Chances are you’re familiar with the Kübler-Ross model, more commonly known as “the five stages of grief.” Elizabeth Kübler-Ross first theorized that humans—and indeed other intelligent species—go through a complex and prolonged grieving process. When mourning the loss of a loved one, or facing one’s own mortality, people tend to experience a series of emotional stages: denial (“This isn’t happening, everything is fine!”), anger (“It’s not fair, why is this happening to me? Who is to blame?”), bargaining (“Please, God, I’ll do anything!”), depression (“What’s the point? Why even bother?”), and finally acceptance (“It’s going to be okay, I’ll survive this”).
What if these stages of grief were literal stages, by which I mean levels, in a video game? That’s the premise of GRiEF, a 2D side-scrolling platformer from Tarhead Studio. You play as a young child who recently lost his father to cancer, and you accompany him on his journey through the five stages of grief. Each of the stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—are represented as playable levels with their own unique feel and aesthetic. Anger feels fiery and red hot, so the level is just that, while depression is a cold, dark, lonely feeling, and its corresponding level reflects this. The soundtrack, from what I’ve heard of it, is beautiful, and likewise reflects each of the five emotional stages.
If you’re interested, like I am, in the intersection of video games and psychology, check out the trailer! You can purchase GRiEF here, via Desura, for $1.99. From what I’ve seen, it’s worth way more than that.