The Goodbye Room: Escape Your Ex is a tender and queer first-person adventure similar to games like Gone Home and Life is Strange. Featuring volumetric performances, environmental storytelling, experimental gameplay and interactive 3D 360° video cutscenes, The Goodbye Room sits at the intersection of cutting-edge technology and personal storytelling.
Escape rooms are over. They’ve all been retrofitted into goodbye rooms, recreational therapy that simulates whatever you need to let go of. So you visit, the room scans your mind and... Wait. Is that your teenage bedroom? Oh look, the ex that broke your heart.
He’s acting funny — disconnected, distracted. What is he afraid of? His body is made of light with colors all over. They represent feelings. Catch and combine them to unlock memories and remember what happened.
As you feel feelings and excavate what's behind them, your ex starts to embody your shifting perception. Sexy and mysterious becomes narcissistic and overwrought turns raw and real.
Finally, the real work can begin.
In the medium where anything’s possible, a game about accepting the things we can’t change.
The Goodbye Room exists in an emerging genre somewhere between "walking simulators" (games where the game part comes from constructing a narrative out of what you discover while exploring a space) and "experiences" (VR pieces with an emphasis on narrative, storytelling, and light gameplay). It's rooted in theater both in the pieces that it draws inspiration from and how it features 3D-captured character performances to tell its story.
Where This Came From
Obviously I had a traumatic teenage breakup, one which resulted in a kind of dissociated numbness that lasted for years.
The journey of properly integrating all that happened, grieving, and creating space for newness began, weirdly, after I played Gone Home. It's a game that explores an adolescent emotional landscape and it brought up enough of the feelings I’d been repressing to put me on the path to catching up with my emotional debt.
My experience made me a believer in the power of games to affect lives. The Goodbye Room is the game I wish I had when I first leaned into the darkness and acknowledged the feelings that lived there. Something to take the process of remembering, making sense of, and accepting the past feel kind of punk. It’s a radically tender experiment for the weird, queer teen in the suburbs or anyone working through something. Maybe it's for you.
The Goodbye Room was conceived of in July 2018. Over the course of three months we developed a playable prototype. You can read more about the process here.
From October through December we iterated on the design to solve problems that emerged from the prototype and the scope was expanded to include more areas beyond the initial bedroom scene.
We got to this point on our own. Getting to a complete game is only possible with your support. The money we raise will go to giving artists, writers, performers, and developers time to explore and grow in the context of this project. We are committed to actually paying everyone. In return, you get some exciting rewards that range from behind-the-scenes content to your choice of a psychic or astrological reading from one of my parents.
Max Ellinger | Project Lead
Max is an artist and developer using internal emotional landscapes to populate digital worlds. His work explores the tender intersections of queerness, family, relationship, and trauma.
He previously studied film and interaction design at California College of the Arts, interned at human-centered design firm IDEO, co-founded two Bay Area startups, and ran the development practice at a small digital agency in Berkeley, CA.
Khaela Maricich | Narrative Consultant
Khaela Maricich is an artist and writer working in and between performance, music, and physical media. Frequently presenting performance art in a popular music context as The Blow, her works introduce layers of fiction into settings presumed to be non-fictional, creating a platform for investigating the performance of the self.
Nick Sahoyah | Writer/Performer
Nick Sahoyah is a writer, actor, and stand up comedian based out of San Francisco, California best know for his web shows, 8-Hit Gaming on Queerspace Magazine and Cool Mom with Jinkx Monsoon on WOW Presents. As a comedian Nick has performed all over the country including at Bridgetown Comedy Festival, The Comedy Exposition, and SF Sketchfest.
Ryan Anderson | Gameplay Designer
Ryan Anderson is a designer, programmer, voracious consumer of entertainment and cat person. They’ve worked professionally as a designer for game companies like Jam City and Storm8 and built internal development tools for the popular Anki robots Overdrive and Cozmo.
Hunter Dyar | 360 Filmmaker & Gameplay Designer
Hunter Dyar is a professional 360 photographer who also makes video games. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a masters in emerging media where he wrote his thesis on 360 Video and Virtual Reality Storytelling. He released his first indie game, Shadowbright, in 2018.
Karri Mikkonen | Composer
Karri is a composer from Jyväskylä, Finland. He has produced many different styles of music from pop to orchestral, for documentaries, movies, video games, and Finnish pop stars. He performs his own electronic music under the name Kaster The Disaster. Hear one of his tracks for a cutscene below.
The game is highly-authored and tells a specific story. It is as gay or bi or straight as you want it to be, as the character you’re playing is initially a blank slate that gets filled in through the context of the world. It makes no presumption of player gender. The story is concerned with the broad gestures of grief — the acts of remembering what happened, obsessively imagining how it could’ve worked, seeing it objectively, accepting reality and embracing new possibilities.
The first part of the game is about remembering the stuff you’ve pushed back deep inside. Initially upon entering The Goodbye Room, you’re greeted by your ex who is being flirty and over-the-top in a kind of disconnected way. It’s a fantasy. As they are monologuing, you notice these colors coming out. You literally combine them (a metaphor for feeling feelings) to be transported to a corresponding memory.
Memories are explorable frozen moments that build up the story of the relationship. Each one has a memento in it that you have to find to populate empty spaces in the bedroom. As you complete this, your ex changes, responding to what you are remembering, getting more raw and real. He is, after all, just your own projections of him. More feelings come out, offering new possible combinations. It’s more of a sandbox than a puzzle.
The second scene in the game is the Family Dinner Challenge. It’s about trying to imagine how things could’ve turned out if the context had been different (since we’re dealing in teenage-hood, the context is family) and ultimately realizing it is impossible. You enter into a dinner quickly descending into chaos. You can pause it and assign new feelings to different family members (the inverse of what you did to explore memories earlier) and watch how the dynamics change and eventually fall apart.
Your fear of perpetual loneliness and perversion is personified by a shady character who occasionally shows up and transitions you into the next scene. Over the course of the game, the experiences that built this specific fear are revealed. The Steam Room of Doom is his residence, the place where you finally confront him in the penultimate chapter.
This is all subject to change as we build things out and make discoveries, but hopefully gives you an idea of what we're planning. There are a few surprises in-between that I'm not sharing because spoilers. Suffice to say, I think it'll be a surprising and joyful ride.
Some of the game has been made already and we already have access to all of the equipment we need, including a high-end 3D 360° camera. The money raised here will go towards allowing us to work on the game. Additional funds will just mean we have more time to make a more polished product. In case we do raise more, we have some stretch goals to announce once we get there.
Here's how we arrived at the totals.
$8,000 to offset cost of living for 8 months of development
$2,500 for external development
$1,000 for performer fees
$1,000 for additional music
$1,000 for narrative consultant fees
Risks and challenges
Like any software development project, you don't know what you don't know. But in our case, we have a lot built out and tested from making the prototype. The biggest unknown is how much money we'll raise, which impacts scope and timeline. That said, the design of the game is intended to be modular and easily scaled up or down while still providing a complete experience.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)