Art from Code: Doeheaded, finished

Doeheaded was a passion project for me. It was an avenue for me to express my feelings and frustrations growing up with mental illness, and neurodivergence. Working on this project and finishing it helped bring me closure, and watching people play Doeheaded and enjoy it and speak to how meaningful the story is really was a validating thing. I recall feeling alone growing up, feeling like I was the only one going through these struggles – being older and more mature now shows me that it is not something that I am alone in. Sharing this visual novel with people validated that too, as players told me how they related to the main character, Rowan, too. 

My motivation in creating this work was to let people know that they are not alone, and to create a story that is relatable to those that have struggled with similar things to myself. I wanted to create a relatable, but also visually appealing story. Being able to use Processing to tell a story was incredibly meaningful to me. The first semester of collage has been rough on me, as it likely has been for all freshmen, but having this story to work on was always an anchor, even throughout the hard parts of the semester. 

What I added to the story since my midterm were several things; firstly, I included interactive scenes to utilise more of the coding aspects of Processing. This was done using if statements and defining X and Y value barriers, so that when players mouse over certain objects, a text box pops up. This allows for more depth to the story and more details for players to uncover about the main characters. I added two scenes like this, one scene right at the beginning of the visual novel where Rowan is looking at herself in the mirror. This scene allows for the players to get to know the little details about Rowan; how she loves plants, her nationality, her love for books that slowly waned over the years.

The second scene that I added was a scene with Rowan and Dylan, which reveals Rowan’s underlying insecurities and jealousy towards Dylan. Additionally, it adds a little bit of detail about Dylan, allowing the reader to perhaps relate to her struggles, and understand her better as a character.

The final scene I added was a scene utilising motion code, and it was an artistic depiction of what anxiety attacks feel like to me. Rowan is sitting on a bench, and her anxious thoughts race across the screen at different speeds, looping around and around until the player decides to move onto the next scene.

This project means a lot to me. Being able to artistically depict my struggles allowed for a lot of closure, as well as exploration of them in a more deeper context. It represents fresh starts – the ending is happy for a reason, it brings hope. People struggling with hard things deserve hope and happy endings, so we know that there is a light at the end of it all. It always gets better, and I think that’s what the moral of Doeheaded is.

Author: Juno Szozda