An Abertay University PhD researcher has used the Tay Road Bridge as the impactful setting for a new campaigning video game based on his own father’s lived experiences of depression.
Alexander Tarvet used an audio voiceover recorded by his father Jim for research project ‘The Longest Walk’ in which he discusses his experiences of depression and the despair he felt during his depressive episodes.
The documentary-style game used photorealistic images of the Tay Road Bridge captured as LiDAR 3D scans to create a walk-through experience that runs from a beach in Fife across the bridge to Dundee.
Since launch, the game has been downloaded almost 10,000 times and has been nominated for a Scottish BAFTA. The winner of the award will be announced at a ceremony on the 20th of November.
Alexander, who is based in the School of Design and Informatics, selected the bridge as the focal point for his game as it is the crisis point of many personal struggles with suicidal thoughts in and around the Dundee area.
The game, which begins with a trigger warning due to the nature of the content discussed, starts with Jim talking through some of the darkest times in his struggles, including considering taking his own life.
As the player progresses, the voiceover moves from negative recollections to positive, with Jim talking about his path to recovery and how suicide is never the answer to mental health problems.
Alexander said: “Having seen first-hand the devastating impact mental health issues can have on a person this project had a huge personal significance for me.
“By giving people the chance to immerse themselves in my dad’s own lived experiences, I hope we can help others recognise the signs so they can get help for themselves or a loved one as soon as possible.
“I’m in awe of the bravery my dad has shown and also by his drive and willingness to be part of this project.
“Abertay is a world-leader in experimental and applied games research and education projects, and it’s been fantastic to have the opportunity to work on this project as part of my studies.”
Jim added: “The Longest Walk captures my personal journey through mental health issues and I am really proud to have contributed to something that’s going to help raise awareness through such a modern medium.
“The message I want to get across is that support is out there, and I’d encourage anyone who might be struggling to reach out to friends, family, support services or anyone they feel comfortable talking to.
“Working with Alexander on this has been a great experience and I hope that we can make a difference.”
Mental health is just one aspect of Alexander’s PhD, which is funded by the Northwood Charitable Trust.
In future work he plans to focus on other areas of health and healthcare, including the impact cancer has on people’s lives.
The Longest Walk has been made available to download for free via Steam.
Anyone struggling with their mental health can contact the Samaritans by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 116 123.