Tuesday, 27 March 2018



My initial idea for House of Lunacy came at a visit to Museum Dr. Guislain in Gent, Belgium. The museum is placed at an old psychiatric hospital, and is dedicated to show the history of psychiatry along with an art gallery with works inspired by and made by, people with mental illnesses. The many strange devices, machines and methods used in the old days of psychiatry were an immediate inspiration.

Imagining the interaction with these bizarre instruments felt like a game to me. And not just interaction with machines. Interaction with people as well.

Diagnosing and treating patients are such manipulative actions. When we play with game characters, we are essentially playing with dolls. The pulling of strings, and discoveries made by doing so, triggers a natural stimuli - the curiosity of the human being. Exploring and manipulating the mind of another person and the responsibility that goes along with it makes the challenge naturally attractive.

So I began writing down the concept, trying to focus on manipulation of the patients. As I am an artist, my mind naturally drifted into story, atmosphere, specific scenes and how the whole thing should end and so on. Artsy stuff. I forgot about the most important part: the game.

I quickly restrained myself and started focusing on the essentials, which is a challenge when you have not designed a management game before. Though three things were clear: 1. The game would be closer to Paper’s Please than Theme Hospital. I wanted to focus on the patients, and not on the asylum. 2: The game was about ethical choices, and not about actual psychiatry. 3: The treatments had to be highly interactive, outrageous and out of this world.

An actual treatment - The Cat Piano

My game developer skills are very broad, but when it comes to programming I am a newbie, so I needed a coding partner. The person that came to mind was game designer Jesper Brun Halfter, a guy I met while studying game design at the university. He liked the idea and joined the project! Hurrah!

Early prototype for DFI
After a couple of meetings and a lot of beer, a small prototype was pitch-ready for the Danish game fund at DFI (Danish Film Institute). Thankfully, they loved the concept and gave us enough support to develop the idea, which led to these last four months. (We are currently seeking funding for the next step of development).

Next up, I will talk about moving into office and designing our first prototypes.

For diversity and the mind!
-        - Malte Burup

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