Game / Simulation

The Serpent of a Thousand Coils

Displayed as part of Science Gallery’s PSYCHE Exhibition, ‘The Serpent of a Thousand Coils’ is an interactive game that presents an empathetic insight into the minds of people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD).

Translating the inner workings of anxiety into a fictional landscape, the game moves through a dizzying array of paths and loops to offer participants a journey to their individual fears. AfD took on the task of worldbuilding, visual design and deployment of the game.
Collaborators ︎︎︎
Anuj Malhotra
Gaurav Puri
Ketan Dua
Mahesh S
Swati Khanolkar 

Supported by
Science Gallery Bengaluru

12 weeks

Time active
April 1 — May 15, 2022


Thinking fast and slow

The project combines lessons from the radical model of betterment as pioneered by Dr. Albert Ellis (REBT) with observations from Daniel Kahneman to construct a depiction of both the anxiety condition and its eventual resolution. Kahneman’s book titled ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ describes how two systems — intuition and slow thinking — shape our judgment, and how we can effectively tap into both.

  • System 1 is automatic and impulsive
  • System 2 is conscious, aware and considerate


Spatial systems to construct anxiety loops

‘The Serpent of a Thousand Coils’ puts forward this distinction between System 1 and 2 to pose an inquisition at players. This interrogation centers around stories from a fictional town presenting anxiety-inducing situations.

The game engineers a binary system of responses: an intuitive, automatic and rigid response as certified by culture, and a rational, effortful response that accepts nature's inherent chaos. One of these yields progress, and the other regress within the world of the game.

A fictional townscape

A townscape is created around these narratives — a sensorially dense universe where the players would find themselves. This landscape allows them enough dwell time - a consciously cultivated pause - to reflect on how they answer the questions posed to them and the results these produce.

We built the town on the simple, yet powerful tool Magica Voxel. Overlay visuals by Gaurav Puri and Anuj Malhotra.

End notes

The Serpent of a Thousand Coils attempts to provide a visible form to the relentless obsessions that OCD induces.

The ambition of the game is that this internal meditation will allow the player to both glean the thousand coils within which anxiety encircles its sufferer, and also the method, therefore, by which one may be able to escape its grasp.

The project marked our second collaboration with the brilliant Anuj Malhotra and his team of collaborators. We are thankful for the experimental nature of the project — allowing us to explore spatial design and forms of storytelling.

We are also grateful for Science Gallery Bengaluru for the support and opportunity.

Using fictional narratives, the game offers participants a chance to observe, a step removed to gain an objective outlook to the thought loops and 'what-if' spirals that plague an anxiety sufferer.

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