When I was 9.5 years old I emigrated with my family from communist Poland to the United States. This displacement from one particular reality to another created a specific instability in my identity.
Compounding the stress of coming to a new country was the uncertainty of home life. My parents split very early upon arriving in the US. At the same time, I started at a new school, began learning a new language, and was introduced to a new culture. All this had a tremendous impact on me as a child. My mom always tried to give my sister and me a stable home, but certain events were out of her control, and this caused us to move multiple times in my first years in the US.
This game is a personal exploration of what these moves to multiple apartments and houses meant to me. The game is at times dark and foreboding, bright and anxiety inducing, or warm and unchanging – illustrating the emotional roller-coaster that moving homes and changing family dynamics are to a child.
This project emanates from a specific recurring nightmare I used to have. The dream was based on one of the first apartments I lived in in the US. This nightmare would always wake me up when I was not able to enter a dark sub basement. This was clearly an anxiety dream – the total darkness, more akin to a void, was the epicenter of all my dread and panic. In retrospect, I clearly see that this dream was a culmination and expression of the trauma that comes with the displacement of migration.
In the game, through seven zones, the player explores different environments that are all informed by this unsettled and unsettling aura of migrant instability. The sound design is meant to heighten the sense of restlessness through the use of layered vocals that sometimes sound like buzzing insects and other times whisper at you from the dark. The vocal layers are complimented by drone-stringed instruments and field recordings of natural sounds.
Like a dream, the game never resolves and the only way to escape is to wake up.
“Place I Can’t Go” mimics a computer game and follows the standard WASD/mouse look control scheme of most first person shooters; the user sees the world through the eyes of the protagonist.
The project is available now for PC and runs best on a computer with a dedicated graphics card. It can be downloaded here: https://aleksslota.itch.io/place-i-cant-go
The project was supported by the Deutscher Künstlerbund e.V. Neustart Kultur grant.