A Different Way to Play
Brie Code wanted a game for nongamers. So she created SelfCare.
Let's stay in bed all day.
There’s no game board in SelfCare. There’s no high score. This is a totally new kind of experience: an app that gamifies a lazy day in bed.
It’s the brainchild of developer Brie Code, a former AI programmer for Ubisoft. While there, she worked on Assassin’s Creed and was surrounded by serious gamers.
“My colleagues would assume that if someone wasn’t a gamer it was because the game was too hard and they weren’t good enough to play it,” she says. But she didn’t feel that way.
So working as CEO and creative director of her own Toronto studio, Tru Luv, Code cocreated SelfCare.
Launch the app and you’ll see someone snuggled under the covers in a serene, sun-soaked room, with a cat perched on the edge of the bed.
In conventional games, the challenge—and the thrill—might come from fighting a tough boss. SelfCare isn’t like that at all. This gameplay seeks to help you relax with meditative tasks, like virtually folding messy laundry.
“Making something difficult stimulates adrenaline, and then having the opportunity to master that challenge stimulates dopamine—that’s the fight-or-flight response,” Code says. “What I want to explore with this app is: Can we create a similar flow state with a ‘tend and befriend’ response instead of fighting and winning?”
Code has seen the power of this kind of game firsthand. A defining moment came when her cousin Kristina played the fantasy game Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and got upset when a supporting character died.
Fighting dragons left her cousin cold; going on quests and forging connections to characters was far more her style.
“Kristina said to me that all these years she didn’t support my career choice,” Code says, “it wasn’t that she didn’t like videogames, it was that she didn’t know what they could be.”
That’s when Code decided to start Tru Luv, a studio meant to make games for nongamers. Together with writer Eve Thomas, she developed SelfCare both as a new kind of game for a new kind of audience and as a respite from the frantic pace of life.
“I made this app with Eve because we both needed it,” Code says. “We wanted something in our phone that would just give us a moment.”