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Untitled Space Experience

Untitled Space Experience: Welcome

Intent - 

            Using my memories of driving across the country with my grandparents as inspiration, I aim to emulate the feeling and idea of a road trip (introspection, nostalgia etc.), but in a sci-fi/space setting, by creating a virtual ship’s cockpit.

Research -

            Integral to the experience I’m trying to create is the idea of nostalgia and introspection. To me, the feeling of a road trip is not an intense or exciting burst but a slow burn, glad to be going somewhere but attempting to distract yourself from how long it will take to get there. I wanted to focus on the idea of nostalgia. The idea of a road trip is nostalgic to me, and in a different way, might be nostalgic to a space traveler in the future.

            A main feature of many long-duration trips is music. I wanted to look at how I could implement music in my game to replicate road trips as well as to further the idea of nostalgia. A study titled, “Music-evoked autobiographical memories, emotion regulation, time perspective, and mental health” set out to research an “intriguing phenomenon by which songs trigger the recall of self-defining moments in one’s past... called music-evoked autobiographical memories.” The study found that when presented a selection of popular music, on average, 30% of the song presentations evoked autobiographical memories, and the majority of songs also evoked various emotions, primarily positive, that were felt strongly. The third most common emotion was nostalgia. This supports my idea that music can be an incredible tool for creating the experience that I am looking for.

            In the article “Rock 'n' Roll Sound Tracks and the Production of Nostalgia”, David R. Shumway brings up a genre of film called “Nostalgia Films”, which were popular in america in the 1970’s. Shumway notes that the music of these films is an important distinctive aspect of them as Nostalgia films were some of the first to feature scores and soundtracks predominantly featuring pre-recorded popular music and music with lyrics. Shumway states at the beginning of this article that “Music plays a central role in the production of nostalgia in the nostalgia film genre.” This is one thing I wanted to emulate in my project. I use pre-recorded popular music, primarily Rock ‘n’ Roll music and primarily from around the era of nostalgia films in order to emulate their tone. Shumway also notes that “unlike the classically inflected scores of yore, rock soundtracks are meant to be heard. Whereas the goal of the traditional film score was to cue an emotional response in the viewer without calling attention to itself, recent soundtracks, consisting mainly of previously recorded material, are put together on the assumption that the audience will recognize the artist, the song, or, at a minimum, a familiar style… The music in [nostalgia] films is meant to be not merely recognized but often to take the foreground and displace the image as the principal locus of attention.” I want to take a similar approach to the music in this game. Rather than having a subtle musical score written specifically to accompany gameplay, I decided to use familiar lyrical popular music as a main focal point of the experience. Shumway goes on to state of opening scene in “The Graduate”, “The visuals, although filmically inventive, are intentionally ‘boring’... In this minimalist visual context, the song claims a greater share of the viewer’s attention, and its complex lyrics, while not likely to be comprehended completely, establish the theme of alienation that the narrative will explore.” In keeping with this idea, my game is very minimalistic visually to help focus the player’s attention on the music. Also, I tried to tie my music selection into the themes of the game, those being travel, space, introspection and loneliness.

            In “Analogue Nostalgia and the Aesthetics of Digital Remediation” Dominik Schrey analyses nostalgia, what causes it and how it can be manipulated. Shrey states, “Of course, the general phenomenon of nostalgia for outdated media is anything but new. According to Svetlana Boym, ‘outbreaks of nostalgia often follow revolutions’ (2001, p. xvi), which seems to be true not only in the context of politics she is referring to, but also in relation to media-historical periods of transition. In fact, nostalgia for seemingly obsolete modes of representation is a way of theorising changes in media with rich tradition and a surprisingly constant rhetoric.” In the context of my game, this is shown in the use of digital mixtapes in the future. Digital mixtapes/playlists are a current media format which echo analogue mixtapes of earlier decades and serve to strengthen the theme of nostalgia.

            In an article called “A Mix of Music Nostalgia”, Jay Cridlin notes that cassette mixtapes are on the rise again due to nostalgia, stating, “That sense of nostalgia for the '80s and '90s is part of why cassettes have made an unexpected comeback - especially among younger fans - over the past few years.” I found it interesting that even young people are getting nostalgia from cassettes, which bodes well for my ability to induce nostalgia in different types of players.

Mechanics –

            In my prototype, I decided to focus on mainly the music system and the navigation system. I felt that that would give me the fullest picture of how these systems could work together.


  • This system will be interactable through a menu which allows players to choose between different mixtapes and different tracks on these mixtapes. The music will play even after players navigate away from this menu.


  • This system will be interactable through a menu which allows players to toggle between autopilot mode and manual mode. Each mode will continue to dictate how the ship moves even after players navigate away from this menu.

    • Autopilot mode will allow players to choose a destination and have their ship fly them there at a far higher speed than manual mode is capable of going.

    • Manual mode will allow players to explore different destinations with a finer level of control than autopilot mode.

Game Systems -

            Players will start out in the Manual Menu, which explains the Icons for all the menus as well as explaining the controls of the game. This menu also allows the player to quit the game at any time. After this menu the player will be able to move to any of the other three menus.

            The Music menu will allow players to browse the music available on 4 different playlists and pick the track they would like to listen to.

            The Navigation menu will allow players to choose autopilot and set their destination.

            There is also a Window Menu which removes all other UI elements so that players can observe through the front window.

Post Mortem -

            I planned to test to see if players latched on to the themes and ideas that I was hoping to convey through this system. When I asked if the game had reminded them of any experiences in their life, none of my testers mentioned long distance road trips specifically however, driving and listening to music was a common response. Additionally though recognition of the music in the game varied wildly from player to player, 60% of players did indicate that nostalgia was a feeling that the music conveyed to them.

            While I think that I did a decent job of meeting my intent, moving forward I would like to push the idea of a road trip further in my game. I think that increasing the time between destinations and adding in more visual imagery to look at going by can increase the feeling of long distance travel.

Untitled Space Experience: Image
Untitled Space Experience: Gallery
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