Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating illness for which there is no cure. Once you have it things only get worse as your memories, ability to concentrate, and even your personality slowly fall away. Which would seem to make it a bizarre basis for a video game, but Mutlu Creative’s A Life Worth Dying For is just that. Through concentration exercises and facts and figures, A Life Worth Dying For attempts to demonstrate what living with Alzheimer’s disease must feel like, while also working to improve your own concentration and focus.
The actual gameplay is relatively simple; starting with audio cues, the game requires you to remember two steps back and then touch the screen when a sound (words, in this case) repeat. For example, in the sequence “strong, determined, strong,” I would touch the screen on the second “strong.” Then the same thing is repeated with visual cues, in this case the location of a black block on the screen. However, where things really start to get crazy is when you need to start keeping track of both audio and visual cues at the same time.
After each round you receive a score based on how many cues you identified correctly and how many you missed. This score is then added to a grand total to help determin when the next level is unlocked. And with each level come new video and audio clips. Yes, that’s right, correctly identifying matching audio or video clips unlock actual home audio or video from the developer’s own collection. Intimate moments, like family parties or weddings are included, as well as mundane moments. While the shortness of the clips can be jarring, it’s an interesting personal touch that helps to illustrate the real cost of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in general.
Each new level is preceded by some facts about Alzheimer’s or dementia, including a link to the webpage where the information came from, which was nice. There is also a Statistics section where you can track your progress as you play through the game, which I guess is good if you are using the game to train your concentration. However, repetitive gameplay and poor quality graphics make me wonder why someone would choose A Life Worth Dying For over something more flashy and polished like Lumosity.
While the inclusion of personal videos does lend a human touch to the game, there is no real sense of a narrative building that would create the necessary emotional resonance to carry the player through the game. The moments are too fleeting, too disconnected, to have any real effect. And I’m afraid that the prospect of unlocking more of these disjointed moments wasn’t enough to keep me progressing past the 10th level.
While I applaud the developer for creating something thought-provoking and personal, the lack of polish, the exceedingly somber music and a lack of real emotional investment on the part of the player make me wonder who the game is really for. It seems more like a prototype or personal art project than a full commercial game. Which is a shame, since the developer is donating 10% of all profits to Alzeihmer’s research and support.