Dǎkāi is a non-linear video game exploring what it means to heal from past hurt. Using methods and ideas drawn from a variety of sources, it gives players the chance to explore a carefully curated environment and ask questions about their journey. The world of the game takes the form of a forest walk, drawing from the concept of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”, with the addition of objects in the environment providing prompts for reflection and the opportunity to think back on what it means to survive trauma. Players can use either a controller or a keyboard and mouse to engage with objects and explore within the game.
In Dǎkāi, there are no scores, no timers, nothing to measure your progress as you travel within the landscape, only your own feeling of progress and exploring your own past. The game serves as a helpful tool for individuals making their own way along their path to mental wellness, and also as a supplement to conventional methods of therapy. Attaching the reflective questions to in-game shapes means the ideas they convey can be taken outside of the digital space and into the physical one.
The name Dǎkāi is a phonetic pronunciation of a Chinese word meaning “open”. The meaning is intentionally left vague, allowing anyone to approach the game from wherever they are in their journey, and walk away from it without feeling the need to achieve a certain goal.
The work plays loosely with the format of a game. Typically there is an internal force driving you to perform specific actions in a specific way in order to win, in this game you decide what actions to perform and when you are done playing, with the only conditions being that you reflect on the questions asked in the game.
Dǎkāi draws on personal experience with trauma and uses these ideas to explore how we measure healing from emotional pain, using self reflection to gauge the amount of progress in the same way we already have tools to measure healing from physical trauma.