A VR experience about sleep paralysis


Individual project

︎Design Statement

For this project, I want to create a VR experience about sleep paralysis to explore the boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness, the separation between mind and body, and the moment of glitch when our subjective self encounters with the objective self.

︎ Unity
︎ C# Script

︎ Animaiton

I want to explore the concept of dreams and create an intimate and immersive VR experience that mimics my own dreams. My goal is to make emotional connection with the viewers. I decided to specificly focus on sleep paralysis because I’ve personally had a lot of experiences with it, and they are the most memorable dream experiences for me.

My experience with sleep paralysis generally happens during a nightmare. During an episode, I’m usually completely occupied with the overwhelming sense of fear when I suddenly lost the ability to move and speak, and the only thing left for me to do is to watch the dreadful figure that I imagined coming closer at me, feeling more and more suffocated. Sleep paralysis are recurrent for me, multiple episodes can happen in one night.  My goal is to use my own sleep paralysis experience as an inspiration for storytelling.

These are a few indie games I looked at. They are either about sleep paralysis or are somewhat related to the concept of my project.

The first one is an indie game called Dreader. It is a short mouse maze game with horror elements. The things that intrigued about this is the game within a game element and the control over the player’s movement. In the game, the player needs to pass certain levels to be given the prompt to turn around. This gives me a similar feeling to my sleep paralysis experience as in the player is controlled by the game.
Dreader by Donitz, 2020

This is another indie game. This is a game about sleep paralysis. I like that the setting of this game is entirely in a dark room, this is also how I envisioned one of my scene. However, I wouldn’t say this accurately represent my experience about sleep paralysis. This is also why I want to focus on my own experience because it is different for everyone. There are Intentional use of horror musics and jump scare elements in there that to me is not natural. To me, Sleep paralysis is not an experience like that. Since I’m building an immersive VR experience, I want this to be as natural as possible.
Paralyzis by Julie Nguyen and Janice Ng, 2020
(Clips from playthrough video by Youtuber Adrionic)

My project is composed of 5 scenes in total, and each scene is developed based on my own dreams. It goes back and forth between dream and reality.

The first scene is in reality. It starts with the player lying in bed playing some sort of maze game on his phone, and the pass of the game will trigger the first dream.

The second scene is the first dream scene. The set up is in the middle of the ocean. In between each dream scene, there’s a transition going back to the reality then falling back to sleep again. This is based on my true experience about sleep paralysis. Whenever I struggle to wake up from a sleep paralysis episode, as much as I want to stay awake I normally can’t help but fall back to sleep immediately. The third dream scene is set in a forest.

The last dream scene is in the room the player falls asleep to, so that at first the player might think they woke up. This is the only scene that player is able to walk around. In the previous scenes, players are one allowed to look around to simulate the sleep paralysis experience. Just as the player is tricked into thinking he is finally conscious, everything goes black and the player can’t move again. This is my attemp to blur the boundary between dream and reality.



︎Next Step
This project is further developed in In Between, and is still in progress.