How I’m coping with Self-Isolation- Game Jams

It’s been 35 days since I started my self-isolation. My flatmate left a month ago to be with her family, so I’ve been completely alone in our apartment for a while now.

There are days when I have a lot of anxiety, like bricks pressing down on my chest and I can’t breathe. There are days, when I feel numb and just sit on the couch wrapped in my burrito blanket and just stare into space. There are days, when I stand on the balcony to breathe the fresh air.

Some days are good, some days can be better.

Surprisingly, making games for game jams help with my productivity. Given my PhD topic (video games for mental health, more on video game development as a form of self-expression), if I am making a game in the same wheelhouse, then it’s considered progress (let’s ignore the fact that I have been having difficulty writing academically about my tacit knowledge).

During iso, I made (let’s use “making” instead, because some are still in progress) 4 games for 3 game jams- Rising Sea Game Jam, Shadow’s Edge Healing Hearts Jam and Ludum Dare.

For Rising Sea, I am making two games (one is still in progress). It starts off with an audio jam by musicians in Malaysia and Singapore, then it gets passed to us (Philippines) to make games that are inspired and driven by the music. I am also collaborating with different artists.

Circling back to my research project, this game follows Jane McGonigal’s recommendations and physical touch, because it increases social resilience:

Jane McGonigal explains, “Physical touch increases the level of oxytocin in the bloodstream, which primes us to like and want to help one another… and gratitude improves our positive mindset”.

(Also for extra kilig factor!)


The second game I’m still in the progress of making is inspired by the traditional game of pick up sticks (more info to come).

Another game jam in my wheelhouse is Shadow’s Edge Healing Hearts Jam.

This is more of an app than a game. It’s essentially in the same vein as Shadow’s Edge, which is built on the narrative therapy and positive psychology. But since, teens probably vlog more than journal (I’m not a teen, so I’m guessing based on “Eight Grade” the movie), so its a vlog app. The idea is making a vlog and talking through this 3D character provides a safe space for talking about your feelings (I actually have research on this, but I’m struggling to wrwite academically now).

Further ideas, is to have customisable characters. Another idea is to even tweak the pitch of the recorded voice for even further anonymity.


And lastly, Ludum Dare 46 with the theme “Keep it Alive”. But actually I failed this one, because I didn’t actually upload my game slash app.

The idea was you are trying to keep you plant alive by watering it, but at the same time, you also talk to your plant (like a reciprocal relationship) and it makes a recording. Each recording will create a new leaf, and then you can listen to your past recordings by clicking on the leaves.

It’s the same idea as my previous game jam app Healing Hearts. In order to cope with self-isolation, I’ve been writing everyday, and I’ve been naming the entries Day n, so like today was Day 35. To just create a routine, talking about your feelings everyday, while trying to grow and keep your plant alive (funnily, one of the Ludum Dares I did a few years ago, had a theme of “Growing”). Hopefully seeing the leaves grow, and the whole preventing your plant from dying will be a good incentive to keep players to return to the app and build that routine.


And that’s it, other than that, I’m a slob who forgets to shower and doesn’t change out of her pajamas (by choice). How are you all coping?

Remember it’s perfectly fine to be less than productive during this time. It’s a pandemic.

As Neil Gaiman says:

“I think the most important thing is that people are kind to themselves, as kind to themselves as they want to be to other people….This is a strange, stressful time you do not have to come out of it speaking Swahili. You do not have to come out of it having written the great New Zealand novel. You do not have to come out of it having solved some abstruse mathematical equations that you’ve been planning to do all of your life. Mostly your job is to come out of it.”

Neil Gaiman

We will get through this.


A few months later, I got to talk about this topic at Africacomicade, a platform that brings together enthusiasts and digital creatives across the games, animation, comics, and movie industry in Africa via insightful events such as conventions, game jams and so much more. 

(My talk starts at 49:50 in the video)


Also Melbourne (as of August 28, 2020) has been in Stage 4 lockdown for a month now, and it will continue for a while. What that means is that we have to wear masks when going out 😷 (or face $200 fine), we can only go out for 1 hour a day for exercise 🚶‍♀️ within 5km radius, we have a curfew at 8pm. We are only allowed to meet with 1 other person 🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️, but only one person per household are allowed to go to the groceries.

We will get through this.

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