You’re deep underwater, in near-darkness, in a network of unexplored ice caves and you’re running out of time. Layer on delusions, hallucinations and other symptoms of psychosis and survival is a supreme challenge. In their new game Debris, Moonray Studios aims to test players’ survival skills and show a real psychosis unlike typical game portrayals.
Moonray has been an independent digital media studios for ten years, all of them in the heart of Hamilton. Producing second screen experiences for major broadcasters like CBC and Teletoon, Moonray recently decided to push out on its own to develop original content. The catalyst for Debris—which has raised almost $1M in funding—was a meeting with Dr. Suzanne Archie, Clinical Director at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Hamilton’s world-class medical community and vibrant digital media scene join forces for a game with mainstream appeal that raises awareness and fosters empathy for sufferers. “[Psychosis] has been explored in games before,” says Moonray founder Dan Clark, “but it can be kind of a gimmick; an excuse to add mental horror and shock. And it’s a shame because games can be an great way to explore and demonstrate how real and often terrifying the effects of psychosis are without being exploitative.”
Working with Dr. Archie and Dr. Manuela Ferrari of McMaster University, Moonray is making sure that Debris accurately portrays psychosis. Although the game isn’t set for release until 2017, Dr. Ferrari is already slated to present a paper on Debris at the Digital Games Research Association-Foundations of Digital Games conference in Scotland later this year.
Clark says that he and his team have also been able to connect with a growing local game development scene. Monthly Game Dev Drinks events at downtown pubs feature guests from all over Ontario for talks, QAs and casual networking. “Few cities offer the kind of resources necessary to try and build ambitious and meaningful interactive projects like Debris,” Clark continues, “and Hamilton is definitely one of them.”