, the female cousin is drugged and the main character is all alone and expecting death. I noted that the sense of isolation is heightened by the removal of a familiar/companion character and the sense of safety, the only sense of safety, is removed.


I am theirs i cannot escape – this sense of removal of choice and freedom, pigeon holed into a decided fate. This could work as a game sequence in which you need to find an escape from a closed room on a short timer, a place to hide or way to crawl out etc.

I briefly explored the idea of the female cousin metaphorically being a companion character, providing a sense of safety in being comic relief, providing tips and possibly abilities you can utilize that you dont possess. The loss of a reinforced companion character/safety relief would heighten the panic and sense of dread and finality and can work as both a plot function and to add character to the game and a diversity of moods.


I thought back to my original idea of choice and how it could play out in consideration of the companion character, the pivotal choice between marriage and rejection could play out two story lines, one in which you lose the companion but save yourself, or the other (marriage or whatever the alt choice in game) in which you have an opportunity to save both yourself and the companion, this could be a much harder option that could elaborate on the lore of the games story.


I noted predominately style influences i wanted to explore later as further research.


After re-reading the story and exploring ideas as i went along i chose to condense it into main themes as to make a completely fresh story inspired by the ‘Murdered cousin’ instead of an interpretation or retelling. I took it in the direction of a story narrative around a curse with ties to family/heritage and survival/escape and a theme of alternative reality. Initially i roughly rambled a story that came to my head based on the curse being core to the story and came up with a lose story of two twins who angered a grudge ridden  demon/forest spirit and one is consumed and curses to possess a mask under the condition to get their body back within the month/6month/year/etc or they’re whole family and existence is wiped from the world. I will elaborate on this story in the future after more extensive research…


I brainstormed some themes and ideas i wanted to explore in the future, the main one being the use of the ‘lost twin’ the twin trapped in the mask can be worn to see into a spirit/lost realm in which different interactions, puzzles and characters can be accessed to further the story, I will elaborate more on this though after more extensive research into story influences and style influences from culture, history and media that inspires me and this story.