It’s not uncommon to relate trinkets and souvenirs with memories. Like an old photobooth strip from a wild night out with friends, taken upon moving to a new city. A pin from a first trip to Disneyland with my partner. A stuffed Pikachu clad in a Tokyo Station uniform, one of many souvenirs I picked up on a trip to Japan, a vacation I saved up for all throughout college. Mere things can evoke the sweetest, and sometimes most saddening, of memories. Yet they only live on in our minds, and through the objects we project onto. But what if we could literally revisit them?
In game developer Kimberly Koronya’s Globes, one can do just that. Koronya’s project is a raw autobiographical tale for all to see, leading the player through the pivotal moments of Koronya’s life tied to New York City—the dissolution of a painful marriage, an affair on Second Life, navigating life as a reluctant Jehovah’s Witness, and the decision to change her life for the better. The player observes all this via the most specific of souvenirs: snowglobes.
“My intent with Globes was to relate cities with memories,” Koronya explained. “And when I went to New York City, it changed my life.” Globes, featuring sound design by Jen Costa and narrative design from Kaitlin Tremblay, first came into fruition through the Hyperreal Jam, a game jam hosted by Toronto not-for-profit organization Dames Make Games back in July 2016. The project has grown since then, with Koronya fine-tuning her stories of New York, and even expanding it—her next installment will see a new setting in Chicago.
“the inward struggle of wanting to turn your life around”
In Globes, the player is an outside observer, peering into buildings and overhearing narration as a scenario plays out. As Koronya describes it to me, the game takes on the “dollhouse effect,” or the act of peering into something smaller, like a dollhouse or a diorama. “There was something really voyeuristic that I really wanted to recreate, of someone looking deeper,” Koronya said.
Globes is like a three act play—if the three acts were separate, singular moments in one’s life. From the first scene of Koronya at the top of the Empire State Building, once “a small town girl,” now an adult woman exploring the world for the first time, to meeting the man she fell in love with in Second Life. Globes takes you through Koronya’s life, and the thoughts that haunted her through all her hardships. “It was this inward struggle of ‘do you wanna turn your life around,’ so it covers this Aladdin moment, like ‘it’s a whole new world,'” she said. “And the journey takes you through discovering myself, realizing what I wanted to do and trying to figure out if I was actually brave enough to do it.”
Globes once began in a very different place than it ended up. And it all evolved from a talk that Koronya gave at the Hyperreal Jam—a talk about storytelling in VR, something she felt she was personally neglecting in her own work. “It started as almost me wanting to make Norman Rockwell paintings, like a representation of the New York City that you expect,” she said. “But after the jam, I figured out where exactly to take Globes. And I [knew] I needed to make it personal. It thought it would be hypocritical to tell everyone how to tell their story and not tell my own.”
For the time being, Koronya doesn’t have firm plans to release Globes publicly, but she doesn’t write off the possibility entirely. “I’m wrapping up New York City, and I think I’m just gonna keep telling my story, and hopefully it will mean something to someone,” she mused. “And that’s all I can hope for as an artist.”
You can watch a video preview for Globes below and follow Koronya on Twitter for additional updates on Globes.