I look, but I can't see

Rachel Donley

"I look, but I can’t see" is a reflection on the nature of reality. We face challenges we’ve not prepared for, both the sudden advent of the pandemic and the myriad complications of climate change that grow steadily under the passive gaze of people in power. Notions of truth and fact are endlessly debated, the lines defining these concepts continually blurred. With technology, people are collectively closer than ever, sharing their lives, opinions and feelings over the internet. The events of the world trigger immediate response. Swells of anger, fear, hope, and camaraderie threaten to overwhelm. What is real? What is true?

Inspired by both the “unreal” state of the world at this time, and personal experience with sensations of derealization, this Bitsy game places the player in a simple room with a mind to explore, their avatar an eye seeking truth. The minimalist constraints of Bitsy leaves space for reflections to resonate. Each component of the work bears more weight as musings take shape within the confines of Bitsy’s rooms, sprites, dialogue boxes, and limited color palette.

Exploration of reality as a concept begins through three primary constructs: dreams, memories, and perception. All three contain elements of truth, but are ultimately not in the realm of reality. Dreams are fractures of the experienced world sewn together in ways still mysterious. Memories, while echoes of the past, are often a reconstructed blend of truth and imaginings. Perception, the collective information we receive through our senses, can often deceive as our mind seeks to efficiently process the input. These are speculations, musings as the player looks up at the ceiling.

Looking down, the player sees the room is empty, but that emptiness holds questions about the world and self as real. The player must turn inwards to seek a conclusion.

About the Artist

After managing, building and designing escape games for three years, Rachel Donley decided to return to academia to study the design of interactive media in UCF’s Digital Media MA program. She is fascinated by potential for real-life games and immersive experiences, using a combination of the physical and digital to craft engaging worlds and narratives for players to engage in and explore. Her interests lie in designing meaningful games to inspire change and introspection in players through critical thinking and cooperative play. She plans to continue her work and study the effectiveness of games and narrative in meaning-making as a PhD student at Georgia Tech.