When you’re playing Before I Forget, wandering around a house inspecting everyday objects, trying to trigger a memory, it feels like a lot of narrative-driven video games: you’re attempting to piece together a story using clues left behind. But this game puts you in the shoes of Sunita, a woman suffering from early-onset dementia, which infuses what you’re doing with sadness and significance. The house is delineated in monochrome, colour seeping back as she gradually reconnects with her past self. Examining a photograph provides a clue to her identity; a familiar piece of music might recall an important person in her life.
Other symptoms are conveyed in more disconcerting ways. According to The Guardian, Sunita can become lost in her own home in a nightmarish loop, opening doors that all lead to the same dark broom cupboard. Before I Forget was exhibited as part of The Leftfield Collection’s experimental indie-game lineup at Rezzed games convention in London earlier this year. Developer 3-Fold Gameshopes to provide a sensitive and emotive portrayal of dementia.
A relationship between dementia and video games already exists. Research has indicated that brain-training puzzle games can help improve memory in older people, and a mobile game called Sea Hero Quest uses player data to contribute to research on dementia. While 3-Fold Games’ research has involved talking to care assistants and experts, the aim is for Before I Forget to be an “impressionistic” exploration of dementia rather than an educational tool, something that will allow players to gain some understanding of what it might be like to experience the condition. The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK and that this figure will rise to more than a million by 2025.
Read more about the game and what it has to say about dementia at The Guardian.