You wake up. The room is pitch black and unfamiliar, you have not been here before and you are alone.
You get up out of bed only to stumble into the coffee table to your left. “I must remember that’s there” you tell yourself.
With one hand on the wall you count the paces forward until you reach the next item in the room, this time it’s a couch. Adding more paces to your count you finally reach the far wall where you locate a door, it’s locked. Without your keys you are going nowhere so you turn back around and being searching the length of the next wall. As you progress forward you are starting to see the room take shape in your mind. From the bed, to the coffee table on the left, the couch 5 paces along the left wall, you can see it all even though you can’t ‘see’ anything.
This is the premise behind Blind Hotel, a recent title from developers Serellan. There are several layers to this game that you really need to look for to be able to truly appreciate the experience for what it is.
We are visual beings, our memory works best when prompted with images. We weren’t born knowing how to read, we have to train ourselves to do it because it is not natural to us, however in most instances we are born knowing how to see as that is something that is very natural to us.
We have become too accustomed to having everything spelled and drawn out for us, so an experience that forces you to create the environment yourself can actually be quite frustrating. You are the only one that can create that environment, no one else can see exactly what you are seeing and that is what makes each instance of Blind Hotel so unique to each person that plays it.
No one else will see the exact same two-seater couch in their mind with that worn out pale green material covering, or the old oak coffee table with stains from your mug and chips on the right hand corner. We can see something similar but not the same, as we all see and perceive things differently.
For some people, this is their life. In the absence of sight, a luxury many of us take for granted, you have to rely on all your other senses to get you by, to visualize in your mind where things are, how to find them again, and how to survive.
Serellan is a studio that is becoming renowned for tackling issues others tend to shy away from, to bring a sense of understanding to even some of the more taboo subjects. It’s important to have an awareness of what others might be going through and how they experience everyday life, by creating Blind Hotel, Serellan have provided you with the opportunity to get a ‘sense’ of what it would be like trying to navigate yourself around using nothing but your mind’s eye.
Remember how I said above that there are “several layers to this game that you really need to look for to be able to truly appreciate the experience for what it is.”? Looking at this as simply a video game that gives you the experience we discussed above is actually quite inaccurate. There is a lot more depth to this game than you realize which in itself, when you consider the simplicity of the game, is a massive feat.
Christian Allen, lead designer at Serellan, also created Blind Hotel to teach people how to sit down and create a game. To start from a blank canvas and piece everything together.
“I wanted to put together a tutorial online about how to really sit down and create a game, start to finish, in Unreal. While I was thinking about this I happened to hear a story on NPR’s ‘This American Life’ about a blind mans experience exploring a hotel room and the challenges he faced (Click here to read the article).
I decided to create an experience of a blind person in a hotel that showcases the challenges that a sightless person faces, while also giving a template for inspiring indie devs to sit down and create their own games and share it with everyone.
It was pretty cool to create an experience that has not been explored, and I even got to reach out to the originator of the story and let him know I was making a game based on his experience. I ended up adding him to the credits of the game because it was so impactful on me. The game can be frustrating, but so could being blind in an unfamiliar hotel room. It was very fulfilling watching my daughter draw out a map in order to conquer the gameplay. If the only result was to teach my daughter a lesson on what it is to be differently abled in today’s world, then it was all worth it.” – Christian Allen, Serellan.
A game doesn’t have to be visually spectacular to be impactful. It doesn’t need to have a gripping soundtrack to be immersive, or have extensive dialogue to be educational. It can in fact, be a black screen with a few basic instructions, and if you are the team at Serellan, that’s all you need.
You can purchase Blind Hotel now on Steam for $1.99.