Emma Atkinson, when we were (2021), Virtual Reality Video Game

Artist Statement

Atkinson’s virtual reality game, when we were, investigates perspectives and memories. Through exploration, players piece together the relationship between two sisters, Amy and May, as they return to pack up their childhood bedroom. In the process of packing, the player will recall moments in the lives these sisters shared and experience the differences in Amy’s and May’s memories.

Interacting with objects in the room prompts memories of the past to play out as vignettes. The bare bones room contrasts with the warm full version of the room remembered by Amy and May. The sisters add in their thoughts about the moment, and the same object can evoke two different reactions.

As people, we are a collective of memories, and what we remember can influence our identity as individuals. My work aims to explore our interactions and the subjective truth around memory: how we might connect with others and what our perceptions of those shared experiences may be, preserved imperfectly in our minds. Like most things, there are multiple sides to every story. 

By using virtual reality to allow players to see both characters’ perspectives and to experience tactile associative memories, the player will ultimately shape their own thoughts on the relationship between Amy and May based on the memories of their lives together.



Emma Atkinson is a game developer, narrative designer and digital artist. 

Born in upstate New York, Emma is currently based in Connecticut. She received her BS in Digital Arts and Sciences and in Communications from Clarkson University in 2019. Currently she is an MFA candidate in Digital Media and Design at the University of Connecticut, with a focus on video game design and 3D animation. She is a Graduate Assistant and Instructor of Record for game design courses within the department.

Emma creates interactive experiences that explore perceptions and connections. Her passion for games has led her to work with virtual reality, creating the immersive poem, (if) only you could understand, which was selected for exhibition at the Toronto Digifest in 2019.