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Thin Air

co-director, art director, animation director

This is a story of a woman in crisis. A woman between worlds. A woman seeking her truth. In short, it's a coming-of-age story told later in life – a life lived unseen, inspired by the equally unseen lives of countless women across countless borders and through countless years.  

Thin Air is a 3rd-person narrative game about one woman's journey through the fraught emotional landscape of domestic trauma. You play as Rina, a newly widowed woman confronting her eroded relationship with her adult daughter in the wake of her overbearing husband's unexpected death. To find a path toward healing the relationship – and herself – she seeks out a rare plant said to open the mind to otherworldly truths in the form of intense, dreamlike visions.

I'm co-directing the game with BAFTA-winning producer Michael Fallik, in addition to overseeing its art & animation direction. Thin Air has been incubated at the indie games accelerator Stugan (Falun, Sweden) in 2016, and further developed at the New Frontier Story Lab at Sundance (Park City, Utah) in 2019. It's been a difficult road to find publisher support for an experimental narrative game, particularly one with this subject matter and this protagonist, so for now, we are continuing its development in our own time. 


The surreal sequences of Thin Air are rooted in the complex psychology of its main character, a middle-aged woman whose troubled history of deference and capitulation toward her overbearing husband has left her relationship with her daughter scarred over with resentment. Added to this are Rina's own resentments – of a life lived in the shadow of her familial duties, twisted through with braids of selfless love and seething rage, choking even what narrow corners she tried to carve for herself. In each vision, at every turn, she is confronted with images of motherhood gone wrong.  


The backbone of Thin Air's look is the seamless blend of its hand-drawn, illustrative art style with a 3D character, camera, and game space. We achieve this look in Unity by digitally "multi-planing" our environment art – in other words, creating layered 2D slices of each element, which are then grouped in z-space depth. The result is quite convincing to the eye, even in our early tests.


In Thin Air, gameplay slips between the normal "real world" environment and the altered "dream world" of Rina's visions. Real world challenges are tangible and environmental, but in the altered world, those challenges become increasingly abstracted and psychological. The player must work through fragments of text, symbolic imagery, and subconscious patterns in order to progress through a series of confronting visions and powerful, sometimes painful self-discoveries.


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