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Idea: Inner Demons

Posted by A Tobias 1 year ago
I like Pokemon, and I like personal development. I've recently been brainstorming ideas for an app - not really a game - which is sort of a combination of these two. Perhaps it'd be called something like "Inner Demons" or "Mind Tamer" or "Emotimon" or some better title I've yet to come up with, and it'd be a way of visualising and cultivating our inner worlds in terms of traits, fears, aspirations, strengths, and personal connections, represented as animal-like creatures that you feed whenever you engage a part of yourself, and in feeding them, they grow and evolve to represent your own personal growth and evolution.

When I first started making games as a teenager, I never really thought of them as anything other than distractions. Immersive other worlds; an escape from the reality I didn't particularly want to face. As I've grown older and struggled a lot with my own broken mind, failing completely to reach any of the standard milestones on the path to adulthood, I've come to see games not (just) as a way to avoid the world, but as a potential medium for inspiring players with novel outlooks that might better help them face its challenges, as regular readers of my ramblings may already know.

Frustratingly, however, I'm still struggling with my own mind to the degree that I'm making poor progress on my projects (I'm alone, I have a brain tumour, depression, anxiety, and I feel I don't have the resilience to reach out to others due to a lack of positive experiences and the deterioration of social skills due to prolonged isolation; basically, there's a lot weighing me down).

I spend a lot of time on my phone these days - a big change from the not-too-distant days when I didn't even have one! - and I'm fond of collecting apps that might help me out in some way. Brain training apps, music practice apps, meditation apps, healthy eating apps, to do list apps... Never distracting games, but augmentations to my external life. Some - like those - are explicitly designed to help, though others - like Pokemon GO - have real-world benefits (getting out of the house, exercise) without the potentially tedious feeling of taking a class. They're something you want to do, rather than something you feel you should.

I wish I had an app that could help me face my fears and develop my strengths without feeling like therapy, but I've yet to find one.

So I've come up with a concept for an app with that purpose which is more like a sort of visual To Do List in a sense rather than a game you'd actively play.

I've spent a lot of time reading the thoughts of people who struggle with many issues, on apps that allow the recording of such things. Common themes I notice include a desire to list all of one's issues so then they seem easier to face and overcome one by one, and the overwhelming feeling that there's too much bad and too little good in their minds so they might as well just end it all (both of which I share).

This app would be a way to address and challenge such things.

The idea is that you'd be able to freely create creatures that represented aspects of yourself that you either wanted to nurture or overcome. They'd all look like animals, some dark and threatening, others light and cute. You'd decide what they represented, and you'd feed them when you faced that facet of yourself. As you fed them, they'd become increasingly tame, beautiful, and angelic (behold the amazing artwork I poured hours of effort into).

I'll provide some examples of what you could create creatures to represent:

- One of my oddest and most irritating fears is that of Facebook; though I'm aware much of what people post isn't necessarily representative of their life as a whole, seeing that people have partners and social gatherings and networks at all reminds me how cut off I am from everything, and it's painful. However, I feel that this aversion to social networking impedes my ability to make connections or show my interest in the lives of other people, keeping me stuck in this position, and I want to overcome it. So, I might use this app to create a Fear creature that I'd call 'Facebook'.

- I have a couple of friends, who I feel I should work on my relationships with, so I might create a Bliss creature for each one, named after them.

- I also want to do creative things more often, so I might create a creature called 'Drawing', and another called 'Composing'.

You wouldn't 'create' creatures as in design them yourself (I considered it, but it clashes with the purpose of the app), but rather you'd choose from various species that you feel best represents that aspect, feeling, thought, fear or whatever. They'd probably be assigned one of the six Alora Fane sentiments, mainly to distinguish them aesthetically and aid in my designs.

Interaction with these creatures would be as simple as could be: you could feed them either a black fruit or a white fruit. That's it. No strategy-ridden battles or quest or conquest or training or breeding. Just feeding. Two buttons. Simplicity is key.

Creatures would come in two types: Positive and Negative; light and dark. A friend might be represented by a positive creature, while a fear might be represented by a negative one. (Or perhaps each species would have forms in each direction, as in that first image, though you might specify the tameness when you create the creature.)

Each 'species' would come with specific instructions/requests (perhaps shown as a sort of speech bubble coming from the creature itself) instructing you on its feeding preferences, though they'd only serve as a suggested guide. You could also make your own note during the creation to remind you why you created it ("feed me when you view Facebook for a few minutes!").

Feeding would increase some kind of level value (or similar); perhaps a single level per feeding (to maximise the feeling of satisfaction).

You'd also be able to write a tweet-length note about why you were feeding it that fruit, both to discourage tapping the button repeatedly and to keep a log to remind you of what you'd accomplished in the past.

