UnearthU is an interactive narrative piece about the possibility of healing through and with technology. The videogame mimics hypercapitalist Silicon Valley-esque apps that promise big transformation with super-efficiency. It follows an A.I. named KARE, designed by a fictional start-up called FRTHR which has created her to guide the user through a seven day wellness bootcamp of sorts. In it there are five activities the player is meant to do each day, such as writing responses to reflexive prompts, guided breath work, and daily rituals. The game first presents itself as a wellness app intended to induce calm and track lifestyle improvement for the player, but after two days it begins to complicate that goal and the method of achieving it. KARE finds herself having memories of a life before existing as an A.I., and the player acts as a listener and witness as she transforms. This piece is about the intersections of capitalism and psychosocial disability, the way overwork has become internalized and burn-out the norm, and how videogames may be used to orient players towards reflection, care, and healing. The game’s design is intended to unravel the predatory and harmful techniques of neoliberal wellness while speculating on the possibility of a healing-oriented creative technology.
UnearthU has a unique aesthetic based around finding modes of creating digital art in line with environmental practices like re-using, recycling, and composting. All the visuals and aesthetics, from the in-app icons to the meditation and inspiration videos are created re-use existing materials, putting them together and “composting” them into a converted form. The project uses found footage from the National Film Board of Canada, the Prelinger Libraries of San Francisco, and pad.ma for South Asian materials, alongside images from scientific texts on the body and medicinal plants, pre-made 3D models, and text-to-speech software.
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