Video Game on PC
[ Individual Project ]
850 W 37th St. is a walking simulator/interactive fine art crafted specifically for the people at USC Roski School of Art and Design as one of my responses for COVID-19. In this game, the player freely roams around the digital rendering of Watt Hall’s first floor (where Roski undergraduate program is based at) to explore this familiar yet also somewhat distant location, due to quarantine.
Watt Hall is quite crucial to any of the students at USC Roski School of Art and Design simply because it is the place where pretty much everything happens. It is the place where we receive knowledge, where get critiqued, and mostly importantly, where we create. Everyone associate the space of Watt Hall differently because we come from various practices, but no matter what, the space is where we all feel emotionally attached to. When I made this work, it was one month in of the quarantine (April 2020). Due to the COVID-19, all classes were moved online and Roski students’ access to the studio space was limited quite a lot. Folks like me all missed being in that lovely little Watt Hall, so I decided to sketch out the space digitally. Through the skills I picked up in game design minor, I wanted to create a digital environment and an interactive narrative.
I created the game in Unreal 4 without really any sketches because I wanted to enjoy a free-building process in which I dive into my memories and impressions of the space and recreate along the way as I recall back to my experience there. This process is crucial to this artwork because conceptually, I am trying to demonstrate my personal experience with Watt Hall. For example, I created the male bathroom down the corridor and decorated with a urinal, a stool, and a bathroom sink. But I failed to create any female-specific bathroom because I was not sure where it was specifically (I realized that when I was making this game).
Watt Hall's early map (top)
& final map in UE4 (right)
While creating the space, I added many figures in protection suits who dance and perform interesting movements in the hallways, or in various other spaces. Some are very obviously present, and some are hidden in weird angles where you have to explore to see them. I also added various easter eggs spanning from contemporary art critiques, previous students’ works installed, etc., so that the experience for the players is more interesting and rewarding.
I also included a gallery show for my past works because due to the covid, my possible chance to exhibit my works in real place was no longer an option. Therefore, I sort of hosted my very first personal show in a digital space.
This project was created for a little bit over a week. If I had more time, I wanted to add more details to the environment and add more touches from my memories into the space. I am actually quite fine with the extremely simple gameplay because I believe that the one of the main purposes of this game is for me to create my impression of Watt Hall for my friends and Roski faculties to passively interact with. It tells my past with the space, the stories I encountered, the memories I shared, but I also welcome anyone to just jump in and echo with me. If I have a chance in the future, I want to come back to this project and create something that allows folks at Roski (current students and the graduated), to create a digital Watt Hall of their own, filled with their own references. And I want to put all these different Watt Hall altogether to show collective memories at Roski across different generations of artists and designers.