You might also be able to specify how often you intend to feed the creature - every day, twice a week, etc - and they'd send you notifications when they were getting hungry to remind you. If you neglected to feed them during that time, their level would decrease.

Generally speaking (though there might be exceptions to the rule), negative creatures would start off looking fierce and threatening, but would grow increasingly tame and cute the more black fruit they ate (that is, they'd move closer to the middle in that progression). You'd be encouraged to feed them black fruit whenever you faced whatever they represented, even if it hurt you to do so.

In my case, I might look around Facebook for a few minutes, suffering psychologically all the while, but at the end of it I could feed my Facebook creature a black fruit and watch it grow. I'd have faced my fears and got a clear, visible 'reward' for doing so.

If however the experience actually went well, and I enjoyed what I saw on Facebook, I might instead choose to feed the creature a white fruit, which would also increase level, but would increase some kind of 'lightness' value too.

A negative creature's tameness would represent your familiarity with it; it could be fully tame while your fear of whatever it represents still remains a fear. But you'd hopefully have become desensitised to it by that point, as you'd faced it so many times.

But their 'lightness' would represent your transforming attitude towards whatever they represented. The goal would be to make them fully tame and fully light by both facing that fear and altering your attitude towards it.

Positive creatures would work differently. You'd be encouraged to feed them white fruit whenever you had a good experience with whatever they represented. You might feed one that represented a friend when you had a good time with that friend, or you might have one that represented your intelligence or compassion which you fed when someone - even yourself! - complimented you on that trait.

Positive creatures would start off cute, but small, and they'd grow more celestial and larger as they were fed white fruit.

If however something bad happened regarding whatever they represented - you fell out with the friend, say, or worried about your intelligence - you'd be encouraged to feed them a black fruit. This wouldn't result in any growth at all, but would simply render them visibly sick for 24 hours. Hopefully the guilt of seeing something you cared about suffer in this way would encourage you to rethink why you were feeling negative about it in the first place.

Creatures would 'starve' and regress if not fed for long periods of time (they'd never die, but they might eventually lose all progress you'd made with them). So the aim would be to nurture your valued traits frequently in order to keep them vigorous.

Of course, this whole app would be entirely dependent on the user's self discipline. It wouldn't be a game that worked against you, which you had to beat through skill. If you wanted, you could feed the creatures as much as you liked to get them to their final forms quickly. But you could also write a To Do List and tick off every box even if you've not actually done any of the things on it. As there's absolutely no benefit from that, though, I wonder if anyone actually does it.

Ultimately, it'd be a way of helping you take care of yourself if you already have the intention to do so. Positive reinforcement for self-chosen valued traits and actions. An incentive for facing fears you might normally opt to avoid.

I can see how it wouldn't benefit everyone, but I like the idea because I feel that it'd benefit me. I don't mean as the developer, monetarily - I don't know how or if I'd get money from it - but I can really see manifesting my fears and strengths like this would help a whole lot to climb out of the psychological pit I've been wallowing in for so long.

There are several benefits I imagine such an 'emotional menagerie' could have:

- If you feel that you have nothing good in your life, you could look at your creatures and see positive ones, how they'd grown, and see evidence that you had more going for you than you might have thought. It's like keeping a collection of 'good times' that many people do, which they can turn to when they're feeling down.

- Facing difficult feelings, rather than avoiding them, is the most important part of personal growth. You absolutely must swim through the shark-infested moat to get to the castle. But often there's little incentive to do so, other than some nebulous, imaginary benefit you might possibly get from it in the distant future. Knowing that you'd visibly improve your 'mind zoo' by acting might encourage action where before there was no push to do so.

- Negative thoughts, ruminating, and conflict might be discouraged by the visible effect black fruit would have on previously positive creatures. As the creatures would be 'yours', a part of you, you might care more about how they'd suffer than you would about the suffering of others (sadly, we're all egotists), so you might avoid inflicting pain simply for the sake of self-interest.

- It might encourage introspection, both of aspects you need to work on and strengths you might not normally acknowledge.

- Many, many apps and things use soulless graphs to track progress, and those do help... but we react emotionally to other lifeforms in a way that we just don't to raw data. A psychological experiment called the ∞ Wason selection task ∞ comes to mind. You can read that article for details, but the gist is that when given a problem with only cold, hard logic rules to follow, most people get the answer wrong. But when given the exact same problem with the rules expressed in the form of social rules (legal drinking age), almost everyone gets it correct. Hopefully, then, taking care of yourself by taking care of pretend animals would be much more motivating than simply maintaining a line on a lifeless graph (it's a bit of a stretch to use that particular experiment to support the idea that we respond more to social interactions than to logical ones, I know, but who wouldn't rather make a puppy smile than increase a number on a graph?).

I feel that such a thing could benefit me because I'm introspective and interested in personal growth by nature, though I'm unsure how the 'average person' - who has less of a driving need to change - would respond to such a thing.

