Object Happiness

[Edit: We’re so thankful that Joel Couture at Indie Games + has reviewed Keepsake and shared his personal experiences playing it.❤️]

We humans have a tendency to collect stuff, be it buttons, clothing, tea cups or cards. It’s not our fault, we are hardwired to build our bowers in case of a more needful time. But now that it’s easier than ever for us to accumulate things, minimalism, purging and downsizing, is having a cultural moment. From Scandi minimalism to the KonMari method, stuff has become a dirty word.

But is stuff always a bad thing? Have you ever seen an object that puts a smile on your face? A bright yellow door, a particularly nice piece of pottery, a peony just blooming? A portrait of a friend? It’s not uncommon. Everyday we encounter objects in our environment that make us feel. Whether it’s a pop of joy or a reminder of someone we know.

The problem isn’t necessarily having things, but how we’re able to appreciate them. This can become a lot harder when you have many things.

When we reduce what we have or limit what we can see, it becomes easier to really appreciate their individual beauty and value. Perhaps this is why we feel so good when we clear out the clutter from time to time.

Our things aren’t just things, they often have all sorts of meanings associated with them. They might represent an achievement, remind you of a person or an experience. They are not just objects, but also powerful tools in triggering memory. A person’s things may tell us about their taste, personality, history and how they see the world.

When we reminisce, we often reach for photos or tell each other stories, but it can be hard to get a sense of a person from a static image or a tale you’ve heard a thousand times growing up.

Our first game in The Emotions Collection, Keepsake explores the unique way that objects hold memory and trigger meaning.

Looking at a photo of someone, or hearing about them from others is nice, but sometimes it’s hard to get an idea of how that person expressed themselves, what their values were or what things were the most memorable about them.

Keepsake came from Christina’s experience with her father-in-law. He has been diagnosed with cancer, most likely terminal.

Christina, who is planning on starting a family, wanted a way to record his stories and personality in a way that she felt photos couldn’t do justice to.

We were also interested in the memorial culture of different countries. In many non-western countries, families will keep a shrine to their ancestors in their house, like a little altar. It’s a much more physical reminder of their continuing presence and influence on your life than photos and memories. we wanted to explore how this could work in a digital form.

In Keepsake, players choose how their Keepsake should look from a number of abstract pebbles. You can then name the box and add digital objects, attaching notes about memories or thoughts the item represents. In this way, you build a box that represents something meaningful to you.

Keepsake was designed to allow players to choose objects that symbolise moments, stories or aspects of a relationship that feel important. In this way, Keepsake saves us from the overwhelming task of sorting through tens of thousands of photos.

We end up with something that can help paint a well-rounded, personal picture of a person. It can help us understand people we’ve never met, deepen our understanding of our relationships, or create a memorial that has more meaning than just a picture.

This is my grandpa’s Keepsake, what kind of person do you think he is?

By limiting the objects you can pick, it makes you think very carefully and selectively about what you place inside the Keepsake. That item is then attributed a lot of meaning because it represents a facet of someone’s personality. Our players shared that this feels very different from photos, which doesn’t hold meaning in the same way.

Keepsake allows you to reflect on your memories, both positive and negative, and we’ve designed it as a tool to think about your own life, your experiences or relationships with others. When playing, you are creating a digital keepsake that you can visit and add to over time. We’re proud that Keepsake ended up being a special kind of memory journal. It’s a personal project, and a personal thing to have that isn’t on social media.

You can download Keepsake on itch.io!

If you’d like to support our projects please check out our softlaunched Patreon!