For the duration of #SelfCare — not quite a video game, yet full of gamified tasks — you will stay in bed. Created by Tru Luv, a studio founded by former Assassin’s Creed dev Brie Code and writer Eve Thomas, #SelfCare is a series of breathing or focus exercises. One activity has you piecing together words like “unfollow” or “overslept” by dragging letter blocks; another simply asks that you pet your virtual cat by rubbing the screen. The goal isn’t to win or achieve a high score, but rather reflect on your own needs and take a beat; #SelfCare is a “digital companion” meant to help you do just that.
Code, speaking to The Verge via email, reflects on her time as an AI programmer and her focus on the connections between characters in games. She recalls convincing a friend to play Skyrim, who later called her crying after accidentally killing a companion character. “[My friend] told me in that conversation that all these years, it wasn’t that she wasn’t interested in video games, it was that she didn’t know what they could be,” Code says. “She didn’t know you could develop a connection, a kinship, with a character in a game.”
This is where the concept of #SelfCare’s “companion” status comes from: someone or something that joins you on your adventures. “Most apps either tell you what to do, or present you with too many options and ask to be told what to do,” says Code. “At TRU LUV we want to create companions who have their own goals and personality but who are along with you as you achieve your own goals. You help each other.”
#SelfCare doesn’t bug you to constantly check in, but rather greets you with encouragement each time you open it. In this world, you are allowed to stay in bed and ignore your phone. Maybe consider drawing a tarot card from a stack on the floor, or try some breathing exercises instead.
Code and Thomas pursued self care as their subject because “we and our colleagues have developed extensive self-care habits to survive,” says Code. This can be anything from knitting or journaling to setting up spaces that offer comfort. “Women are working long hours, but we are still largely managing our households, too,” says Code.
“And at work, women and other underrepresented people are facing unconscious — and blatantly conscious — bias and hitting glass ceilings. Our performance evaluations focus on our personalities and not our results, and we’re expected to pick up office housework and do emotional labor for our colleagues and then perhaps we are told we are too emotional. We’re exhausted. And we’re now faced with the prospect of internet harassment if we make it through all this and do become successful.”
The rise of movements focused around self-care is no accident; Code herself points to the anxiety she sometimes feels when dipping into stressful games or apps. “The world feels increasingly uncertain,” says Code. “We’re facing global warming, automation of entire industries, and a growing fascism movement.” One person can’t change the world, she says, but they can impact their little corner of it. “I am fighting for change in my industry and I want to be at my best,” she says. “I want to be calm and clear about my objectives … Maybe we can help a few people feel a bit stronger and a bit more ready to get out of bed and face their days, too.”