Can You Help Identify The Unknown Patient?
The Unknown Patient is an interactive VR game that is directed and written by Michael Beets. The player steps into the mind and shoes of a man in 1920s Australia who has lost his identity, name, and purpose following the first World War. The game’s synopsis is as follows: “Through distorted memories, sudden flashbacks and real-life events, the narrative will explore the profound impact that war had on the psyche of soldiers who made it home. Eventually, the remarkable conclusion of this true story will reveal how an unidentified soldier gave hope to a nation in mourning and led to a mother who never gave up.” (I’m a nerd who reads/researches almost everything so…) I went Googling for more information about this game and its historical significance and lo and behold, the University of Wollongong Australia highlights Jennifer Hawksley’s work Histories from the Asylum: ‘The Unknown Patient’. This paper is a very good- if sad- read that only takes a few minutes.
The game’s trailer shows a shaking hand as it picks up a coin and places it in an old-keepsake tin. The camera fades to black and then zooms in from above and introduces us to a lone pale man in the fetal position amidst hospital beds. An omnipresent narrator explains the circumstances surrounding this soldier’s mysterious arrival, while the nightmarish remnants of warfare rife with gunfire, explosions, and smoke play out in a window outside the asylum. Callan Park Mental Hospital houses other patients in a similar ghostly-pale state. The only character present that isn’t thoroughly washed out is the nurse donning a blue uniform dress, a single light amidst the gloom. The patient handing us the coin from the introduction is a rare moment of kindness, juxtaposed against the claustrophobia and terror another patient experiences in a dark room. The trailer comes to a close as the narrator beseeches the public for answers about this lost and forlorn soldier. Does anyone anywhere have information about this unknown patient?
The eeriest part about this trailer is the motion-captured faces that have an uncanny valley quality. Perhaps this particular quirk will be rectified before the game’s final release date. The game developers at Unwritten Endings and VRTOV are certainly working on an ambitious project that aims to blend a historical event with third-person gaming. The first episode of this interactive VR experience debuts at the Venice Film Festival at the end of August 2018.