I know that there are tons of 'productivity' apps and websites and such out there, and that there's one called 'Habatica' (or something?) which aims to use game-like mechanics to encourage you to keep good habits, but this would be different in that it would focus more on the 'feeling' than the 'doing'. Who you are, more than what you did. Taming the mind, not just 'exercising daily'.

I don't intend to make this instead of games. Rather, this is the hammer I feel I need to make before I can build a cathedral. Or something. A tool to help me do everything else. Obviously I've only begun to plan it; I haven't designed any of the creatures (those drawings don't count!), I'm still uncertain of the mechanics, and, well, it still needs a lot of work.

But from what I've presented so far, what are your thoughts? I value your input!
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on 9 Roots


30 United States INFP
Hi Tobey,

I have no real comments to make on this. I just wanted to say that I'm still following your progress, no matter what you end up making. The individual projects are not why I follow your progress--it's you. So I hope you keep it up and stay safe and healthy enough to achieve the success you deserve and are capable of.

26 Brazil
Sir Vitor
Look Tobias...
You are probably getting tired of hearing it from people but I still liked the Mardek idea. Perhaps you thought it was too violent, or going into a dark path, but what atracted me the most was the beginning as kids playing in the forest. Later, the whole elements system, which was extremely well planned. Plus the whole skill learning .
The thing is, your new ideas are good, and I seriously plan to get Taming Dreams or this new Inner Demons in my phone (as long as I get a good one), but please consider the idea of recycling the Mardek idea. Perhaps a Mardek world, where you can choose your path from infancy to adulthood. It was too good of an idea to be abandoned.
24 United States
Taming dreams is a reboot of Mardek.........
26 Brazil
Sir Vitor
I know...just saying he can explore the aproach of both the old Mardek way and the new one he is doing from Taming Dreams. Some peoples like to confront their demons with emotions and feeling. I prefer the old way, with silver swords and Light magic.
23 United States
yeah a "reboot"........ that doesn't really play much like the original, follow the story, has different mechanics, etc.

I highly agree with Sir Vitor that, yeah Tobias' new ideas are great and all, but most people that came from his sight have most likely come from Mardek and prefer that system. It may be a reboot but it doesn't even feel that similar. Had I played it without knowing it was a reboot I would probably never have caught on and I didn't enjoy it too much.
30 United States INFP
This attitude is so wild to me. Like telling the Beatles,
" Revolver was fine and all, but can you do more songs like 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' please?"

Or like telling someone who just gave you money, "Thanks for the money, and I know you're running late for work and all, but can I have some more money?"

Fan entitlement is just outrageous to me; I don't understand it.
19 United States INFJ 4w5 CholericMelancholic
Alright, I read the whole blog post without reading comments, so if my views have been stated already, that's why.

I think it's neat, and I would try to use it.
I'd probably enjoy seeing the little creatures becoming happier as I 'spent more time' with them, and the monsters getting more tame, and lighter, as you put it. It might compel me to look at my life with a wider lens.

That's all.
Such is my comment.
20 Hong Kong INTJ 612 ICR MelancholicCholeric
I think it's a great idea! I'm not sure what I'd want to work on, but it might be useful and fun, for other people even if not for me. The best part is that you yourself would find it useful, and that's honestly most important.

I did remember something called habitrpg that I checked out before with some similar elements. I hope the similarities won't discourage you from developing your own take on the idea, as I know you might be tempted to do :P Here's a link: ∞ LINK ∞
19 United Kingdom ENFP IEE 954 SxSp sxxai SIA PhlegmaticSanguine
I could DEFINITELY see myself using it.
I could create creatures like "Grades" and "Work ethic" who knows it might improve my performance at school.
19 United States
As someone who visualizes the world differently and probably wouldn't use the app for "personal problems" I can still see this as something really cool that I'd use. I could use it to inspire me to workout, do schoolwork, eat better, etc.
19 United States INFP LII SoSp RLUAI AIE PhlegmaticSanguine
Those are still some personal goals, and still seem like a fair use for the app. After all, you're seeking to get better at something, or to motivate yourself to maintain something good.
Which are good things, hah!
19 United States ENFP SEI SCUAI ISA PhlegmaticSanguine
This idea sounds fantastic! I can already envision myself using it to overcome my innate shyness, as one example...

At its core - the idea of nurturing your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses with visual representations rather than limp statistics - is something I believe a wide swath of people could really relate to and benefit from. I mean, just like you said, who'd want to see a number get bigger as opposed to seeing a cute animal get happier? Suffice to say, on the psychological front, I think you've hit it out of the park.

In terms of the feeding mechanic, I really like the concept - it could finally give people who are maybe indecisive or scared of facing their issues a way to actually see and make progress, which is a good thing!

