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In Conversation: A Journey from Depression to Self-healing through A VR Escape Game by Xizhen Ning

Artist Xizhen Ning took to courage to reflect on her depression and projected her ongoing journey of self-salvation and self-healing into a beautiful, work-in-progress VR game, Journey.

In the dreamy world of "Journey", the main character is set to be a psychopath as well as an amnesiac who assumed that she was abandoned by her parents after a traumatic childhood. One day, while asleep, she unintentionally triggers a traversal mechanism that drags her from reality and her dreamscape. The girl needs to navigate through and escape the scenes that trap her and reconcile with her own trauma by finding her lost memory pieces that are scattered in the scenes and confronting her inner fears.

The Work-in-progress VR Game

Despite that the game seems to be illustrating a dark and depressing story, the journey of the game is actually designed to be healing. "To find the missing pieces and reconcile with one's own traumatic memory, to me, is an important step of the healing journey. So in the first dark room, the players need to collect memory pieces to learn more about the story behind the scenes." Said Xizhen. "The game also has a turnaround at the end: By following the path to the truth throughout the game, the girl discovers that she was not abandoned by her parents. She overcame her false beliefs and finally acknowledged that her being an orphan was due to a car accident that took her parents away. That's why elements like fire, cars, and ruins keep showing up in the scenes."

Through the game, Xizhen presents an immersive experience to people about what depression and the recovery journey could look like. "Depression attacks from time to time like a beast, and the players need to defeat the beast of the character's own negative emotions in order to continue their search for the missing pieces."

Xizhen also shared with us her own reflection about her journey: "Face your negative emotions and find your path to reconciliation. Life may sometimes make you feel like being trapped in a locked, secret, dark room unable to escape from, but we have to have the courage to find our way out." We hope that this game could help people with depression heal.


About Xizhen Ning

Xizhen Ning holds a bachelor's degree in Animation from Jiangnan University School of Design. She is also a graduate student at the Royal College of Art in MA Animation.


National Design Patent;

2020 Outstanding International Student Award;

2022 Postgraduate Award Nomination;

MIT Research Fellowship.

Xizhen is a member of the Shenzhen Illustration Association and the Chapter President of the Reading Before It's Too Late Club.


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