Although, one thing I was considering when reading your post was the idea of having other people you trust - like friends, family, mentors, etc. - help you in the feeding process. I got the feeling that this project was pretty self-help oriented upon the first read through, but what about users who have relationships that they want to improve alongside their partners? Or parents who want to understand their kids in a way that is both accepted and appreciated by the child/children? All I want to add to the conversation is the concept of pooled emotional resources: what if a person wants to work on strengthening their monsters with someone else? You could maybe even start a friendship by way of both users focusing their attention on feeding one shared monster!...just a thought.

Other than that, I say "go forth!", or something akin to that with equal parts encouragement and approval. I like the idea, and believe a lot of good could come out of it!
19 United States INFP LII SoSp RLUAI AIE PhlegmaticSanguine
I am enthralled with this idea. My eyes grew progressively wider with enthusiasm as I read.
They rather hurt now, but that's aside from the point.

I love this concept - a customized creature to represent an idea, on top of it changing as the idea changes in your head, and your feelings regarding it change - and it can work so well. Combined with the sentiment system (which I feel is fairly understandable!) makes it even more appealing, to me personally.

It's like finding a personified way to track my emotional growth, and I cannot express how much that idea appeals to me.

I particularly think that reminder feature you mentioned would help with those who have issues with self motivation (I never check my email unless I am reminded to, for example). And the 'regression through neglect', while not only a fair tradeoff, also translates rather well to how these fears and relationships actually work.

I've been told before by psychology and special education teachers I've shown Taming Dreams to that it seems to them to be a wonderful tool to help teach empathy to people who have difficulty grasping it. This seems to fall along a similar 'grouping' - teaching a concept, in this case 'emotional growth', and making it more easily understandable and relatable.

So yes! I very much like this idea, Tobias!

(On a slightly less relevant note, I introduced the Sentiment system to some online friends and almost immediately they loved it. They even added six tags (like titles) to give to each person who determined theirs on the server, haha!)
25 United States AIS
I like it and would use it! I can see it being really useful to me for cultivating better habits, both of thought and of action. As for thought habits, I keep a diary thing mainly for recording manifestations of various long-term feelings I have. Some days I'd write down why I'm anxious or upset about something; others, I'd write down how I feel relieved and the thing doesn't seem that bad and maybe I'm even glad about it. It would be interesting to not only record these but reward myself for thinking in the good direction and punish myself for thinking in the bad one. That seems sort of in line with what I've heard about cognitive-behavioral therapy, retraining yourself to think differently about something.

When you compared it to a to-do list, I started to wonder whether I could use it as an actual to-do list, in addition to a tracker of personal growth, since often the things I plan to do or have to do are also small pieces of larger long-term projects including personal growth projects. Like, contacting a friend feeds my relationship with that person and my Getting Out More and Companionship creatures. I would think it's the same way for most people. The speech bubble feature would be good for creatures that are fed the same way every time but wouldn't be able to account for more specific activities.

I'm thinking a way to incorporate specific activities into the game would be to make for more specific fruits that would add custom amounts of sustenance for one or more creatures. For instance, doing some dreaded activity required for work could be a single fruit that thoroughly weakens Social Fear and is simultaneously a small snack for Career. And, like, the player would be able to prepare fruits with names and custom values like this, add them to a crate for later reference, and feed them when they're 'ripe.' Maybe for people who have deadlines, there could also be a function to make fruit that 'expire' if you don't ripen them by tomorrow or whatever. There'd still be the ability to feed fruits spontaneously, of course; I think for me personally, most fruits would be spontaneous. Just an idea for a direction this can go in; maybe it's not what you had in mind. I do get the sense this could really be my kind of to-do list.

I thought a bit about what I'd make into creatures. For some creatures there might be some ambiguity about what entails a white and a black fruit, since there are things with questionable roles in my life. For other creatures there seems to be a choice of what kind of creature they'd be. I'm really nervous around my friend's group of friends; will I make these people into a good creature, or my fear of them into a bad creature? In the former case, that would humanize them more or something so I don't just see them as a chance to exercise myself, but in the latter case I could also feed it with instances of spending time around other people who make me nervous. Some of my tags are specific worries or things I'm upset about; maybe there should be a way to put a creature into a sort of final form if I feel like it's finished being tamed?

I'm also thinking about levels of specificity for creatures. I could have an Autogenics creature whose speaking bubble tells me to feed it if I've remembered to do autogenics at least twice a day, or this fruit could feed a more general Health creature, or I could have both creatures and feed both, or perhaps there could be nested creatures or something like that? Like an Autogenics creature that's part of a bigger entity called Health, or that prays to a god-creature called Health? That could get weird. Or maybe creatures would just have families or something, so Autogenics would live with other health-related creatures like Fitness. Or maybe this is getting too feature-creepy and such.